For the Giants, keeping Eli Manning upright is paramount for a Giants victory. Excellent pass protection by the Giants offensive line will a critical factor in this game. This is important because the Giants running game is still struggling.
Four years ago, when the Giants made their miracle run and won a Super Bowl Championship, they had a solid offensive line. The 2011 Giants have a patchwork line which has held up. But the run blocking has been poor for most of this season. Despite offensive line coach Pat Flaherty's grueling tests, the Giants still have not figured everything out. The result has been inconsistency. Indeed, the Giants running game churned out a season best 172 yards on the ground versus Atlanta, but this had as much to do with the Falcons offense not controlling the ball. The Giants had a nine minute advantage in time of possession in that game, and wore down the defense.
Bereft of a formidable rushing attack, the Giants have been winning because of Number 10. And if this Giants offensive line cannot give him time to throw, their chances of making it to Indianapolis will be small.
Prior to the Giants Wildcard game against the Falcons, star defensive end John Abraham said the following: “Pretty much just try and get as much pressure on him as possible. He does a great job with his play-action fakes, he does a great job of getting the ball out quick. In order for us to have a good day, we’re going to have to get in his face and have him move out of the pocket.” Even though the Falcons had two sacks (one of which resulted in a safety), for a majority of the game Eli had time to throw the football. Give seasoned Eli time to throw, it is death for the opponent. Manning dissected the Falcons defense in their 24-2 win.
Last week, the Packers defense did not generate enough pressure at all. Because of this, once again, Eli Manning was able to take control of this game. Without question, if if was not for a feckless referee named Bill Leavy, this game would have been a blowout. Getting back to the impotent Packers pass rush, NFL Films guru Greg Cosell viewed the tape of the Giants vs Packers match up. Cosell's take: "Packers were unable to generate consistent pressure on Manning, Focus was inside with LB blitz. And Manning with his stellar play, sent the Packers packing."
Can the Giants offensive line play well against the 49ers defensive line?
This is going to be a difficult task. Against the Saints, the 49ers defensive line manhandled them. Cosell points out, the "49ers (have) a very disruptive 4 man pass rush. They got bodies around Brees... (the) 49ers pass rush was a factor all game, Brees was not as comfortable as he normally is."