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At least one New York team can fulfill guarantees. After last week’s Wild Card victory over the Atlanta Falcons, defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul predicted a Giant upset of the defending champion Green Bay Packers. Sunday at Lambeau Field, the G-men came through. They are now one win from a Super Bowl appearance and are firing on all cylinders.
With 330 yards, Eli Manning broke the franchise record for postseason passing yards, moving past Phil Simms. The defense caused (and recovered) three fumbles and capitalized on mental errors by the Green Bay receivers. In the end, the Giants won 37-20 and will be moving on to San Francisco next week.
How did the Giants defeat the powerful Packers? Let’s break it down.
For much of the season, the Giants offense has been relying on the solid play of Eli Manning and the seemingly miraculous season of Victor Cruz. Now in the postseason, New York has shown a more balanced attack. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs aren’t the same dominating force that Jacobs and Tiki Barber were in the mid-2000s, but they are both healthy enough now to pose a serious threat. Defenses have to take running plays and screen passes into account instead of only watching for long bombs.
Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks are stepping into their rightful spots atop the wide receiver depth chart. Although Cruz’s circus catches are great for media attention, Nicks and Manningham have built a chemistry with Eli Manning over the years. Either receiver could be targeted in high-pressure situations. In fact, the two have combined for six touchdowns so far in the postseason. Cruz still had 74 yards receiving against Green Bay, but the Giants passing attack is looking deeper than ever.
The Giants have always been known for agressive defense, especially from the linebackers. The likes of Michael Strahan, Lawrence Taylor and Sam Huff have passed the reins on to Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul and Michael Boley. The Giants have never had to worry about weak pass-rushers.
However, the Giants secondary has often been a source of concern. In Green Bay though, the corners and safeties stepped up. Deon Grant grabbed his second interception of the season, and Antrel Rolle matched a season-high with eight solo tackles. Aaron Ross, though, still seems to be struggling after suffering a concussion last week against Atlanta. In all, the Giants secondary has proven it can keep the team in the game against one of the best passers in the league.
The Giants head to the Bay Area next weekend to take on Alex Smith and the San Francisco 49ers. When the teams met in the regular season, the Giants suffered a heartbreaking last second defeat, 27-20. It started a four-game slide that nearly knocked the G-men out of the postseason.
The 49ers are definitely a legitimate contender. They knocked off Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round and have only lost three games this season. However, the 49ers have struggled against the hard-hitting NFC East. The Dallas Cowboys beat them in overtime, and the Philadelphia Eagles lost by a single point. If the Giants can continue to play as a unit, they may be booking a flight to Indianapolis in the near future.