Giants dominate Packers, 37-20
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Giants beat the top seed in the NFC, the team that spent the last four months as the best in the league, and the quarterback who most likely will be named the NFL's Most Valuable Player in a few weeks. They went to legendary Lambeau Field Sunday, braved the elements and the history, and became the only road team to win a playoff game this season.
To call the 37-20 win a surprise would be . . . wrong?
At least that's what the Giants were saying in their postgame locker room, surrounded by fellow players and coaches and -- so they believe -- the only people on Earth who thought they could pull this one off.
Why should they be shocked? Even Jason Pierre-Paul, who knows basically nothing about football (or so the legend goes), called this a week ago when he guaranteed victory.
"I know a lot of people didn't pick us to win this game, and we relish things like that," Justin Tuck said. "I know Vegas is kind of mad at us right now."
Not to mention a vast majority of the Midwest whose casseroles were not sitting well. Having conquered the great northern plains, the Giants will head west to face the second-seeded 49ers in Sunday's NFC Championship Game.
The Giants never have lost an NFC title game during the Super Bowl era. Each of the four previous times that got this far, they advanced to the big one. Now they can smell Indianapolis.
"This is not our end goal," Tuck said. "This is a great win for us, but hopefully we have two more great wins."
The fourth-seeded Giants may have been underdogs in the sports books, but there were a lot of folks who foresaw their ability to pull off a victory if things went their way, if they played defense the way they have for the last month, if Eli Manning could eliminate turnovers. All of those ifs came to be.
The Packers became the fourth of the last five top seeds in the NFC to lose in the divisional round. The Giants have been involved in three of those games, twice as the upsetter.
Perhaps the most stunning aspect of the win was not the result but the ruthlessness with which the Giants dispatched the Packers. This was a 15-1 team that had not trailed at halftime at home all season, and they were down 20-10 at the break. Rodgers had barely a hiccup during the regular season; this time the Packers committed four turnovers, including three fumbles, and dropped eight passes.
Manning completed 21 of 33 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns, throwing for 274 yards before halftime.
The Giants couldn't catch any breaks in the first half but caught plenty of passes, including a 37-yard desperation chuck by Manning to Hakeem Nicks as time expired. Nicks also had a 66-yard catch-and-run TD after bouncing off Charlie Peprah at midfield in the first quarter.
It could have been even more lopsided at the break. Deon Grant appeared to strip Greg Jennings of the ball late in the first quarter. The ruling on the field was that Jennings was down by contact, but Tom Coughlin challenged the call, and it should have been a slam-dunk overturn. Instead, referee Bill Leavy let the ruling stand, and the Packers scored on Rodgers' 8-yard pass to John Kuhn on the first play of the second quarter to tie it at 10.
The teams traded field goals before Michael Boley and Pierre-Paul sacked Rodgers on a fourth-and-5 from the Giants' 39, one of several key defensive plays and one of four sacks of Rodgers.
The Giants just about sealed it when linebacker Chase Blackburn recovered Ryan Grant's fumble (forced by Kenny Phillips) and returned it 40 yards to the 4. Manning hit Mario Manningham in the back of the end zone on the next play for a 30-13 lead with 6:48 left. The Packers managed a 16-yard touchdown reception by Donald Driver with 4:46 remaining, but Brandon Jacobs iced it with a 14-yard TD run.
It's almost hard to believe that less than a month ago, the Giants were left for an also-ran after their disheartening loss to the Redskins. Now they're playing so well that even Coughlin is doing some chirping.
"I think we're a dangerous team," he said. "I think there's always things for us to improve upon, but I like where we are, I like our attitude, I like the way we're playing."
Quite an admission from a guy who lives by the idea that talk is cheap. Or maybe it just goes to show how difficult it is becoming to count these Giants out.
"It's not about being arrogant. This team is confident," Tuck said. "We believe in ourselves and we don't really care what other people say."