Jan 312008
 

January 30, 2008 New York Giants Injury Report:  Yesterday, the Giants returned to the practice field for the first time since Saturday.  The Giants worked in shorts and shells.  “I’m more concerned about speed and the execution,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin.  “We’ve played a lot of games and we’ve been pretty physical in those games.”

Despite saying he was at 97 percent on Tuesday, WR Plaxico Burress (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday.  “Hopefully, he’ll work tomorrow,” said Coughlin.

LG Rich Seubert (knee) and CB Kevin Dockery (hip) were limited.

The Giants reported no new incidents of the flu. “Today (on Wednesday), we had no new incidents,” said Coughlin. “We have some guys with head colds. As far as anybody being ill or having a temperature, we didn’t have any today.”

“We had good energy,” said Coughlin of yesterday’s practice.  “Obviously you’d like to squeeze all the detail work down and make sure everything is perfect. I thought the energy was good, which I expected. They are excited. No doubt about it.”

Articles on QB Eli Manning:

Articles on the Giants’ Offensive Line:  Blue-Collar Giants Revel in Unity and Obscurity by Bill Pennington The New York Times

Article on OC/OG Grey Ruegamer:  Giants’ Ruegamer Honors Pat Tillman by Ohm Youngmisuk of The Daily News

Article on DE/DT Justin Tuck:  As Tuck Would Have It, Justin Dreams MVP by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post

Article on the 1968 Jets Weighing In on Super Bowl XLII:  Old Jets Feel Super About Giants by Rich Cimini of The Daily News

Quotes:  Patriots’ WR Randy Moss on the Giants wearing black when they arrived in Arizona on Monday: “Yeah, you’re supposed to wear black to a funeral.  We’ll see who has black on after the game.”

LT David Diehl on the possibility of producing the greatest upset in Super Bowl history:  “I don’t know.  None of that matters.  None of those words matter.  The only thing that matters is champion.  That’s the only thing that matters at the end of it.  Obviously, we’ve been the underdog all season.  We’ve been the guys that people thought we could never get to this point, but throughout all the adversity, the character of this team has been tested and we’ve pushed through it.  I think through adversity we’ve shown persistence, perseverance.  Those are the things that have gotten us to this point.  When things haven’t gone our way we didn’t sulk on them, we didn’t lean back and say, ‘I can’t believe this happened.’  The only way to correct it is to go back to work and focus forward and focus on that next game and the next task at hand, and that’s been the case this season.  When things the week before haven’t gone our way, or if things the week before have gone our way, we’ve watched film, we’ve learned from it, and tried to become a better football team from those experiences, and that’s the true sign of a team.”

Jan 302008
 

January 29, 2008 New York Giants Injury Report – Ross Says He Doesn’t Have the Flu:  CB Aaron Ross said yesterday that he does not have the flu.  He said that he was nauseous on the plane on Monday due to a pill that was supposed to ward off getting sick.

When asked how his injured ankle was feeling yesterday, WR Plaxico Burress responded, “I am probably about 97 percent, which is really good.”

Article on WR Plaxico Burress:  Plax’s Talk Not Cheap to Giants by Ralph Vacchiano of The Daily News

Article on Running Backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw:  Jacobs, Bradshaw: Desert Storm by Steve Serby of The New York Post

Article on QB Eli Manning:  Underdog by Adam Sternbergh of New York magazine

Notes and Quotes:  The City of Boston is already planning a Super Bowl victory parade for Tuesday, February 5th.

Also, although it was just pulled by Amazon.com, you could have pre-ordered “19-0: The Historic Championship Season of New England’s Unbeatable Patriots” published by the Boston Globe.  “If people go out and buy that book before (Sunday), they’re going to be pretty pissed off,” said HB Brandon Jacobs.

President and CEO John Mara on not firing Tom Coughlin last offseason:  “One of the first things he (Coughlin) said was that he needed to make some changes. He said that there were a lot of things that he could improve upon and he talked about some of those things and some of the changes he wanted to make, so that to me was huge. The other thing that was important to me was that I never got the sense that last year there was a mutiny in the locker room or a movement to get rid of him. I talked with the players and the people who were down there with the players every day and there were enough people that did not want him to leave. They still believed in him and that was a big factor in the decision to bring him back.”

Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo on S James Butler:  “The guy running the show back there, James Butler, has been invaluable to all of us.”

Offensive Coordinator on the game plan against the Patriots for Super Bowl XLII:  “It’s hard, because they’ve seen everything.   They know what we do.  We could maybe package something a little bit differently or go to a different formation or do something a little different in terms of motion-shifting.  But, it’s hard to change who you are and what you do at this point.  We’ll have a wrinkle or two, and hopefully we’ll catch them off-guard.  The essence of the game is going to come down to if we out-execute them with our offense going against their defense.”

WR Plaxico Burress on the Giants:  “I just love the guys that I play with. I don’t think it’s about us being teammates. It’s more like a brotherhood. We have so much respect for each other. We love one another. We just go out and fight. We go out and play our hearts out, even when nobody gives us a chance. We have an opportunity to win a championship. I am very happy to be here, and I wouldn’t want to be here with anybody else, as far as guys I suit up with and strap my helmet up with.”

DE/DT Justin Tuck on the Giants:  “We’re a pack of brothers. That’s rare. I don’t think I’ve been on a team where everybody seems to get along. No fights break out at practice; you don’t really see anyone arguing, other than about their college teams and things like that. We’re just blessed to have this group. To come together the way we have is a testament to this coaching staff and this team.”

Jan 292008
 

January 28, 2008 New York Giants Injury Report – CB Aaron Ross Has the Flu Now:  The flu bug that has been pestering the Giants’ locker room the past couple of weeks continues to be an issue.  CB Aaron Ross apparently has the flu now as well.  Ross vomited on the plane to Arizona shortly after boarding, causing the flight to be delayed.

“Well, I hope that’s the end of it,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “It surfaced with one or two players the last few days. We had three guys miss some practices at home with high temperatures. We have had some guys who were not quite as sick. They were people who maybe had a day’s worth of it, and the symptoms may have been close to the same, but they didn’t drain the players like the three that it happened to at home. We have taken precautions. Our medical people did as best they could to distribute some medicine in advance of the plane trip out here, and hopefully the guys are rested enough that this will not be an issue.”

Article on the Giants and Super Bowl XLII:  Chance to Be City’s Best Ever by Mike Lupica of The Daily News

Articles on QB Eli Manning:  Eli Manning Took Cues from Mother by Karen Crouse of The New York Times

Article on RG Chris Snee:  Snee Emerges From a One-Stoplight Town to Giants’ Spotlight by Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com

Article on DE Michael Strahan:  Happy Non-Camper by George Willis of The New York Post

Article on P Jeff Feagles:  Feagle’s Roundabout Route to the Super Bowl by John Branch of The New York Times

Notes:  Today is media day for both teams at Super Bowl XLII; the Giants will not practice today.  The Giants will operate under their normal practice schedule on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

In a show of solidarity, many Giants player wore all black on the charter flight to Arizona.  “Isn’t black considered business attire?” asked LB Antonio Pierce, who came up with the idea.

Jan 282008
 

Articles on Bill Belichick and the Giants:

Article on Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo:  Wonder-Boy by George Willis of The New York Post

Article on QB Eli Manning:  Eli Passes Personality Test by Ohm Youngmisuk of The Daily News

Article on Dick Lynch:  He’s Got Giant Pride in Team by Mike Lupica of The Daily News

Jan 272008
 

January 26, 2008 New York Giants Injury Report – Dockery Returns to Practice:  LG Rich Seubert (knee) did not practice again yesterday.  “Rich is doing okay,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin.  “He is making progress.  So we are hoping he will be able to work next week.”

CB Kevin Dockery (hip flexor) returned to practice.  “We’ll see.  We’ll see,” responded Coughlin when asked about Dockery.  “He came back and worked a little bit today.  So we will see.”

“I’m feeling good,” said Dockery. “Every day I’m progressing more. I’m not having any problems. Everything is pain-free. No soreness. I did everything (in practice).”

S Michael Johnson (flu) returned to practice, but FB Madison Hedgecock (flu) and DT Manny Wright (flu) did not.  “Mike Johnson was back,” said Coughlin.  “The other two guys were really still pretty much not strong enough to practice.  So they were sent back home.”

DE Michael Strahan (cold) did not practice.

Article on the Giants’ Secondary:  Picking Up the Pieces by Ralph Vacchiano of The New York Daily News

Article on WR Plaxico Burress:  Giant Growing Pains by Ian Begley of The New York Daily News

Article on WR Brandon London:  He’s Mini-Moss by Lenn Robbins of The New York Post

Article on Bill Belichick When He Was With the Giants:  Belichick:  The Giant Years by Brian Costello of The New York Post

Notes:  The Giants are off today and will travel to Phoenix, Arizona on Monday.

Jan 262008
 

Horst: Okay, Mr. Burns, you win. But beware. We Germans aren’t all smiles and sunshine.

Mr. Burns: Oooh, the Germans are mad at me. I’m so scared! Oooh, the Germans! Uh oh, the Germans are going to get me!

Horst: Stop it!

Mr. Burns: Don’t let the Germans come after me. Oh no, the Germans are coming after me.

Horst: Stop it! Stop it!

Mr. Burns: No! They’re so big and strong!

Horst: Stop it, Mr. Burns.

Mr. Burns: Oh, protect me from the Germans! The Germans!

Approach to the Game – Super Bowl XLII: Repeat after me…the New England Patriots are not invincible…the New England Patriots are not invincible…they will eventually lose a game…they will eventually lose a game…now is as good a time as any…now is as good a time as any.

Who are the Patriots?  Offensively, they are a finesse pass-oriented team that can adjust their game plan on the fly and be quite effective employing varying tactics.  Defensively, they are very solid but not as strong as previous Patriots’ teams that have won the Super Bowl.  They have good special teams.  Most importantly, they have this generation’s Joe Montana at quarterback and Vince Lombardi at head coach.  In my mind, it’s the latter two points are what makes them the most dangerous.

What these Patriots are not is the 1985 Chicago Bears, the 1989 San Francisco 49ers, or the 1992 Dallas Cowboys.  The Patriots have beaten some good teams such as the Chargers, Cowboys, and Colts, but the bulk of their schedule was played against also-rans.  They were playing their best football before their bye week in early November.  Since that time, there were impressive victories against the Bills (56-10) and Steelers (34-13), but not-so-impressive wins against the Eagles (31-28), Ravens (27-24), Jets (20-10), and Giants (38-35).  In the playoffs, the Patriots have beaten the Jaguars (31-20) and a beat-up Chargers team (21-12).  Neither game made me sit up and say, “Wow!”

The Giants can beat this team.  I know it in my heart.  And I know it in my head.  But they have to come into this game with the right mindset, that is, not be intimidated by the setting or the opponent and play the same style of football that they have played for the last four games.  The good news is that as well as the Giants have played since their season-finale, I still do not think they have played their best football.  I hope the Giants actually do not think that they have to play “a perfect game” against the Patriots to win.  They don’t.  And they do not need the added internal pressure of thinking that they cannot make a mistake.

I love this game.  You couldn’t have written a better script leading up to the game.  Underdogs and trailing in all three of their previous playoff games on the road, the Giants have defied the experts.  The victories include two of the most memorable victories in Giants’ playoff history.  The Giants are not supposed to be in Arizona.  The Cowboys or Packers are supposed to be representing the NFC.  Now the Giants are being written off as merely New England’s last victim en route to perfection.

But what these experts don’t seem to recognize is that the Giants are playing their best football of the season while the Patriots are not.  While the Patriots’ offense is undoubtedly more explosive than the Giants’ offense, the Giants have better balance.  And while the Patriot’s defense is quite good, the Giants’ defense is better.  In all sports, defense matters a great deal in the post-season.

The pressure is on the Patriots, not the Giants.  If the Patriots lose, their 18-1 mark means jack squat.  If they lose, it would be considered one of the biggest upsets and choke jobs in all of sports history.

You want more good karma for the Giants?  The City of Boston is already planning the Super Bowl parade.  You can pre-order “19-0: The Historic Championship Season of New England’s Unbeatable Patriots,” published by the Boston Globe.  The gods tend to frown upon this type of arrogance.  If you ask me, this has “Dewey Defeats Truman” written all over it.

After the Patriots beat the Chargers in the AFC Championship, CBS interviewed Patriots’ linebacker Tedy Bruschi.  Bruschi talked about the Patriots overcoming so much adversity during the 2007 season.  I turned to my wife and said, “What the hell is he talking about?  Exactly what adversity did the Patriots experience this season?  Yeah, going 18-0 and blowing out many of your opponents is pretty tough.”

Get ready for some real adversity Tedy!

Giants on Offense: I don’t think the Giants should go into this game thinking that they need to score over 30 points.  Baby steps.  Keep the second and third downs in manageable yardage situations.  Pick up the first down.  Keep the chains and the clock moving.  Get into the red zone.  Score touchdowns when in the redzone.  Baby steps.  One play at a time.  The scoreboard will take care of itself.

What the Giants need to do, however, is be smart with the football.  The Giants simply can’t afford to lose the turnover battle.  Don’t give New England more scoring chances!

The game plan for the Giants is pretty simple.   Run the football with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.  Control the clock and the tempo of the football game.  But if New England brings up another defender in an effort to shut down the run, audible out of the run and hit the Patriots with the pass.  Remain balanced – like you have all year long – and take what the defense gives you.

The Giants also have to be ready – and they should be – for everything.  The Patriots did not blitz much during the regular season, but they did more blitzing in the post-season and will likely try to confuse Eli Manning and his blockers with a variety of looks.

Obviously, the match-ups up front are key.  The strength of the Patriots’ defense is their defensive line.  The Patriots operate a 3-4 defense and the Giants must get LDE Ty Warren, NT Vince Wilfork, and RDE Richard Seymour blocked.  The Wilfork-Shaun O’Hara battle is mismatch in the Patriots’ favor.  The more O’Hara needs help, the less one of the Giants’ guards will be able to engage those big linebackers.  Because of this, we may see the Giants attack the perimeter of the defense more.   This strategy would have the added benefit of potentially wearing out the older, bigger, less quick linebackers forced to pursue laterally.  I’m a big fan of Brandon Jacobs, but this is a game where it might be better to see a heavier dose of Ahmad Bradshaw.  If the Giants attack the edges more, the pulling guards, rookie tight ends, and/or fullback must get the outside linebackers blocked, specifically Mike Vrabel and Adalius Thomas.  The problem is that these two do a good job of holding the corners.  Still, this is where I would attack.

I also really like the idea of getting Bradshaw out on pass routes against the linebackers.  However, keep in mind that Bradshaw still is relatively inexperienced as a pass blocker and the Pats will likely test that phase of his game.

The Giants haven’t thrown much to Kevin Boss this post-season: only four catches for 45 yards.  I hope the Giants plan on at least doubling that figure in this game.  Again, I like the match-up of the younger player against the older linebackers and strong safety.

When Eli throws the ball deeper, the Pats’ best defensive back, Asante Samuel, likely will stay with the flanker (Amani Toomer) again.  I would assume Plaxico Burress sees double-coverage.  However, Plaxico caused all kinds of problems for the Patriots in the regular-season finale and I see no reason why to think differently this time around either.  The rest of the Patriots’ secondary is nothing to write home about.  Steve Smith is used to performing well in championship-level games and I expect him to step up and deliver in big way.

Does Eli have one more strong post-season game in him?  Can he lead the Giants to an upset of historic proportions?  Can he out-duel future Hall of Famer Tom Brady on the game’s biggest stage?  The odds say no, but we shall see.

Giants on Defense: Folks will think I’m crazy, but I don’t think the Giants should do anything different or special on defense against the Patriots.  For one, because the Patriots can adjust so quickly and play so many different styles of offense, I don’t think you really can adequately create a scheme advantage.  Secondly, with the defensive backfield healthier now than it has been in weeks, I think the Giants match up fairly well with New England.

I would rush my down four with occasional blitzes and play it straight up in the secondary with my nickel package (or dime if it is needed when the Patriots go 4- or 5-wide).  Obviously, the pressure will be on the defensive backs to cover Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth, and Jabar Gaffney in one-on-one situations.  I think they can do it.  Before he got hurt against New England, Sam Madison was doing a nice job on Randy Moss.  Corey Webster is playing the best football of his professional career (and I could see him being matched up on Moss quite a bit).  Aaron Ross and Kevin Dockery are good athletes who can stay with Welker and Stallworth.  The safeties, obviously, have to play well.  James Butler has been limited by a hamstring injury.  Gibril Wilson needs to make some plays against pass.  Michael Johnson has showed that he can stick with a receiver.

The more heat the Giants can generate up front without blitzing heavily, the better.  The Patriots’ pass protection will be stronger this time around as they will have their right tackle back in the lineup.  The Patriots can run the football, but the Giants have to play the pass first and hope that the front seven or six can handle the run without too much help.  When Brady throws, Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan need to play lights out against tackles Matt Light and Nick Kaczur, respectively.  Justin Tuck will have to be disruptive inside, which he was in Week 17.

With all of the attention the Patriots get for making big plays, the Giants need to limit the damage that Kevin Faulk does out of the backfield as a receiver.  He keeps drives alive as does Welker running out of the slot.  Too often, against many different opponents, Welker has had too easy a release off of the line.  I hope Ross and/or Dockery play him more aggressively.

How can the Giants slow down this record-breaking offense?  Don’t try to out-scheme them.  Line up and outplay them.  Mano-a-mano.   I think they can do it.

Giants on Special Teams: The Giants’ special teams have been a big factor all post-season in each of the wins.  The Giants need one more big effort from this group on Sunday.  Ellis Hobbs is very dangerous on kickoff returns.  Wes Welker is the punt returner and he can break a big play too.  Can the Giants manage another big return against the Patriots?

Prediction: It wouldn’t surprise me if Eli led the Giants back on a big 4th quarterback comeback to win the game.  But I don’t think it is going to be that close.  Look for the Giants to win by two scores.  Giants 31-Patriots 21.

Jan 262008
 

January 25, 2008 New York Giants Injury Report – Flu Hits Giants:  Not practicing again were LG Rich Seubert (knee) and CB Kevin Dockery (hip flexor).

“(Dockery) ran pretty well on the side,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin.  “He didn’t practice but he is getting better; he is getting closer.”

Also the flu bug is hitting the Giants, causing three additional players to miss practice.  “(FB Madison) Hedgecock is sick, (DT) Manny Wright is sick, and (S) Mike Johnson is sick,” said Coughlin.  “They all have whatever is going around – the high temperature and that kind of thing.”

Article on the 2007 Giants (with Input from BBI):  Where My Team Stands by DeadSpin.com

Article on CB Corey Webster:  Webster Rebounds As Giants Roll On by Joe Lapointe of The New York Times

Article on TE Jeremy Shockey:  Jeremy:  Don’t Be Shocked by Win by Steve Serby of The New York Post

Article on TE Jerome Collins:  Reprising Anonymous Role in Another Super Bowl by Bill Pennington of The New York Times

Notes and Quotes:  The winner’s share of Super Bowl XLII is $78,000;  the loser takes home $40,000. Each Giant player has already earned $18,000 for the Wild Card victory, $20,000 for the Divisional Round victory, and $37,000 for the NFC Championship victory.

Former Giant DE Leonard Marshall on the Giants’ season-finale against the Patriots and QB Eli Manning:  “That was the turning point for this football team.  Identities were discovered. It was a breakout football game, especially for Eli Manning. He’s rode the momentum from that game and he’s made me a believer. This quiet confidence the kid has definitely turned me into a believer. I always thought you had to be a Phil Simms, Jeff Hostetler type-of-guy who was fiery in the huddle, commanding leadership, speaking triumphantly in the huddle. But I see the way Eli does it, he’s very quiet. It’s different. But winning these games have made me a believer.”

Giants’ Chairman and Executive Vice President Steve Tisch on the Giants and Super Bowl XLII: “We’re getting stronger, we’re getting better and we’re performing as a team with confidence. Eli (Manning) is taking more of a leadership role, week after week. This is not a team that peaked at midseason. This is a team that’s been on the road, as underdogs many times, and has succeeded 100 percent.  This team has played with heart and pride and dignity and strength, and I feel those elements will get us the ‘W’ on the third.”

Jan 252008
 

January 24, 2008 New York Giants Injury Report:  LG Rich Seubert (knee – MCL) and CB Kevin Dockery (hip) did not practice yesterday.

“Rich did not practice,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin.  “Dockery didn’t.  Dockery ran real hard on the side. The expectation is that Rich has done well.  Whether he practices here at home or not is another question.  But the expectation is that if everything goes the way we want it to go that he will be ready to practice next week.”

“I’ll be fine, Tom knows that,” Seubert said. “We’ve got 10 days still…I’ll be on the field.”

“It killed me to sit there and watch the NFC Championship,” Dockery said. “But I was very glad we won because I should be able to play in the Super Bowl.”

Article on DE Michael Strahan:  Strahan, Captain Clutch an Inspiration by Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post

Article on CB Geoffrey Pope:  A Bison’s Fast Track To the Super Bowl by Les Carpenter of The Washington Post

Jan 242008
 

New York Giants Sign LB Rory Johnson to 2008 Futures Contract:  The Giants have signed LB Rory Johnson to a 2008 futures contract.

Another Article on Ann Mara:  Meet the Super Lady Who Has Seen It All by Mike Lupica of The New York Daily News

Article on General Manager Jerry Reese:  Jerry Reese’s Pieces Look Super by Ralph Vacchiano of The New York Daily News

Article on Super Bowl XXXV:  Seven Years Later, Giants’ Super Bowl Loss Still Stings by Bill Pennington of The New York Times

Notes:  The Giants will wear their road white uniforms in Super Bowl XLII.

Jan 232008
 
New York Giants 23 – Green Bay Packers 20 (Overtime)

Re-sil-ient, adj., Marked by the ability to recover readily, as from misfortune.

“Let me spoil the ending for you.  The Giants are not going to be Super Bowl champions this year.  They will likely be a Wild Card team that loses in the first or second round of the playoffs.  That’s their talent level.  That’s their coaching level.  So enjoy these last five regular season games and any playoff games because it’s a long time before training camp rolls around again.  And the Super Bowl match-up between the Patriots and Cowboys is going to be depressing enough.

“For whatever reason, the Tom Coughlin-Eli Manning marriage doesn’t appear to be working.  These two are intrinsically tied to each other because they arrived on the scene together.  Coughlin is said to have fully supported dumping Kerry Collins and drafting Eli Manning.  Manning has flashed, but he obviously isn’t what he was supposed to be.  Unfortunately, what Manning was supposed to be was Tony Romo.

“The Giants find themselves in a bit of bind here.  Coughlin will likely make the playoffs for the third year in a row this year.  But while Coughlin has proved to be a decent, serviceable head coach, one doesn’t get the sense that the team will get much better than it is under him.  It just feels like the Giants will be just good enough to compete for a playoff spot, but not do any damage in the playoffs.  Is that totally his fault?  Of course not, but the Manning-Coughlin dynamic does not appear to be working, and if change happens, it is not going to be Manning who leaves.”

– Eric from BBI, Late November 2007, After the Giants Lost to the Minnesota Vikings

Since the Coughlin, Manning, and the Giants are too classy to do what needs to be done, I will do it for them:

Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning are going to the Super Bowl.  Repeat after me.  Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning are going to the Super Bowl.  Amazing.  I fully admit I was dead wrong.  After what transpired in 2006 and I did not think the Coughlin-Manning combination was going to work.  I did not think Coughlin was capable of coaching a team to the Big Dance and I was becoming increasingly worried that Manning was incapable of quarterbacking a team to the same destination.

After the Giants beat the Buccaneers in the first round of the playoffs, I wrote the following:

“What has become clear since these two arrived on the scene at the Meadowlands after the 2003 NFL season is that the fortunes of both seem to be implicitly tied together.”

They were, they are, and they will be.  But now, it is all good.

I will make one last comment before I shut up and simply review what transpired on the field last Sunday.  This team has a resiliency that defies explanation.  To go on the road three times in the playoffs, as severe underdogs, and defeat three division champions, including the #1 and #2 seeds in the conference is almost an impossible accomplishment.  But also keep this in mind:  The Giants trailed in all three of these games.  They did not become discouraged.  They did not quit.  They did not lose their composure.  They kept fighting and found a way to win.

Those of us who have grown up in areas of the country that experience dangerous wind chill temperatures know how painful and discouraging the cold can be.  It can suck the life and will out of you.  At –24 wind chill, this was the third coldest game in NFL history.  Yet the Giants were not content with their playoff victories against the Buccaneers and Cowboys.  They did not let a Packer team that took 10-6 and 17-13 leads take command of the game.  They did not let in-game adversity such as the 90-yard Packers’ touchdown, the lost fumble by McQuarters, the holding penalty on Snee, or two missed field goals discourage them.  Self-doubt never entered their minds.  They knew they were going to win.

The Giants – not the Packers – looked like the more comfortable team in the harsh climatic conditions at fabled Lambeau Field.  Indeed, this game should not have been as close as it was.  The Giants were clearly the better team on the field.  Yet when adversity struck, they still willed themselves to victory.

Quarterback: In the playoffs, Eli Manning has now out-dueled two Pro Bowl quarterbacks, two media darlings.  Against Green Bay, with a Super Bowl appearance at stake, he outplayed sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Famer Brett Favre, a quarterback who not only is one of the best in the history of the game but a quarterback who was experiencing one of his best seasons in his career.  He has also performed extremely well against four of the best defenses in the NFL the last four weeks.

In terrible weather conditions, Manning played as well as could be expected.  He completed 21-of-40 passes for 251 yards, 0 touchdowns, and, very importantly, no interceptions or fumbles.  Indeed, had it not been for some costly drops, his game would have been even more impressive.

What impressed me the most about Manning was, unlike previous bad weather games, he did not appear fazed by the environment.  He threw the ball accurately and made good decisions for the most part.  And his pass protection was not as solid as the stat sheet would indicate.  For example, on the Giants’ first offensive possession, a 14-play, 71-yard drive that resulted in a field goal, Manning made two clutch throws despite having immediate pressure in his face.  One was the 19-yard throw to Burress on 3rd-and-10; the second was a 6-yard toss to Toomer on 2nd-and-7.  On this drive, Manning also completed tosses of six to Burress, 11 to Burress, and 12 to Boss.  Manning was a bit lucky however on 3rd-and-10 as he did not correctly read the zone-blitz and his throw was dropped by the defensive tackle who had dropped back into coverage.

On the second field goal drive, Manning hit Burress for seven (nice back-shoulder throw) and Burress for 21.  Steve Smith dropped a 2nd-and-12 pass.  On 3rd-and-12, Manning threw a wonderfully accurate deep pass intended for Tyree, but Tyree could not reel the ball in (it also looked like pass interference, but that wasn’t called).

On the final drive before halftime, Manning made another real nice deep throw, this one was completed to Burress for 32 yards.  Burress then could not maintain possession on another deep ball that would have led to sure points, either a field goal or touchdown.

The Giants scored a touchdown on their opening drive of the second half.  Manning completed passes to Burress for nine and 18 yards – the latter another nice back-shoulder throw.  However, he did miss a wide open Steve Smith deep on a play that might have resulted in a 57-yard touchdown (I’m not sure if the safety would have made the tackle).  The Giants also scored a touchdown on their second drive of the half with Manning completing passes to Burress for eight, Toomer for 23, and Toomer for eight yards.

I thought Manning’s worst throw of the night was his end zone shot to Burress in the 4th quarter.  Burress had a step but the ball was underthrown and should have been intercepted.

Wide Receivers: Plaxico Burress has been MIA in the playoffs (a total of 43 yards against the Buccaneers and Cowboys), but he delivered in a major fashion against Green Bay.  Burress caught 11 passes for 151 yards, despite playing against the type of aggressive, physical corner who has given him problems in the past.  (And obviously despite the cold and the torn ligaments in his ankle).  Burress did most of his damage in the first half with seven catches for 105 yards.  On the Giants’ opening 14-play march, he had catches of six (for a first down), 19 (for a first down on 3rd-and-10), and 11 (for a first down).  On the second field goal drive, Burress had catches of seven and 21 yards.  The latter was a very nice catch as Burress had taken a sharp blow to his head from the corner.  He had not quite regained his balance when the ball arrived, yet he still managed to come down with the pass.  However, he was fortunate that his fumble on the play rolled out of bounds.

Later in the second quarter, Burress somehow managed to hold onto a 9-yard pass on 3rd-and-3 despite taking a hellish hit from the safety as the ball arrived.  With about a minute to play, Burress made a major-league reception by coming down with a 32-yard deep pass despite very tight coverage.  Burress’ concentration on this play was impressive.  However, Burress did cost the Giants some sure points when he was unable to maintain possession of another deep pass by Manning on the same possession when he hit the ground.

In the second half, Burress had two catches for 27 yards on the first touchdown drive; he also had one catch for eight yards on the second touchdown drive.  In the 4th quarter, Burress made a real nice reception against the sideline for 14 yards on 3rd-and-3.

Amani Toomer caught four passes for 42 yards.  But he did drop what should have been an easy first down reception on the Giants’ second drive of the game.  Toomer’s biggest impact came on the second touchdown drive.  He made a circus catch on a 23-yard pass from Manning where he laid out for the football while somehow still keeping his feet in bounds.  On the next snap, he caught an 8-yard pass down to the Packers’ 4-yard line.  The Giants scored on the next play.  Unfortunately, in the 4th quarter, on 3rd-and-5, not only did Toomer get flagged with offensive pass interference, but he also dropped the ball on the play.

It was not a good game for Steve Smith, who had two catches for 25 yards.  He dropped a pass on 2nd-and-12 on the second field goal drive.  In the 4th quarter, on 3rd-and-7 before Tynes’ first field goal miss, a pass intended for Smith fell incomplete and Manning appeared to be lecturing Smith after the play as if he ran the wrong route.   Smith also dropped Manning’s 3rd-and-5 pass in overtime right before the game-winning field goal.  That could have proved costly had Tynes missed again.  To his credit, Smith did flash an ability to get deep on a play where Manning missed him in the third quarter.  And Smith did come down with key receptions of 14 and 11 yards on the last Giants’ drive in regulation.

David Tyree saw some action.  The Giants used him in motion as a blocker.  He had a shot to come down with 3rd-and-12 pass near the goal line on the second field goal drive, but he couldn’t hold on as the defensive back made contact before the ball arrived (no penalty was called).

Running Backs: Brandon Jacobs (21 carries for 67 yards and a touchdown) set the tone for the evening on his first run of the game as he clobbered CB Charles Woodson.  Jacobs’ yardage numbers are not gaudy, but the Packers’ game plan was to crowd the line of scrimmage and dare Eli Manning to beat them.  Jacobs concerned the Packers to such an extent that it caused them to leave Burress one-on-one with CB Al Harris.

In the first half, Jacobs carried the ball nine times for 34 yards (a 3.8 yards per carry average).  His best run was a 12-yard effort around left end to start the second field goal drive.  He also had a real nice power run around left end for nine yards near the end of the second quarter.

In the second half, Jacobs’ productivity dropped as he had 33 yards on 12 carries (2.8 yards per carry).  The Giants featured him heavily on their opening drive of the third quarter, but it was tough sledding as Jacobs ran for 2, 1, 2, 3, 3, 5, 4, and 1 yards.  On the last attempt, he also fumbled on the play and the Giants were extremely fortunate to not only recover the football but also pick up the first down on 3rd-and-1.

Ahmad Bradshaw is such an excellent change-of-pace for the Giants.  Defenses get so used to Jacobs that they let their guard down a bit when Bradshaw gets in the game.  But Bradshaw inevitably surprises these defenses with his own power.  Bradshaw finished the game with 63 yards on 16 carries.  In the first half, he had four runs for 19 yards.  He really impressed me on one play by upending a blitzer who was bearing down on Manning.

Bradshaw looked much sharper running the ball than Jacobs in the second half of the game.  He was featured on the Giants’ second touchdown drive and had runs of 4, 10, and 4 yards for the touchdown.  The latter was a nice cutback run.  Bradshaw also made something out of nothing on a 9-yard screen pass in the 4th quarter.  On the Giants’ last possession in regulation, Bradshaw had a 44-yard draw play for a touchdown called back due to a penalty.  Later, on 3rd-and-1, he badly faked out the pursuing linebacker en route to an eight yard gain.

Madison Hedgecock has had better days as a lead blocker.  While he had some nice run blocks, I spotted too many runs that went nowhere because Hedgecock either missed his block or couldn’t handle his man.  Hedgecock was also flagged for a costly false start on 1st-and-10 from the Packers’ 17-yard line, helping to cause the Giants to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown.

Tight Ends: It also wasn’t a great game for Kevin Boss, who struggled as a blocker at times.  For example, on the Giants’ first drive, Boss gave up a pass pressure on one play, then failed to take out his man on a Jacobs’ run.  While he did make an 11-yard reception on this drive, he also couldn’t come down with a well-thrown ball by Manning into the end zone on 2nd-and-10 from the 11-yard line.  Boss and Hedgecock did make good blocks on Jacobs’ longest run of the night (for 12 yards) on the second field goal drive.  The biggest impact by Boss?  His extremely important recovery of Brandon Jacobs’ fumble on the goal line.

Interestingly, Grey Ruegamer played some tight end.  However, the first time I spotted him in the game from this position, he fell down while attempting to make a block.

The Giants still miss Jeremy Shockey folks.

Offensive Line: With the Packers crowding the line of scrimmage, it was tough going for the ground game.  Still, the Giants dramatically out-rushed the Packers (134 to 28) to take some of the heat off of Manning.  And on some of the runs that went nowhere, the problems were not always with the linemen but the tight end or fullback.

Pass protection was mostly OK, but Manning made his blockers look better at times in the first half by accurately delivering the ball under pressure.  Also, on Manning’s errant throw into the chest of the defensive tackle on the first drive, both tackles Kareem McKenzie and David Diehl gave up outside pass pressure.  Earlier on this drive, more pressure came on a play where the left side had problems picking up a stunt.  Diehl also gave up a pressure on the Giants’ final drive of the first half.  I thought pass protection was much stronger in the second half.  The sack given up by David Diehl was VERY questionable as it appeared that the defensive end had crossed the line of scrimmage before the ball was snapped.

Diehl was flagged with a costly holding penalty when the Giants were trying to run away from their own goal line late in the second quarter, leading to a punt and good field position for Green Bay.  Two plays later, Shaun O’Hara made a poor shotgun snap that was luckily fielded by Manning.  RG Chris Snee’s holding penalty on Ahmad Bradshaw’s 44-yard touchdown run was a big negative.  Snee also whiffed on one pull in the second half on a Jacobs’ run.  LG Rich Seubert got pushed back on one Jacobs’ run that picked up minimal yardage.

When Grey Ruegamer came into the game for the injured Seubert, it wasn’t pretty at first as he missed his block on a Bradshaw run that lost a yard.

The star of the game on the offensive line?  RT Kareem McKenzie who handled the Packers’ most dangerous defensive lineman with ease, despite playing on a bad ankle.

Defensive Line: The defensive line did a great job against the run as Ryan Grant, who had rushed for over 200 yards the week before, was held to 29 yards on 12 carries.

However, the pass rush was not effective.  Not only did the Giants not sack Favre, they rarely got in his face.  Favre was only hit four times all game.

The tackles played fairly well against the run.  Justin Tuck (4 tackles, 1 quarterback hit, 1 pass defense) played well in run defense from the defensive tackle position – amazing for a guy who isn’t built like a tackle.  He and Jay Alford stuffed an early Grant run.  Tuck later crushed Grant for a 3-yard loss on a shovel pass from Favre.  In the second quarter, Tuck deflected one pass and tackled Grant for no gain.  In the second half, Tuck chased down a screen pass, limiting the damage to two yards.  However, the Packers were able to run at his side on one of the few times he played strongside end.

What’s interesting to note is that Jay Alford (2 tackles) has clearly moved up the defensive tackle rotation.  Both Russell Davis and Manny Wright were inactive and Alford saw a lot of playing time.  He looked good against the run and a couple of times on the pass rush.

Starters Fred Robbins (2 tackles) held his ground well too.  He tackled Grant once for no gain.  Barry Cofield (0 tackles) was quiet.

Michael Strahan (2 tackles) did not make much of impact.  I spotted one decent pass pressure in the first half and one good play against the run in his direction.  I spotted him getting close to Favre one more time in the second half.

Osi Umenyiora (0 tackles, 3 quarterback hits) was the most active pass rusher, with most of his pressure coming in the second half.  In the third quarter, he just missed stripping Favre of the football on one play.

Linebackers: The undercoverage by the linebackers was much tighter in this game than it was in Week Two.  In addition, the run defense was superb.

I was worried at the start of the game as the linebackers (particularly Kawika Mitchell) and the safeties (particularly Gibril Wilson) bit on play-action on the first two plays of the game as Green Bay easily picked up two first downs.

One of the plays of the Giants’ season was made by Antonio Pierce (6 tackles).  Facing a 3rd-and-10 from New York’s 19-yard line, the Packers ran a screen pass to the left that looked primed to pick up an easy first down or touchdown.  The only defenders on that side of the field were the defensive backs far downfield with the receivers.  Brandon Jackson had three blockers in front of him.  Out of nowhere, Pierce surged through one of those blockers and wrapped one arm around Jackson as the lineman tried to shed Pierce from Jackson.  Pierce desperately held on until reinforcements arrived.  Pierce played the run well throughout the game, including on the first offensive snap in overtime.

Kawika Mitchell (3 tackles, 1 pass defense) got beat by TE Donald Lee for an 18-yard gain despite very good coverage.  He later made a nice play on a draw play to limit Grant to a 2-yard gain.  In the fourth quarter, Mitchell knocked away a pass intended for WR Greg Jennings.

Reggie Torbor (1 tackle) was quiet.

Defensive Backs: Of all of the units on offense and defense, I was most impressed with this group.  Considering the absence of a viable pass rush for most of the game, this may have been the Giants’ defensive backs best game of the season, especially when you consider the fact that Aaron Ross and Sam Madison were beat up and Kevin Dockery did not play.

I don’t know who has kidnapped Corey Webster (3 tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass defense) and replaced him with a body double, but thanks.  Webster has played three superlative games in a row.  Yes, he was responsible for the 90-yard touchdown reception as WR Donald Drive knocked him off balance during his attempted chuck.  But Webster – as he has done all post-season – did not get down on himself and elevated his play as the game wore on.  Early in the game, on 3rd-and-12, the Packers threw a short pass to their left, but Webster made a very sure tackle for a 1-yard loss on WR Koren Robinson in the open field.  After the 90-yard play, Favre and the Packers went after Webster deep again, but Webster had excellent coverage on the play.  In the fourth quarter, Webster made a hell of a play by tackling Ryan Grant for a 7-yard loss on a screen pass on 3rd-and-3.  And of course, there was no play bigger than his interception of Favre in overtime.  Really, another remarkable effort by Webster against top-flight competition.

Sam Madison (2 tackles) played hurt and played well.  He was not exploited in coverage and did a nice job of covering WR Greg Jennings in the end zone on one attempted pass in his direction.  His biggest negative was the very costly 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty in the third quarter that kept alive what ended up being a touchdown drive.

Aaron Ross (1 tackle, 1 pass defense) also played well.  He made a crushing hit on one play, causing an incompletion on 3rd-and-5.  (He’s got to be careful with that shoulder!!!)  He was beat for a 20-yard gain on 3rd-and-10 by Driver early in the fourth quarter.

R.W. McQuarters (2 tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass defense) played well for the most part.  However, I think he is the man responsible for leaving WR Koren Robinson all alone for a 16-yard gain on the Packers’ last scoring drive.  McQuarters bit on the play fake by Favre.  Also, he rapidly turned from a hero to a goat when he fumbled the ball away after intercepting it, allowing the Packers to score three points and tie the game.

Gibril Wilson (8 tackles, 1 pass defense) played well.  He almost came down with an interception on the Packers’ first drive (he probably should have caught the ball).  And he was very aggressive in run defense.  However, he did miss an open-field tackle on a CB blitz in the second quarter.  The Giants need to forget about these strongside cornerback blitzes (I’m not talking about the slot blitzes).  This is the second game in a row where the opposition has seen it coming and hurt them.  On the 90-yard touchdown play, I thought Wilson had the angle on Driver down the field.  I’m not sure why he couldn’t make the tackle.

James Butler (6 tackles) looked slow as crap on the 90-yard play, had problems running on the field, or gave up on the play.  He was also beaten badly on the 12-yard touchdown to TE Donald Lee in the third quarter.  Butler did combine with Madison to limit one reception by Robinson to no gain.

I thought Michael Johnson (1 tackle) got a raw deal on the illegal contact penalty that was called on him on 3rd-and-10.  The receiver made initial contact with Johnson and Johnson did a nice job of knocking the ball away.  This penalty led to three points for the Packers.

Special Teams: The 47-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes now rivals Pat Summerall’s kick in the snow against the Cleveland Browns in 1958.  It was an incredible effort, one of the most impressive feats by a place kicker I’ve seen as long as I’ve been watching football.   Consider these factors:  (1) Tynes was sick; (2) the kick came in overtime in a Conference Championship; (3) Tynes had missed twice just minutes earlier, including at the end of regulation; (4) it was windy; (5) it was below zero; (6) it was from 47 yards out; and (7) it was perfect.  Before this kick, the Giants were 0-2 in their history in overtime playoff games.

Tynes finished the game 3-of-5 on field goal attempts.  He connected from 29, 37, and 47, but missed from 43 and 36.  The latter kick came at the regulation and could have proved devastating.  On the 36-yard miss, the long snap by Jay Alford was high.

Tynes kickoffs were fielded at the 14, 7, 19, 12, touchback, and 7.  Green Bay returns went for 11 yards (David Tyree on the tackle), 24 yards (Geoffrey Pope and Chase Blackburn), 0 (muffed, Tank Daniels), 49 (Blackburn), 0 (touchback), and 19 yards (Rueben Droughns).  The 49-yard return hurt as it helped set up Green Bay’s second touchdown of the game.

Jeff Feagles (32.5 yards per punt) did not punt well.  His kicks went for 21, 34, 37, and 38.  The Packer returner was limited to one yard total on two returns, with Zak DeOssie and Domenik Hixon making tackles.

The Giants’ returners were quiet in the first half.  Hixon returned two kickoffs in the first half for 14 and 17 yards.  R.W. McQuarters returned two punts in the first half for 9 and 2 yards.  McQuarters saved quite a bit of field position on the former return by running up to the short punt and fielding it before it hit the ground.

In the second half, things got a lot more lively.  Hixon returned three more kicks – for 21, 33, and 36 yards, with the latter two giving the Giants excellent field position.  McQuarters returned two more punts – for 6 and 0.  However, the latter stat does not reflect the drama of the play.  It was an exciting return by McQuarters that looked to set up the Giants in excellent field position for a game-winning score (and may have scored as a wall was being set up), but McQuarters was stripped of the football.  As the ball bounced backwards, it looked like the Packers were primed to recover the loose ball close to midfield with just over two minutes to play.  Hixon made one of the biggest plays of the season by out-hustling and out-fighting a host of Green Bay Packers for the football.  It may have saved the game for New York.  Also give credit to Michael Johnson who helped to prevent a Packer from recovering the loose ball by batting at it.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Green Bay Packers, January 20, 2008)