For part of the regular season we did a sponsored post detailing -- or trying to detail -- the top five defensive plays of the week by the New York Giants. Well, we no longer have that post. In the same spirit, though, I thought I would look back at 10 plays by the Giants that made a difference in Sunday's 37-20 victory over the Green Bay Packers in an NFC Divisional Round playoff game.
These will be in the order they happened, not in any order of importance.
1. Hakeem Nicks' 66-yard touchdown -- Nicks made the first big play of the game, bouncing off Packers safety Charlie Peprah and going for the touchdown to give the Giants a 10-3 lead. This was really the first inkling that the Giants were going to win this game.
2. Derrick Martin Recovers An Onside Kick -- The Packers obviously watched the film of the Giants leaving early and allowing the San Francisco 49ers to recover a surprise onside kick earlier this season. And, they have to know about the one the Giants screwed up in last season's game that shall otherwise not be mentioned. After tying the game 10-10 the Packers tried to make it a trifecta of Giants's onside kick screw-ups. Only Martin stayed home and made the play, snuffing out a chance for Green Bay to grab a lead and change the momentum of the game.
3. Antrel Rolle's Fumble Recovery -- Rolle really didn't do anything but scoop up a ball Green Bay fullback John Kuhn put on the ground when he banged into one of his own players. It led to three points for the Giants, though, and a 13-10 lead. This was another play that indicated this could well be the Giants day.
Rolle recovers Khun's fumble (via MasterOfHideAndSeek)
4. Ahmad Bradshaw's Run To Set Up The Hail Mary -- As FOX announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman pointed out, the pitchout to Bradshaw from the Giants 40-yard line with 15 seconds left in the half was pretty much a, 'let's just take the lead to halftime' play. Only Bradshaw, cut deftly from left to right, turned it into a 23-yard gain to put the Giants within scoring range and, most impressively, got out of bounds with six ticks left on the clock. Thanks to Bradshaw, play No. 5 on our list happened.
5. Eli Manning To Hakeem Nicks 37-Yard 'Hail Mary' Touchdown -- Manning makes a beautiful throw here, lofting it high and placing it perfectly to give Nicks an opportunity. The play, though, is really all Nicks. The wide receiver simply outworks the Green Bay defenders in the area for the ball, and came down with a catch that stunned the Packers and gave the Giants a 20-10 halftime lead. Brandon Jacobs said later the catch "broke their backs."
Eli Manning To Hakeem Nicks 37 yard Hailmary To End The Half(NFC Divisional Playoffs 2012) (via monjaroturner)
No. 6. Osi Umenyiora's Strip/Sack and Deon Grant's Fumble Recovery -- Taking possession to start the second half the shell-shocked Packers needed something good to happen, and very nearly got it. They drove to the New York 30 and Rodgers went back to pass, with Greg Jennings beating Aaron Ross badly down the left sideline for what would likely have been a touchdown. Only Umenyiora did not allow it, flashing past Rodgers and batting the ball away for the 32nd forced fumble of his career. Umenyiora then batted the ball away from Green Bay's Chad Clifton during the scramble for it, allowing Grant to recover.
Umenyiora forced fumble vs Green Bay (via MasterOfHideAndSeek)
7. Michael Boley's Fourth-Down Sack Of Rodgers -- Another play that snuffed out a chance for Green Bay to right its sinking ship. On fourth-and-five from the Giants' 45-yard line early in the fourth quarter Rodgers was swallowed up by the Giants' pass rush, with Boley doing the honors of bringing him down, and doing the 'Discount Double Check.' This was made possible when Rodgers and tight end Jermichael Finley missed connections on a third-down pass when Finley was wide open.
8. Kenny Phillips And Chase Blackburn Cause, Recover Fumble -- Trailing 23-13 the Packers were in deep trouble, but still had a chance with 7:08 to play. Rodgers hit former Giant Ryan Grant with a pass, and while Grant struggled for yardage Phillips poked the ball loose. Blackburn scooped it up at the Green Bay 44-yard line and rumbled to the four-yard line, setting up the touchdown that stretched the lead to 30-13 and made it pretty obvious the Packers were not going to win back-to-back Super Bowls.
9. Eli Manning to Mario Manningham Four-Yard Touchdown Pass -- The Giants took advantage of key play No. 8 quickly, when Manning hit Manningham flashing across the back of the end zone for a touchdown that stunned the Lambeau Field faithful, making the score 30-13 Giants with 6:48 to play.
10. Victor Cruz Recovers An Onside Kick -- The Packers showed some urgency after the Giants took the 17-point lead and struck quickly to make the score 30-20. It was obvious an onside kick was coming, but the Packers executed a beautiful kick, surprisingly going to the weak side of their formation. The ball squirted through the legs of Spencer Paysinger, then away from Antrel Rolle. Cruz managed to pull it in, though, slamming the door on the Packers' comeback hopes and effectively sending the Giants to the NGC Championship Game.