The Giants are going back to Cali brimming with confidence, but that’s what happens when a team wins four straight, including two playoff games.
Following Sunday’s demolition of the defending champion Packers, the Giants were already immersed in next week’s gameplan by Monday morning because for the second week in a row they’ll get to avenge another regular season loss, this time to the 49ers. The fourth-seeded Giants advanced to the NFC Championship game in San Francisco against the second-seeded 49ers and hope to rectify their last-second 27-20 loss on Nov. 13.
Despite having to travel cross-country and face a Niners team that’s also teeming with as much swagger as Big Blue, head coach Tom Coughlin said he likes their odds.
“I think we’re a dangerous team,” Coughlin said. “I like where we are. I like our attitude. I like the way we’re playing.”
Such confidence has everything to do with the do-or-die statuses each game had for the Giants in the final month of the season, including its two playoff games.
“This team knows how to win on the road,” defensive end Justin Tuck said. “Right now, it just seems like it’s our time.”
Tuck, the inspirational leader of the Giants’ defense, helped his squad hold a Packers team that had averaged 40.1 points at home to half its average by forcing four turnovers. Green Bay came into the game having only committed 14 turnovers, including just six fumbles, but were harassed into four fumbles by Big Blue.
“Our defense has been outstanding for the last few weeks and that’s been a huge difference for us,” Coughlin said.
The Giants are peaking at the right time and that’s usually the formula for success in today’s NFL. In recent playoff history, the regular season’s best team has rarely won the Super Bowl. Last year, Green Bay was a 10-6 Wild Card entry and steamrolled its way to the Lombardi Trophy. The Giants were 9-7 this season and earned their way into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season.
They’ve gotten guys healthy at the right time and have used the momentum of playing must-win games to their advantage. Their self-proclaimed “Road Warriors” moniker has certainly found a home.
“There’s nothing like going into a stadium and what’s left of the fans at the end of the game and it’s just your fans,” said linebacker Michael Boley.
And after vanquishing the Packers for the second-consecutive playoff win at Lambeau (2007) the Giants say they’re ready for the penultimate game.
Sunday will be the Giants’ first championship game appearance since the ’07 playoffs, when they defeated the Packers in Green Bay in overtime, 23-20. Quarterback Eli Manning said he relishes the opportunity of trying to duplicate that magical postseason run.
“I think we are always confident going into games,” Manning said. “Guys understand the way to win football games against good teams. Our defense is playing great with pressure and turnovers. Our offense, for the most part, is protecting the ball and playing smart football. When we have a chance to make a big play we are making them.”
Defensive end Osi Umenyiora said he’s proud of the way the team is jelling, but claimed he’s not shocked. He added they’ve always had the talent. It just took a little while for key guys to get healthy and get back to playing the “Giants way.”
“We know we’re a good football team and we’re a great defense. We might not have showed most of it during the regular season, but that doesn’t matter now,” said Umenyiora. “This is the postseason and we’re playing the way we’re supposed to be playing right now. We’ve been playing well for the past four or five games now, so hopefully we’ll keep it going and take this thing all the way.”
Big Blue notes
» Running back Brandon Jacobs said he was so ready to play the Packers that he wished the game could’ve been played sooner. Jacobs only had 22 yards rushing, but scored the game-salting touchdown late in the fourth quarter. He said his confidence never wavered that they’d beat the Packers in the rematch: “I knew we were going to beat them on Wednesday, to be honest with you.”
» Loquacious safety Antrel Rolle caused a stir after the Packers beat the Giants, 38-35, last month when he said he felt the Giants were the better team and that they’d face them again in the playoffs. Naturally, after helping the Giants knock off the defending champs, Rolle was ready for an “I told you so” moment: “I’m not surprised [with the win]. I said, ‘We’ll see them again.’ We saw them again. This is the outcome.”
» Defensive end Osi Umenyiora has five sacks in the last three games since returning from a high ankle sprain.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8 for all the team news heading up to the NFC Championship game.