The Giants need to have mini-vacations more often, if Sunday night’s 38-10 demolition of the Packers was any indication.
Heading into the bye week, all the Giants (7-4) heard about was their usual November swoon, Eli Manning’s “dead arm” and a team that was on the decline as the Cowboys nipped at their heels. But fast forward to the aftermath of the Packers’ game, and now the Giants are in the NFC East driver’s seat with a two-game lead over next week’s opponent, the Redskins, and control of their own destiny.
The Giants’ prospects are looking up thanks to what they did to the Packers (7-4) in the first 21 minutes, as they jumped out to an impressive 24-7 lead.
Manning, who had a record-setting night, let his game do the talking as he finished 16-of-30 for 249 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. His second touchdown tied legendary Giants’ quarterback Phil Simms for the most all-time in franchise history. But it was his third scoring strike that set him apart from everyone else in Big Blue lore when he connected with Hakeem Nicks for his 200th career touchdown toss.
While Manning refused to take the bait about Simms rescinding Manning’s elite status last week, the franchise’s most prolific passer was more than happy to talk up the team as a whole.
“All I cared about was getting a win. That was the most important thing. But anytime you can pass [franchise] greats like Phil Simms and Charlie Conerly is an honor,” said Manning. “We played as a full team -- offense, defense and special teams -- and that was something that was missing for a while.
“I think it was good to get some rest. It was good to get away from the facility, get away from football, [because] we had a couple of long weeks [with Hurricane Sandy and the two-game losing streak],” Manning said. “I think we needed our bodies and minds to get a little rest. … Obviously, it helped us out [Sunday night].”
What also helped Manning was a running game and defense that backed him up. Both were able to stymie his counterpart, Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Giants’ rushing attack has been maligned all season, but it managed to keep the prolific Packers’ offense on the sidelines. Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown combined for 122 of the team’s 148 rushing yards and averaged almost five yards per carry, collectively.
The defense also played a part in stifling Rodgers, sacking him five times and causing two turnovers (a fumble and an interception) of the reigning league MVP. The veteran looked as rattled on Sunday night as he’s been all season. For the fourth time this year he was sacked at least five times. Rogers finished a meager 14-of-25 for 219 yards, a touchdown and the pick, and got next to nothing from a rushing attack that only mustered 116 yards -- 22 coming by his own survival scrambling.
Such a one-dimensional offense made corralling Rodgers all the easier, said defensive end Osi Umenyiora. The pass rush specialist had a strip-sack and added that the key to success was getting to Rodgers early and often.
“We knew it’d be all about pressure and getting to [Rodgers], because he’s an outstanding football player,” Umenyiora said. “With any quarterback, if you can get to him enough early you have a better chance at winning.”
Umenyiora then stopped himself short of saying that the Giants were desperate to stop their two-game slide, but admitted they had a renewed sense of purpose coming off the bye.
“We just knew it’d be more important to us than it would be for them and we needed to step up,” said Umenyiora. “We all showed great heart. We needed to step up and regroup [after the bye week], so we came in here strong. It was just so important to us.”
Umenyiora’s bookend at defensive end, Justin Tuck, was more defiant in assessing the Giants’ performance -- and the road ahead.
“It reminds us what we’re capable of and that’s all that matters. We know what we’re capable of when we play our style of football,” Tuck said. “I feel very confident where this team is right now. We slipped a little bit, but we’re refocused now, and hopefully we’re done with the roller coaster and we’ll continue to excel.”
Big Blue notes
» The Giants were the Packers’ first opponent to score on the opening drive this season when Andre Brown scored on a 2-yard plunge four minutes into the game.
» Safety Kenny Phillips (knee) and offensive lineman David Diehl (neck) were injured in the second half and didn’t return. They’ll likely undergo a battery of tests and MRIs on Monday to determine the extent of their injuries.
» The statistical comparisons between the teams were actually pretty even. But what set the Giants apart was their efficiency in the red zone (5-of-6, compared to 0-of-2) and their goal-to-go percentage (2-of-3 to no chances for the Packers).
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.