Teams shouldn’t need extra motivation at this point of the NFL playoffs, but leave it to loquacious Giants safety Antrel Rolle to find something to spur him on.
While he’s always looking for slights so he can use them as an extra emotional edge, Rolle acknowledged he found one in a seemingly innocuous statement soon after the Giants took down the defending champion Packers.
The veteran safety took umbrage with Niners tight end Vernon Davis saying he preferred that his second-seeded squad face the fourth-seeded Giants at home Sunday in the NFC Championship game, instead of having his team go to Green Bay and face the top-ranked Packers. Davis, who was openly rooting for the Giants to upset the Packers, said he meant no disrespect as he simply wanted to have a chance of having home-field advantage in the penultimate game.
Rolle took offense though, and said he was actually happy for the perceived slight.
“If he said that, I can only hope that he was saying that just because they wanted to get a home game,” said Rolle. “You know, they better be careful for what they ask for because their wish has been granted and we will see those boys come Sunday. … Our mindset is extreme at this point. I might be a little biased, but in our minds we can’t be beat. That’s the approach we’re taking.”
Davis, who caught the game-winning touchdown to stun the Saints last Saturday, tried to downplay the brewing controversy. He said he wasn’t disregarding Big Blue, but added he’s not backing down from his comment either.
“Yeah, I prayed [when] the Giants won,” Davis said. “But they’re a good team. I didn’t pray because they were the worse team. They’re a good team and I acknowledge that. They’re the hardest game ever when they come up here. They have a good team offensively and defensively. This week we’ll prepare like we did last week, and we’ll approach this, I guess, [like it’s] the end of the world.”
Rolle is as feisty as they come and said he can’t wait to show the Niners what Giants football is all about. He then added there’s just a special feeling within the locker room right now. Rolle wasn’t on the 2007 Super Bowl team, but has Super Bowl experience as a member of the Cardinals (2008) and is confident that destiny is playing a huge part in this current run.
“We’re not going to be denied at this point. We understand what we have as a team. It’s not all about talent, it’s about chemistry. We’re gelling at this point,” Rolle said. “Coaches and players are on the same page at the same time. We have one goal in mind, which is to win the championship.”
It’s almost inarguable that anyone on Big Blue has a bigger chip on his shoulder than Rolle, but that doesn’t preclude others from having the same amount of confidence and gumption as they prepare for San Francisco.
“In a sense we do feel like it,” Cruz said when asked if he feels like his team is unstoppable. “If we’re playing like we’ve been playing, if we’re executing at a high level the way we’ve been playing, we’re a tough team to stop. … Hopefully, we can win the game pretty well. As long as we can execute and do all the things we know how to do, we’ll be okay.”
Though they are happy to get the rematch, to a man, revenge isn’t on their minds. But each player that was asked about facing the 49ers again said having played them before — and losing to them — helps the team hone in on assignments even better.
But in the end, the players said the 49ers don’t represent a rematch, rather the next obstacle.
“Doesn’t matter about the first time around. All that matters is what happens right now, this week,” tackle Kareem McKenzie said. “That’s all we’re going to focus on. It does help that we’ve played them before in that environment, so there’ll be some relative familiarity with the situation. But at the same time, we have to approach this game with a new sense of vigor and energy.”
Linebacker Michael Boley said it best. He has no time for the verbal sparring or revenge talk. All he cares about is getting to Indianapolis.
“They’re just in the way of where we want to be and obviously that’s the Super Bowl,” Boley said.
Big Blue notes
» This is the second week in a row the Giants have an opportunity to avenge a regular season loss. They lost to the Packers on Dec. 4 in MetLife Stadium, 38-35, before beating them handily Sunday. The Niners also own a Nov. 13 regular season win over the Giants, in San Francisco, 27-20.
» The regular season series is tied at 14-14, but the Niners lead the postseason series, 4-3. A better idea of how evenly matched the rivalry has been, the Niners hold a slim lead in total points scored, 721-709. This is the eighth playoff matchup and will tie an NFL record (Giants vs. Bears and Cowboys vs. Rams).
» The starting quarterbacks in Sunday’s championship game will be Eli Manning (No. 1 pick in 2004) and Alex Smith (No. 1 in ’05). It is the second time since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger that both starting quarterbacks in a conference championship game were No. 1-overall picks in an NFL Draft. The other time it happened was the 1998 AFC Championship Game on Jan. 17, 1999 when Denver’s John Elway and the Jets’ Vinny Testaverde were the quarterbacks.
» Manning has four postseason road victories in his career. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that puts him in a six-way tie for most playoff road wins in NFL history (the NFL considers the Super Bowl an away game for both quarterbacks). The other quarterbacks are Pro Football Hall of Famers Len Dawson and Roger Staubach and current quarterbacks Jake Delhomme, Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.