On the road to the Lombardi Trophy, the luxury of looking back is nonexistent. There is no time to bask in the glory of the previous game. For every second that a team, or player, spends reveling in the past, a rare opportunity to prepare for the next playoff game slips away. For an athlete in the NFL, these moments are too precious to waste. Fortunately for us, these self-imposed restrictions do not apply.
The New York Giants have been playing Super Bowl caliber football over the course of the last month. In the last four games, the Giants defense have only given up fifty points, while their offense has scored 121 points. The G-Men were faced with the task of having to beat their division rival Dallas Cowboys twice in the final month of the regular season if they were going to advance into the playoffs, a task that they stepped up and completed in a big way.
They were also backed into a corner in Week 16, where they had to defeat Rex Ryan and his band of merry men. Once again, the Giants answered the call. In the Wild-Card game, Big Blue shut out one of the league's top ten passing attacks in the Atlanta Falcons. In fact, the only points scored by these birds, two to be exact, were due to an Eli Manning mishap. But there was no bigger victory than that of the one the Giants put together, last Sunday, against the Green Bay Packers. In order to understand who this postseason Giants teams is and where they are headed, we must re-visit this monumental win and soak in the stand out efforts from this destiny clad team.
It is not exactly a government secret that Eli Manning played a great game against the Packers. His numbers were solid. How solid were they? He was 21-of-33 for 330 yards. He threw three touchdowns, one interception and finished with a 114.5 QB Rating. Those are numbers to be proud of. However, they are not overly impressive given the fact that the bar has been set so high this season, due to super-human quarterback performances. But when we break Manning's stats down further, we can see just how impressive those stats are.
Manning targeted Hakeem Nicks nine times. He hit him seven out of nine. Nicks recorded 165 yards and two touchdowns. Manning targeted Victor Cruz five times. He hit him five times. Cruz had seventy-four receiving yards for the day. Mario Manningham was targeted three times. He was hit three times for thirty-one yards and a touchdown. Travis Beckum - targeted twice, hit twice for twenty-two yards. Devin Thomas - targeted once, no receptions. Ahmad Bradshaw - targeted five times, hit three for twenty-one yards. Jake Ballard, who reports that he is still having ill effects from his recent knee injury, was targeted eight times with only one reception. Manning finished the game with a completion percentage of 63.6. If it weren't for Ballard's drops, Eli Manning's passing efficiency would have been 84.0.
There has been a great to-do about Victor Cruz this season, and rightfully so. He has proven to be a threat in the slot, out in the flats or just about anywhere you find him on the field. The Packers did everything they could to limit his day. Yet, in spite of the double and triple coverage, he was still able to put up seventy-four receiving yards. In scheming for Cruz, the Packers defense, which has a lacking secondary, could not contain Hakeem Nicks. Seven receptions for 165 yards is nothing to sneeze at. The Manning-to-Nicks sixty-six yard touchdown, in the first quarter, proved that Nicks has an uncanny after the catch ability and the speed necessary to extend a play. The only team in the playoffs who have the slightest chance of defending both Cruz and Nicks, in the same game, are the Baltimore Ravens. If by the slim chance that we face the Ravens, and they can somehow manage to shadow these two receivers, they will certainly have nothing left to defend against Mario Manningham. The Giants simply have too many offensive weapons.
Two of the weakest areas that have hindered the G-Men, in the regular season, have been the defensive backs and the linebackers. This has certainly not been the case in the postseason. Against Green Bay, the Big Blue secondary deflected six of Aaron Rodgers' passes and intercepted one as well. Deon Grant tipped two passes and got the pick. Aaron Ross also had two tipped balls. Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle each had one. Phillips also had a forced fumble. The secondary was on point.
No one had a better defensive outing than Michael Boley. It seemed as if Boley had four arms and was in the middle of every play. He finished the day with eight solo tackles, one assist, two sacks and one pass deflection. Osi Umenyiora had another spectacular performance. If there was any doubt that this guy should have his contract reworked, there shouldn't be now. He finished the day with two huge sacks and a forced fumble.
Steve Weatherford was only used twice in the game. He had two punts for ninety-six yards with a long of fifty-one. The point? Eli Manning and his cohorts had eleven drives throughout the game. Seven of those drives resulted in points on the board.
The New York offensive line was infallible. Eli Manning looked as if he could be sitting in a beach chair, drinking a fruity concoction of some sort with no cause for urgency. This is a line that has been doing a good job of protecting Manning all year long.
The Giants had 19 first downs. Fifteen of them were made in the air. One was via penalty. They were eight-of-16 (50 percent) on third down efficiency. They had a goal-to-go efficiency of 67 percent.
Just about the only area that the Giants seemed to be a bit amiss was in the running department, on both sides of the ball. With the Packers and an extraordinary quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, you have to pick your poison. In order to limit Rodgers, and quarterbacks like him, you have to take away his targets. The Giants did just that. But that left him open to run, something he does extremely well. In fact, Rodgers rushed for more yardage than Ahmad Bradshaw. Rodgers had 66 rushing yards. Bradshaw had sixty-three. To go up against the Niners, they will need to close the holes and keep Frank Gore out of the game.
Tiffany & Co. will have to scratch out the name of the Green Bay Packers from this season's Lombardi Trophy. It seemed as if the forgone conclusion was that the Pack would go undefeated and win the Super Bowl. The Giants had other ideas. All of the stand out points above prove that the postseason New York Giants have every facet of their game playing at a level that is hard to beat - EVERY facet. These New York Giants are unequivocally "all in."