Giants stun Packers in runaway win

Hakeem Nicks.
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The Giants went into Green Bay and pulled off the 37-20 upset over the defending champion Packers.

What went right …

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1. Simply elite

As expected, the Giants’ passing game was impeccable as Eli Manning led the way. Manning finished 21-of-33 for 330 yards, three touchdowns and one interception and was the signal caller on the play of the day when he and Hakeem Nicks connected on a 27-yard Hail Mary reception to end the first half. The play gave New York a 20-10 lead at the break and seemed to deflate the home crowd, while re-energizing Big Blue. Nicks was unstoppable as he had five catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns, finishing with seven catches for 165 yards and the two scores.
  
2. Under pressure

Big Blue’s pass rush got off to a slow start as Rodgers wasn’t even touched on his first 20 dropbacks, but they turned up the heat as the game went on. Linebacker Michael Boley registered two sacks and defensive end Osi Umenyiora also added two, including a strip-sack, midway through the third quarter that was recovered by safety Deon Grant. It was Rodgers’s first lost fumble all season. Boley’s second sack led to an insurance 35-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes with 7:48 remaining in the game. 
    
3. Throw only

The Packers headed into the game a one-dimensional offense and the Giants made sure they stayed that way, as they basically made quarterback Aaron Rodgers (26-of-46 for 264 yards, two touchdowns and one interception) a one-man show. New York held the Packers’ running game to 147 total yards, but if not for running back James Starks’s 29-yard jaunt and Rodgers’s scrambles for dear life, the total would’ve been minuscule. Rodgers was the lone rushing threat, as he had a game-high 66 rushing yards and accounted for five of Green Bay’s seven rushing first downs. The defense as a whole forced three turnovers, which was impressive for a Green Bay unit that only lost 14 turnovers all season, including just six fumbles.       
 
What went wrong …

1. Not the Victor we know

Wideout Victor Cruz was once again stymied, as opposing defenses continued to make him their focal point. Cruz followed last week’s paltry two-reception game against the Falcons with a five-catch, 74-yard day against a Green Bay secondary that was known to give up yards in chunks. Cruz did have a clutch third-down conversion late in the fourth quarter, which was the bulk of his yardage, to set up Big Blue’s final touchdown, but he wasn’t much of a factor otherwise. Due to all the attention paid to Cruz, it opened up things for Nicks, but the Giants will certainly need a fully-engaged Cruz next week against the stingiest defense in the league.
   
2. What is the call?

The Giants nearly had the game turned late in the first quarter when Packers wideout Greg Jennings apparently fumbled on the Packers’ second possession after safety Deon Grant stripped him following a quick slant reception. Safety Kenny Phillips scooped up the fumble and returned it to the Giants’ 42-yard line, but two officials ruled it differently — one calling it a fumble, but the other overruling him by saying Jennings was down by contact. It forced head coach Tom Coughlin to challenge the play, but the ruling of Jennings being down was inexplicably upheld, despite video evidence to the contrary. The drive continued and Rodgers systematically led the Packers down the field for the game-tying touchdown, on the first play of the second quarter, when he found fullback John Kuhn in the flat for the eight-yard score. Had it not been for the battle-tested mettle of Big Blue, there’s no telling how much of an impact the play would’ve had.   

3. Run away?

It could be construed as nit-picking, but the Giants’ run game wasn’t anywhere near as dominating as last week’s wild-card contest, as it tallied 95 combined yards. While the rushing attack did just enough to keep Green Bay honest and add some semblance of balance, it still struggled to convert short-yardage situations. The run game had arguably the single biggest play of the game came when Ahmad Bradshaw scurried for 23 yards on the next-to-last play of the half to help set up Nicks’s score, but otherwise there were gaps of ineffectiveness. Bradshaw finished with 63 yards, including a long gain to set up Jacobs’s game-salting touchdown run late in the fourth. Jacobs finished with just 22 yards.  

Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8 as the Giants head for the NFC Championship game.


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