Jan 172012
 
 January 17, 2012  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
New York Giants 37 (11-7) – Green Bay Packers 20 (15-2)

by rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Summary

The New York Giants blew the doors off the Packer Express on Sunday afternoon and have punched their tickets to the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers for the right to play in Super Bowl 46.

Once again, the Giants stepped up to the kings of the league and ended an opponent’s dynasty aspirations.  The Giants were more physical, more focused, made very few mistakes and overcame some very questionable and some flat out blown calls by referee Bill Leavy and his crew on their way to victory.

New York started the game with the football when Green Bay won the toss and deferred the opening kickoff.  Though they weren’t able to get anything going on the ground on that drive, New York made several key 3rd down and long conversions and kept the clock moving.  The drive spanned 67 yards on 13 plays, taking 6:27 off the clock, and resulted in a field goal.  That drive set the tone for the game.

New York’s offense amassed just 37 yards on the ground for the entire first half, and 23 of them came on one very important run alone.  It didn’t matter much, as Eli Manning was able to total an astounding 274 yards passing in the half.

Conversely, after an opening run of 19 yards by HB Ryan Grant, the Giants held Green Bay running backs to just 14 additional yards on the ground in the first half but had trouble containing QB Aaron Rodgers who was able to escape pressure on 4 occasions to scramble for 24 yards.  More importantly, Rodgers had just 117 total passing yards in the half.

By the time the game was over, the game statistics were relatively close.  Green Bay ran 12 more offensive plays than New York, gained 6 more 1st downs, out rushed the Giants by 52 yards, and both teams ended up with a 50% 3rd down conversion rate.  By the final gun and thanks to keeping the ball for an astounding 11:11 in the 3rd quarter, the Packers led the time of possession battle by 50 seconds.  That stat was a key going into the game and would have been more to the Giants favor if not for two horrible calls that allowed the Packers to continue drives, both which ended in touchdowns.

So what was the key?  Turnovers.  New York forced the Packers into 4 while the Giants committed just 1.  Green Bay had fewer turnovers (14) than they had wins (15) in the regular season.  They lost just 6 fumbles in all of 2011 and lost 3 on Sunday (there should have been 4), including the only fumble lost by Rodgers all season.  New York scored 10 points off these turnovers and got another 3 after holding Green Bay on downs.

Neither team was heavily penalized as each had 3 flags accepted against them.  That said, it appeared that the zebras simply weren’t going to call anything at all against Green Bay in the trenches on either side of the ball.  Jason Pierre-Paul was held more than half a dozen times and was visibly irate over the non-calls on several occasions.  Worse, Linval Joseph was mugged all game long and drew just one call.  To make matters worse, Green Bay defenders apparently had a green light to tee off against Eli Manning, hitting him several times well after the pass was off and on two occasions blatantly to the head.  There have been several threads on the subject started in The Corner Forum, particularly by contributor Fat Man in Charlotte and site founder/owner Eric from BBI.  If you want to see some of the visual evidence for yourselves, check out this thread.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist (though I *do* think Randy from CT is an alien) and I don’t think that the referees or the NFL (Roger Goodell) are fixing games.  As pointed out by several people going into this game, Bill Leavy just seems to implode once the playoffs come around.  Frankly, my stated opinion is that he should never, ever, be allowed to ref a playoff game again.  Missed holds, poor spots, turning a blind eye to late and helmet to helmet hits on Manning, calling Umenyiora for a ‘blow to the head’ on Rodgers that wasn’t even a late hit let alone a blow to the head.  It seemed endless.  The Giants lost at least one challenge opportunity and a time out that they could have used on the final “Hail Mary” drive of the first half.  Fortunately, they didn’t need another challenge and they overcame not having that time out.  Had the Giants lost this game due to the poor officiating, it would be stain on the NFL shield that I and most Giants fans would never be able to wash out.

Offense

Though the Giants moved the ball quite well in the first half, it was somewhat disconcerting that the Giants were unable to run the ball effectively.  New York relied on the short and intermediate pass to gain yardage and sustain drives until the final drive of the half.  Big plays punctuated the entire half for the offense, beginning with the ability to convert several 3rd and long situations.  New York’s first touchdown came on a simple in route by Hakeem Nicks that he caught for what should have been a 15 to 20 yard catch around mid-field, but S Charlie Peprah (drafted by the NY Giants) attempted to shoulder Nicks down.  Nicks was able to bounce off, turn upfield and burn the rest of the Green Bay secondary on his way to the end zone and a 66 yard touchdown.

Later in the game, New York got the ball back with just 41 seconds left in the half at their own 31 yard line with no time outs remaining.  Instead of kneeling it out, New York completed a check down for 9 yards and then had an incomplete pass. With only 15 seconds left, the Giants ran an inside handoff to Bradshaw, ostensibly to gain a first down and run out the clock.  The Packers called timeout just before the snap.  The Giants then called a toss to the left and Bradshaw was able to use a great block by Cruz in the middle of the field and another by Nicks further down the field to scamper 23 yards and out of bounds at the Green Bay 37 yard line.  That left just 6 seconds left on the clock and either a chance at a 54 yard field goal from Lawrence Tynes or run another play.  Apparently Green Bay felt the Giants would try to gain a quick 5-10 yards on an out to set up a last second field goal because they inexcusably allowed all three Giant receivers (Nicks, Manningham and Cruz) to run right by them in formation to the end zone.  It was clear from the TV angle when Eli stepped up and threw the ball into the end zone that there would be a legitimate shot at a completion, as the Packers had two men behind the receivers and three trailing by quite a distance.  Nicks went up unmolested and came down with the ball for a 37 yard touchdown that put the Giants up by 10 at the half.

The second half started very poorly for the Giants offense, as they went 3 and out on their only two possessions of the 3rd quarter, gaining just 14 yards and no first downs.  This after amassing 311 yards in the 1st half.  Fortunately, New York turned it on in the 4th quarter, scoring on their first 3 possessions of the final quarter.  The Giants still didn’t have much of a running game, but on the final scoring drive they got it going with a 24 yard gain by Bradshaw on a broken play that set up a 14 yard touchdown run by Brandon Jacobs two plays later.  As has been the case often this season, the Giants dominated the 4th quarter and this was a game in which they needed it most.  New York scored 17 points, gained 85 yards and converted 3 of 5 third downs in the decisive quarter while holding the ball for 9:08.

Quarterback

What a game from QB Eli Manning, who out dueled the great Aaron Rodgers.  Manning was crisp from the outset, keeping the first two drives alive with throws that converted 3rd downs of 8, 10, and 11 yards.  New York scored 10 points on those drives.  On the day, Manning converted seven 3rd downs in the passing game.

Overall, Manning completed 21 of 33 passes for 330 yards, 3 TDs and 1 interception.  Manning’s passer rating was a solid 114.5  and his Total QBR was a robust 88.8.

As for Manning’s interception, it wasn’t as bad for the Giants as could have been.  The Giants had a 3rd and 5 at the Green Bay 34 yard line, probably out of field goal range.  Green Bay brought a 6 man blitz against max protection as New York send just 3 receivers into the route.  New York had it blocked up well for the moment, but no one was able to get open downfield.  On the play, HB D.J. Ware helped LT David Diehl on the outside, leaving RG Chris Snee with two men to block.  Originally, he and RT Kareem McKenzie doubled on the defensive tackle, and Snee then tried to pull off and pick up the blitzing MIKE linebacker Delvin Bishop.  He whiffed, and Bishop had a clear shot at Eli, who had to hurry his throw.  The pass was intended for Nicks, but it could be Manning was just trying to throw it away because Nicks was well covered and the ball sailed way over his head.  The ball was picked at the 13 yard line by Morgan Burnett who returned it to the 25 yard line.  Had Eli gotten sacked, the Giants would still have had to punt so the results were basically the same if the punt had gone into the end zone.

Though the Packers got great pressure on Manning most of the day, he was only sacked once.  He was hurried quite a bit and hit officially 7 times but it certainly appeared he got hit more than that.  Worse, some of the hits were clearly late and at least 2 were blatantly to the head.  Incredibly there were no calls.

Manning also made a couple great plays with his feet.  The first was in the 3rd quarter with all the momentum on the Green Bay side with the Giants facing a 3rd and 17 from their own 13 yard line.  Again, instead of forcing something into the middle of the field, Manning was able to scramble for 12 yards, keep the clock running, and allow his punter a chance to kick one from a comfortable spot instead of from near his goal line.  The resulting Green Bay possession started at their own 24 yard line, which was critical at that juncture of the game.

Later, on their first drive of the 4th quarter with Green Bay just 7 points back, Manning drove the Giants to a 3rd and 5 at Green Bay’s 12 yard line.  Again Manning went back to pass and had nothing downfield.  Instead of forcing the issue, Manning simply stepped up, wrapped up the ball and took a sack at the 17.  That allowed the Giants to convert a field goal and restore a two score lead.

Those are the types of plays that depict the maturity that Eli has shown after a turnover filled 2009 had many people questioning his play.

Finally, if anyone ever wants to question either Eli’s toughness or will to win ever again, all one has to do is to point to his lead block on the 24 yard run by Bradshaw that set up the game sealing touchdown.  Manning recognized Bradshaw’s cut back and got right out front to lead Bradshaw and help cut off the first pursuit.

Running Backs

Following a banner day at home against Atlanta in which the Giants ran for 172 yards, New York’s running game could be boiled down to exactly 3 plays on Sunday.  Going into the game, the conventional wisdom was that the Giants would try to run the ball and control the clock with the goal to limit the possessions of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.  Whether that was a smoke screen or not, the Giants relied on the passing game much more than the running game.

The Giants ran the ball with their halfbacks 23 times for 85 yards which is a serviceable 3.7 ypc average.  However, the Giants gained 61 of those on just 3 attempts, which means the other 20 carries gained just 24 yard.  You all can do the math on that one.  Give props to OC Kevin Gilbride for sticking with it and at least trying to get untracked and keeping the run/pass ratio somewhat balanced.  New York dropped back to pass 35 times (33 throws, 1 scramble and 1 sack) and rushed with the backs just 23 times.  Amazingly, despite only rushing 12 times out of 36 first half plays, New York did win the time of possession battle in the half by more than 3 minutes.

Ahmad Bradshaw got the bulk of the carries for the Giants.  His 23 yard run at the end of the first half  and 24 yarder in the 4th quarter led to touchdowns.  Other than that, he was bottled up all day long.  Bradshaw also caught 3 passes out of 5 thrown his way for 21 yards.

Brandon Jacobs managed just 22 yards on 9 carries, and none was bigger than his 14 yard touchdown run that sealed the game away late in the 4th quarter.  In the 2nd quarter, Jacobs had an opportunity on 2nd and goal from the Green Bay 1 yard line to put the Giants up by 7 points but lost 4 yards when he didn’t seem to trust his blocking and tried to bounce outside.  After an incomplete pass, the Giants settled for their second field goal and the thought of squandered opportunities (two field goals and another blocked) could come back to haunt the Giants.  Jacobs was not targeted in the passing game.

D.J. Ware was active but only had two runs on the day.  One went for a 1 yard loss and the other was a 1 yard gain on 3rd and 2.  The play appeared at first to be an easy first down pickup, but the officials gave him what appeared to be an awful spot.  The refs were emphatic, as both outside refs ran in from the sidelines marking the same spot, so they must have seen something no one else did.  Unbelievably, the TV crew never questioned the spot and FOX did not show a replay.  After the punt, I rewound the DVR and stepped through the play frame by frame and lo and behold, Ware was actually down short of the line to gain.  His butt hit the ground while he was still relatively straight up with the ball about half a yard short.  I can’t believe I’m saying it, but it was the right call.

To make that play even more maddening is that the Giants caught the Packers in a perfect defense for it.  TE Jake Ballard had pulled from the strong side and was responsible for getting to the second level and take out MIKE linebacker Desmond Bishop but missed the block, allowing him to meet Ware straight up in the hole which was a mile wide.  HC Tom Coughlin was smart not to challenge the spot.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

The wide receivers were, far and away, the most important players on the field for the offense outside of Eli Manning on Sunday.  On the day, the WRs caught 15 of the 18 passes thrown their way.  One of the incompletions was a short out on 3rd and 2 to Devin Thomas who ran a very poor route.  Pre-snap he was in motion towards the line, then at the snap he broke up field and instead of selling either a deep dig or slant in, he rounded his route out to the sideline.  The defensive back, Sam Shields, never had to make a decision and easily reacted to get good position and get his hand in the face in front of Thomas who had the ball go right through his hands.  Contrast that with the 3rd and 1 play in the 4th quarter where Manningham from the slot ran the same route but sold the deep route getting the defender’s hips turned causing him to slip to the ground resulting in an easy 8 yard pitch and catch for the 1st down.  Another incompletion was the overthrow to Nicks that resulted in the interception, and the last was a throwaway under heavy pressure with Nicks in the area (frankly, I was surprised that one wasn’t called intentional grounding).

The big dog on Sunday was Hakeem Nicks, who caught 7 of 9 passes thrown to him (one was the throwaway the other was the uncatchable interception thrown over his head) for 165 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Nicks continued to be a force blocking downfield.  As has been outlined on The NFL Network and in print, the “Hail Mary” really wasn’t much of a hope and a prayer as it was a well designed play that usually has a low percentage of working.  Nicks (and the rest of the receivers) got a free release at the line.  With the ball in the air, he was wide open going into the end zone and well before he caught the ball it was apparent that it had a good chance of being caught.  Nicks did a great job of boxing out like a basketball player and went up, caught the ball against his facemask/helmet ala David Tyree and brought it in as he hit the ground.  Green Bay assisted on the play by being soft in their coverage and not being aggressive in the end zone.  Thank you very much.

Nicks also broke another big touchdown earlier in the game that was reminiscent of his long touchdown against Atlanta last week.  He took a pass off an intermediate crossing route and when Charlie Peprah decided to hit him rather than tackle him, Nicks bounced off, changing his running angle and causing the rest of the Green Bay defense to be caught flat footed.  Nicks never hesitated as he split the secondary and raced in for the 66 yard touchdown.

How great was it to hear a somewhat muted “CRUZ” chant that got louder and louder as the game went on?  Victor Cruz caught all 5 passes thrown his way for 74 yards, but none bigger than the 3rd and 11 on the final touchdown drive with 4 and a half minutes to go.  The play went for 17 yards as Cruz found the soft spot in the zone and took a perfect strike for Eli to plunge the dagger into the heart of the Packers.  Amazingly, every single pass that Cruz caught went for a 1st down with 3 of them coming on 3rd down.  Even the one he didn’t catch resulted in a first down because he was held on the play and the Giants were awarded 5 yards and an automatic 1st down.

Mario Manningham also contributed on Sunday, catching all 3 balls thrown to him for 31 yards and a touchdown that gave the Giants a 17 point lead late in the game.  Manningham’s other two receptions resulted in 1st downs as well with both of them coming on 3rd down.

TE Jake Ballard had an eventful day as he was thrown to 8 times but only caught 1 pass for 17 yards.  The one catch was important however as it converted a 3rd and 8 situation.  Thankfully, Ballard dropped a perfectly thrown ball on the 2nd and 1 pass over the middle with 15 seconds left in the 1st half.  As he was right in the middle of the field about 10 yards downfield,the Giants would never have been able to get back to the line of scrimmage and run another play had he caught it.  As fortune would have it, Bradshaw would then make his big play leading to the touchdown to Nicks with no time left on the clock.  It’s just funny how things work out some times.  Ballard almost had a touchdown earlier in the game as he got open in the back of the end zone but S Morgan Burnett got a fingernail on the ball to deflect it just enough to throw off Ballard so he couldn’t catch it.

TE Travis Beckum also pitched in catching both balls thrown to him as well for 22 yards.  It appears that Green Bay can’t stop Beckum, they only hope to contain him.

Offensive Line

As they did last week, the offensive line struggled early and held up late.  Even though they gave up a lot of pressures and allowed Eli to get hit 7 times and sacked once, the sheer fact that they only committed one holding penalty (a highly questionable one on Chris Snee) and did not have a single false start despite a ton of crowd noise was a huge win for this group.  Offensively only one time did the Giants fall behind the chains because of a penalty.  That cannot be overlooked.  It was a huge factor in this game when the Giants were able to convert several 3rd and long situations.  Imagine if there were a few false starts thrown in the mix.  It would have been that much more difficult to convert some of those situations.

The running game took a big step backwards, and it seemed that it was the middle of the line (particularly David Baas) that couldn’t open anything up.  As noted, the Giants were pathetic at running the ball on all but 3 plays.

The pass protection was better in the second half, but it was helped aided a lot by the chipping of Brandon Jacobs and blitz pickups as well.  On one play in particular, Ahmad Bradshaw attacked and destroyed blitzing linebacker Desmond Bishop.

Defense

The Giants defense played an outstanding game on Sunday and if not for a couple of bad calls very well could have held the Packers to just six points.  The front 7 started somewhat slowly but the secondary held up and did a remarkable job keeping the Packers receivers in the middle of the field and in front of them.  The key to the game was simply that they were able to force four turnovers – 3 fumbles and an interception.  New York was also able to stymie a Packers drive with a sack on a 4th and 5 play, giving the offense great field position that they were able to convert into 3 points and restore the two score lead.

New York allowed the Packers to convert on 8 of 16 (50%) of their 3rd down opportunities.  Although the Packers gained 147 yards on the ground, 66 of them came from QB Aaron Rodgers.  Rodgers was actually the leading rusher in the game.  It appeared that Green Bay was unwilling to try to run the ball as they attempted to rush with their running backs just 16 times, accounting for 81 yards (5.1 ypc average).  Similar to the Giants however, 48 of them came on just two plays.  The two longest plays were a 29 yard run by James Starks and a 19 yard run by Ryan Grant.  The rest of the 14 runs averaged just 2.4 ypc.

New York did an outstanding job of rotating the defensive line to keep fresh bodies in the game even with the Packers going with an up tempo attack.  The Giants didn’t blitz Rodgers very much, and against him that’s a smart tactic because Rodgers is easily the best QB in the league at beating the blitz.  The only negative is that Rodgers used the Giants 4 man rush against them by repeatedly getting out of the pocket and picking up yardage and first downs.  All in all, Rodgers ran and converted a 3rd and 5, a 3rd and 9, a 2nd and 4, a 3rd and 10, a 2nd and 9, and a 2nd and 10 into 1st down.  It was an amazing display of scrambling.  Frankly, his running was the only thing that the Giants defense was unable to contain all day.

The good, however, was that when Rodgers tried to throw on the move he was largely unsuccessful.  Part of that was on Rodgers for seemingly being a tad off on his timing and part of it was on the Packers receivers who dropped 6 balls, much as they did in the first meeting of these two teams.

Front 7

New York’s front 7 did a great job getting pressure on Rodgers after a tepid beginning.  The Pro Bowl QB wasn’t hit, hurried or sacked on his first 20 drop backs.  After that, starting late in the 2nd quarter, the Giants front got busy.  They ended up with 4 sacks and 5 QB hits, but as noted they had Rodgers on the run almost the entire second half.  The defensive ends, Tuck, Umenyiora, Pierre-Paul and Tollefson combined for just 5 tackles all day.  On the interior, Rocky Bernard led the front with 4 tackles while Linval Joseph had 3.  Chris Canty was shut out.

New York’s linebacking crew performed very well on Sunday, led by Michael Boley who was all over the field.  Boley had two sacks off blitzes.  The first was a simple bull rush off the edge where he blasted through HB James Starks on the 3rd and 5 play just before the Giants got the ball back before the end of the first half.  The second was a speed rush off the outside where he went around HB Brandon Saine and planted Rodgers on the 4th and 5 play in the 4th quarter.  Both these plays led to Giants points.  Boley led the Giants with 9 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 plays for a loss, 2 QB hits and a pass defensed.  He was an animal out there.  Boley also made the tip on the ball that Grant ultimately intercepted.

Jacquian Williams had a solid game making 4 tackles and playing well on TE Jermicheal Finley.  Chase Blackburn played well as did Mathais Kiwanuka, limiting the RBs to just 49 yards on 8 catches.  Green Bay is a very good screen team and New York did a very solid job of limiting the damage it can cause.

Earlier in the year, I lamented the fact that the Giants were not picking up loose balls on the field despite the whistle being blown.  The rules clearly state that if a ball is ruled either down by contact of an incomplete pass, if the play is challenged, overturned, and there is a clear recovery by the opposing team the opposing team gets the ball.  On Sunday every single loose ball was picked up by the Giants.  The final one, a fumble by Ryan Grant that looked as though he might be down by contact, was picked up by Chase Blackburn, resulted in a 40 yard return to a 1st and goal at the Packers 4 yard line.  One play later, the Giants were up by 17 points.  It was a heads up play by the midseason returnee and basically sealed the game.

DE Osi Umenyiora had the other two sacks.  The first, a strip sack and fumble recovery by S Deon Grant, was an outstanding play in which Osi split through LT Chad Clifton and LG T.J. Lang to get to Rodgers and swipe it out of his hand just as he was about to throw it.  Continuing the play, Umenyiora slapped the ball between Clifton’s legs right into the waiting arms of Grant.  The play was critical as Rodgers had WR Greg Jennings all alone for what would have been an easy touchdown down the left sideline.  On the play, Rodgers pump faked CB Aaron Ross, who jumped what he thought was a slant route, and Jennings turned up field with no one near him.  That would have made the score 20-17, and who knows how this game turns out if it had happened.

Osi’s second sack came on the last gasp drive by the Packers.  Umenyiora says he loves to end the game with a sack and he did it again on Sunday.  Two plays later Rodgers was intercepted and the Giants went to the Victory Formation.

Secondary

New York’s secondary has become a strength of this team over the past month or so.  On Sunday, they limited the vaunted Green Bay receiving corps of Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Donald Driver, Jermichael Finley, Tom Crabtree, Ryan Taylor, and supposed X-factor rookie Randall Cobb to just 18 catches on 33 looks.  That’s pretty damned good.  For the 4th week in a row, they took away a Pro Bowl caliber tight end.  Finley was targeted 9 times and caught just 4 balls.  No receiver gained more than 40 yards.  Only Driver caught a touchdown pass, and frankly if Michael Boley had turned around a moment earlier to track the ball he may have had an interception.

You hardly heard the name Corey Webster on Sunday.  Webster wasn’t credited with a pass defensed despite almost intercepting Rodgers on a deep pass to Jennings in the second half.  Corey finished with 4 tackles.  On the other side of the field, Aaron Ross was just as good.  He ended up with just 1 tackle and 2 passes defensed, one of those almost going for an interception as well when he jumped a route.  Fortunately, the second time he jumped a route he wasn’t burned because of Umenyiora’s strip sack.

Rookie Prince Amukamara was thrown into the fire in the second half at times due to persistent leg cramps to Aaron Ross and he played very well on the outside.  At times he was lined up against Jordy Nelson, and other times, Greg Jennings.  By my count he didn’t give up a completion.  Good for the kid; that should help his confidence going forward.

The safeties were outstanding on Sunday, combining for 18 tackles, 4 passes defensed, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.  Antrel Rolle was a tackling machine, registering 8 on the day.  Not to be outdone, Deon Grant made 6 tackles and had the pick that put the icing on the cake.  Kenny Phillips was again dominant in the middle of the field and forced the fumble on Ryan Grant.

It should be noted that the Packers longest pass play of the day was just 21 yards.  The linebackers and secondary, and particularly the safeties, did a great job of limiting yards after the catch.  The Packers only got behind the Giants one time on a flag pattern to the corner of the end zone which Antrel Rolle played perfectly.  Despite the coverage, Rodgers threw a perfect pass that only Jennings could make a play on but was unable to do so.

It appeared that the Giants stuck with what worked against Atlanta, which was to knock off the timing of the receivers by getting jams at the line and re-routing the receivers to the middle of the field.  New York linebackers and safeties pounded on the backs coming out into the flat, hit Jermichael Finley so often that he had to be black and blue this morning, and turned the slot receivers into the middle where the safeties could pick them up.

Special Teams

What a game for the special teams.  A little of everything happened out there on Sunday.  The kicking game was up and down.  K Lawrence Tynes had a 40 yard field goal attempt blocked when the Packers overloaded the right side of the Giants line.  On the play, David Diehl took the outside man out of the play, but reserve tackle Tony Ugoh began to crash inside on the third man on the line and by the time he tried to get back outside to block LB Brad Jones it was too late.  Jones had a free run and easily blocked the kick.  That was not on Tynes in the least.  What was on Tynes was the inexplicable kick off out of bounds following the Giants’ first touchdown, giving Green Bay a very short field.  The rest of Tynes’ day was solid as he hit on field goals of 31, 23, and 35 yards.  Additionally, the rest of his kickoffs were all good, including 2 touchbacks.

The Giants kick coverage teams were outstanding, holding the dangerous Randall Cobb to two returns with the longest going for just 27 yards.  CB Sam Shields returned the other two kickoffs with a long of 22.

More importantly, the Giants covered two onsides kicks by the Packers.  One was a surprise following Green Bay’s first touchdown and the other was expected after their second touchdown.  The Giants obviously learned their lesson from the San Francisco game earlier in the year.  The Giants had three men on each side of the ball at the kick, and not a single one moved until after the ball was kicked.  The Packers kicked to the side with rookie linebacker Spencer Paysinger, rookie linebacker Jacquian Williams, and former Packer and 5th year reserve CB Derrick Martin.  These guys were statues when the kick was made, and Martin did a great job of attacking the ball, securing it, and nearly breaking a tackle which would have resulted in a touchdown.  It was a stellar and important play in the game.

The second onsides kick was expected and was a little more worrisome.  After Green Bay clawed their way back into the game at 30-20 with 4:46 to go and all three time outs remaining, K Mason Crosby crossed up the kick, sending it to the off side.  The ball went the requisite 10 yards and right through the waiting arms of Spencer Paysinger.  The ball squirted just out of the reach of Antrell Rolle and Victor Cruz fell on it just before the Packers got there.  Cruz bobbled it around a bit but finally corralled it and ended the threat.

Steve Weatherford only punted twice, but one of them was absolutely huge as it was a 51 yarder out of bounds at the Green Bay 24 yard line that changed field position after the Giants were forced to punt from deep in their territory.  Randall Cobb did return his only other punt for 16 yards.

The Packers also only punted twice, with one going for a touchback and the other for a fair catch by Will Blackmon.

On kick returns, Derrick Martin was credited with 4 yards on his onsides kick recovery and all other kickoffs went for touchbacks.

Coaching

The Giants are a tough, confident and focused bunch.  As Osi Umenyiora said post game, they have taken on the attitude of their coach, Tom Coughlin, and right now TC is pushing all the right buttons.  His time out with less than 50 seconds left in the half and his audacity to throw for a “Hail Mary” after Bradshaw set them up with the opportunity, were huge.  Coughlin did lose his 8th challenge in a row, but again like some of the others he lost, it’s one he should have won.  His decision not to challenge the spot on Ware’s failed 3rd and 1 run was also a good one.

DC Perry Fewell should be getting some head coaching consideration around the league after pulling this defense together and getting them playing the best they have all year at exactly the right time of the year.  His substitution packages are working well, and all communication issues seem to be a thing of the past.

I’ve been as down on ST coach Tom Quinn as anyone on BBI and I have said some unflattering things about him in the past.  Frankly, I was dead wrong about him.  Patience is rewarded in football, and though it took some time for the special teams to find themselves, they are no longer hurting the team.  A missed block on the field goal team isn’t his fault, nor is Tynes kicking the ball out of bounds.  I’m impressed with the kick and punt coverages and seeing the statues on the line of scrimmage on that onsides kick tells me that he has their attention and they understand what’s expected of them.  Hat’s off to Tom Quinn.

Final Thoughts

New York won this game handily.  Some over in The Corner Forum are saying that the final score was Giants 37, Zebras 14, Packers 6.  It’s hard to argue that.  The Giants are once again on a remarkable postseason run, Road Warriors once again.  It’s on to San Francisco to try and avenge another regular season loss, and earn the right to advance to play for the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl 46.

If you need a refresher on how that game went, here is the review of the game.  The Giants gave that game to San Francisco.  The team going out there this week is not the same team.  They’ve grown, come together, and are dangerous.

Get Busy.  Get It Done.  Onwards and Upwards.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Green Bay Packers, January 15, 2012)
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