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NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: TUESDAY, JANUARY 17, 2012 - UNDER CONSTRUCTION

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  • NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: TUESDAY, JANUARY 17, 2012 - UNDER CONSTRUCTION

    HERE NOW THE NEWS

    THE DATA WILL UPDATE THROUGHOUT THE DAY AND SHOW THE UPDATE TIME IN THE HEADER.

    NFC EAST DIVISION CHAMPIONS

    PLAYOFFS 2 - 0: ON TO THE OTHER BAY!


    NEWARK STAR LEDGER

    GIANTS VS 49ERS: VICTOR CRUZ EAGER FOR ANOTHER DANCE WITH SAN FRANCISCO'S CARLOS ROGERS

    Excerpt: "
    In the postgame locker room at Candlestick Park on Nov. 13, after Eli
    Manning’s fourth-down pass was batted down by Justin Smith with 34 seconds
    remaining in the game, a bunch of Giants
    said they wanted one more crack at the San Francisco 49ers.


    One of them was Victor Cruz, who desired another piece of the 49ers as a
    whole as well as the chance to go against cornerback Carlos Rogers, who
    irritated him that day by talking trash and mocking
    Cruz’s salsa dance
    after an interception.




    This Sunday, in the NFC Championship Game in San Francisco, Cruz will see
    Rogers again in the game that will determine which team goes to Indianapolis for
    Super Bowl XLVI.




    “I did want that rematch,” the Giants wide receiver told The Star-Ledger
    today. “I do remember the salsa. It’s very vivid in my memory. I’m just excited
    to go back there and I’m going to make sure I get in his ear a little bit
    because we had a nice little matchup last time.




    “It’s just good. Hopefully we can get a little bit of revenge and we’ll see
    how it goes.”




    The Giants believe they might be on a mini-revenge tour right now, having
    beaten the Packers and now seeing the 49ers on deck. Some have gone so far as to
    suggest it could continue with the Ravens in a rematch of Super Bowl XXXV, but
    let’s not get ahead of ourselves.




    For now, know there’s a lot of confidence and excitement being spewed by the
    Giants, who feel they could’ve easily beaten the 49ers in a game that slipped
    out of their hands starting with a hamstring injury that knocked out Michael
    Boley in the second quarter.




    “That’s a game I honestly felt like we shouldn’t have lost. I felt like we
    let that one get away,” safety Kenny Phillips said. “They are a good team, they
    played extremely well (Saturday), but I think we’ll get the job done.”




    Why’s that?

    “Because we felt like we could’ve beat them,” said Deon Grant, who vacated an
    area rookie Greg Jones should’ve helped cover on Vernon Davis’ touchdown. “It
    was a good game. It came down to a few plays here and there, and I have to tip
    my hat ... because they dialed up the right plays to beat us, so I can’t take
    anything from them.


    “We still felt like, humbly, we should’ve beaten those guys.” Read more...

    GIANTS TO FACE SAN FRANCISCO IN REMATCH A LOT HEALTHIER

    Excerpt: "
    It was late in the first half against the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 13 that
    Giants linebacker Michael Boley suffered
    the hamstring injury that would sideline him for the next two games and hinder
    him for the first few weeks of his return.



    With Boley, the defensive
    play-caller, in street clothes in the second half, the Giants were forced to
    rely on an inexperienced unit and it showed as the 49ers ran for 77 yards in the
    two quarters en route to a
    27-20 victory.




    Several of his teammates have talked about getting a second crack at San
    Francisco after losing in Week 11 — in a way for Boley, it’ll be his first
    crack.




    “It does (stink) I got hurt but that’s with anybody,” Boley said. “You hate
    watching the game from the sideline, regardless of whether you feel you could’ve
    helped or not. But I guess going back up there could be a little extra incentive
    because I didn’t finish the first one.”




    Boley wasn’t the only member of the Giants defense nicked up or out
    altogether.




    “We didn’t have a fully healthy (Justin) Tuck, Osi (Umenyiora) wasn’t there,”
    he said. “We were missing a lot of guys. Not to use that as an excuse. That’s
    just the reality of it.”




    49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh acknowledged the Giants’ injuries in the teams’
    first meeting and knows it goes hand-in-hand with how the Giants, winners of
    five straight, have been playing lately.




    “Healthier is the biggest thing, especially on the defensive side of the
    ball,” Harbaugh told San Francisco reporters today. “Especially the linebacker
    unit. When we faced them, they were really down to one linebacker, two really
    young linebackers and one linebacker playing out of position.




    “That group is really playing at a high level and much different.”




    Now the Giants are as healthy as they have been all season — the only player
    out of Sunday’s win over Green Bay was rookie LB Mark Herzlich and even he said
    that he hoped to return to practice this week if the Giants advanced past the
    Packers.




    WR Victor Cruz had five touchdowns of 65 yards or longer
    this season, so where does the recovery of the onside kick on Sunday rank?

    “It’s gotta rank No. 1, man,” Cruz said. “Against Green Bay, against Aaron
    Rodgers and not letting them get that ball back ... It probably changed the
    complexion of the game. It was tremendous I was able to get the football, I
    almost forgot we were on offense.”


    Cruz said his quad feels okay after getting hit there on Sunday and that the
    plan is for him to practice Wednesday." Read more...

    GIANTS-PACKERS GAME REVIEW

    "
    Travel to and from Green Bay was a nightmare. Fares were through the roof
    (and then unavailable by the time the Giants' game against the Atlanta Falcons
    was over. In short, I had to drive to Chicago after the game and then head to
    the airport two hours later.


    Long story short, I didn't watch this game as in-depth as usual, but I got
    through it much more quickly than I had hoped. The fact this is up before Monday
    became Tuesday is actually a major victory.




    But as always, help us out by filling in the gaps and giving us what you
    saw.




    * * * *




    GAME BALLS




    QB Eli Manning. My wife is off from work today so when I got
    home this morning, she was giving me her version of a game review. (I lead the
    league in gassers in her reviews.) She’s a football novice but she’s learning
    with each game during this run here. She told me, “Eli doesn’t run very much.
    Not like Aaron Rodgers. He runs all the time.” Three plays into the game review,
    I rewound his throw to WR Mario Manningham when he had LB Desmond Bishop coming
    right at him and said, “No, he doesn’t run much. But this is how he uses his
    feet, to slide just enough in the pocket to buy time for the receiver to
    complete the route. He’s done that better this year than ever.” QBs
    coach Mike Sullivan and his unorthodox drills
    are a big reason why. Also,
    we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention, “The Block” on RB Ahmad Bradshaw’s run in
    the fourth quarter. “We had to hear about the scramble and now we’ll have to
    hear about ‘The Block,’” RG Chris Snee said. “It’ll be called ‘The Block.’” One
    minor, minor qualm, though: Manning could’ve run for the first down on
    third-and-5 on the opening drive. The presence of LB A.J. Hawk made him rethink
    that one at the last minute and the pass fell incomplete.




    Coach Tom Coughlin. “We must be what, 0-for-100 by now?”
    Coughlin said of replay challenges. Close. They’ve lost eight in a row. But
    frankly, it’s the only area of Coughlin’s jurisdiction that’s been slipping of
    late. He’s got this team believing and the way guys like S Antrel Rolle have
    bought in is kind of incredible.




    Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. The players said
    afterward the game plan was to defend the edges of the field and keep everything
    the Packers did to the inside and underneath. You could see the way the
    cornerbacks took their drops that’s exactly what they were doing. It was a
    smart, smart plan because Rodgers had killed the Giants near the sideline in
    their first meeting. Not so much Sunday. Take a look at the difference between
    the first and second meeting of these teams in Rodgers’ passes outside the
    numbers, per an
    ESPN stat
    (on the right side of the page): 21-for-25 and three touchdowns in
    Week 13, 11-for-23 and zero touchdowns on Sunday.




    Special teams coordinator Tom Quinn. Rookie LB Greg Jones
    and S Derrick Martin didn’t budge on the surprise onside kick after the 49ers
    were successful in catching
    the Giants napping earlier this season
    . Quinn took a lot of heat last
    season, but Coughlin stood by him and was quick to praise him and assistant
    special teams coach Larry Izzo on Sunday. I’m not sure what happened on the
    blocked field goal. It looked like OT Tony Ugoh stumbled a bit.




    Manningham. I mean, is anybody watching film of the
    Giants inside the 10-yard line? How can you not guard against that play-action
    quick slant behind the linebackers by now? Anyway, nice job by Manningham, who
    had three catches – two for third-down conversions and one for a touchdown.




    WR Victor Cruz. Speaking of third-down conversions, he
    caught three of them. But get this: today, he was asked where the onside-kick
    recovery ranks on his list of plays this year and said, “Probably No. 1.” His
    point was it helped seal a divisional-round game over the defending champs, but
    I think he’s too quickly forgetting any of the five touchdowns of 65 yards or
    more he had this season.




    Martin. He’s flown under the radar this year because he’s a
    special-teamer but he’s a popular guy with his teammates and a heady player,
    according to those who line up next to him.




    Jones. As I said, he didn't budge. He also nearly forced a
    fumble on that kickoff in the first quarter. He's been very good on
    specials.




    WR Hakeem Nicks. You need only to watch Packers CB Jarrett
    Bush’s reaction to his Hail Mary catch to see how it “broke their backs,” as
    Brandon Jacobs put it
    . And speaking of the Hail Mary, I had a guy mention to
    me on Twitter he objects to that term being used because that was a great throw
    and catch. I wouldn’t go that far, but it wasn’t a Hail Mary like the Jaguars’ catch nearly
    making Gus Johnson’s head explode
    was a Hail Mary. This wasn’t luck. It was
    skill. And it was badly misplayed by Bush and outside CB Sam Shields, who
    trailed the play and didn’t hustle toward Nicks in the end zone. There was no
    threat underneath them and even if there was, there was no time left on the
    clock, so a tackle in the field of play ends the half. As for S Charlie Peprah,
    I wonder if he thought the ball was going to carry a bit more in the wind. The
    only quote I saw from him was in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He said he "didn’t
    get off the ground the way I wanted to
    . He just made a better play on the
    ball than I did.”




    RT Kareem McKenzie. I
    mentioned in my game preview
    the Giants would keep a close eye on LB Clay
    Matthews, especially when they wanted to take their shots downfield. They did
    just that. It’s obvious the Packers early on were trying to use Matthews as a
    bit of a decoy at times by sending him up the field and then bringing a blitzer
    underneath him. The Giants’ backs, tight ends and McKenzie did a very good job
    for the most part of staying composed and picking up the right players.




    Bradshaw. While we’re talking about blitz pickups, how about
    the one he had when he went low on Bishop on TE Travis Beckum’s 10-yard catch on
    the opening drive? A big reason why that’s effective is Bradshaw doesn’t always
    rely on the cut block. He’ll go toe-to-toe with a linebacker without even
    blinking. When you dive at ankles too often, blitzers will know it’s coming.
    Bradshaw has the guts to stick his face mask in there, so it was effective
    there. Oh, and he also had that 23-yard cutback run we were gushing about last
    night. You know, the one that made the Hail Mary to Nicks possible. Even Snee
    said it was a “shock” to see Bradshaw suddenly on his right after taking a pitch
    to the left. Terrific, big-time play.




    LB Michael Boley. I want to give Fewell and his assistants
    more props on this one because they helped make Boley’s first sack possible with
    great design up front. DE Osi Umenyiora ran a twist with a standing DE Justin
    Tuck to Boley’s right and that forced RT Bryan Bulaga to slide down inside a bit
    before he picked up Tuck looping toward him. At that point, Boley has a ton of
    room inside of him. Now, time to credit Boley for being physical with RB James
    Starks to take away Rodgers’ escape hatch to his right. That left him only to
    step up into the pocket. Once Boley shed Starks and crashed down on Rodgers,
    that outlet was gone, too. I’ll have more on Boley’s crucial sack on
    fourth-and-5 down below. Boley now has three sacks in the regular season and
    playoffs combined: two of Rodgers and one of Tom Brady. Not too shabby right
    there.




    S Kenny Phillips. I thought he just got lucky when he
    knocked the ball from RB Ryan Grant to set up a touchdown that gave the Giants a
    17-point lead.




    S Deon Grant. He came down on Grant to knock a ball out of
    his hands on a short hook. He also had an interception in the fourth quarter.
    But most importantly and impressively, he fell on his sword after the game when
    asked
    about a shoving match with TE Jermichael Finley
    and said it was absolutely
    his fault for overreacting. Very, very admirable right there.




    Rolle. See the under-the-radar play.




    Umenyiora. He's absolutely right when he says he'd be among
    the sack leaders had he played 16 games.




    CB Aaron Ross. If Umenyiora doesn’t come through with a
    strip sack, we might be writing much different stories today. (See below.) But
    he did and Ross had an otherwise solid game. He just needs to remember to
    hydrate well, which has been an issue for him in the past.



    CB Corey Webster. He didn't show up much. That's a good
    thing.




    Packers WR Donald Driver. He made an outstanding catch with
    Phillips reaching into the “basket” (that’s what Herm Edwards called the
    receivers’ hands in my
    Sunday story
    ) in the third quarter. While watching that play live, I saw
    Phillips crashing down and didn’t think Driver had a prayer of catching that.
    Later, he made an outstanding leaping catch with LB Jacquian Williams all over
    him and I starred that play as a potential turning point for Green Bay’s
    offense. It wasn’t, though Driver isn’t to blame for that.




    Bishop. He was not one of the Packers I’d describe as rusty
    and played an outstanding game, particularly with his pressures up the
    middle.




    Packers LB Brad Jones. Blocked field goal and a sack in the
    fourth quarter.




    * * * *




    FREE-PASS PURGATORY




    Rodgers. He and his targets were definitely out of synch,
    though his reactions told me he believed it was more them than him. Early in the
    third quarter, on a misfire to WR Greg Jennings, who got behind Ross in man
    coverage, Rodgers seemed to want Jennings to continue up the seam instead of
    bending his route a bit to the middle. Jennings adjusted because Phillips was
    deep to the outside, presumably as part of that contain coverage the Giants were
    playing. The big miss was on the third-and-5 to start the fourth quarter. It
    looked like he either wanted Finley to flatten his route out a bit or not sit
    down like it appeared Finley did. Troy Aikman said it’s more on Rodgers. I don’t
    know about that one.




    * * * *




    GASSERS




    Peprah. “You have to tackle in the playoffs,” he said. Yes,
    and you have to wrap to tackle. In all, I counted nine missed tackles for 92
    extra yards for the Packers through two-plus quarters. I stopped counting at
    some point late in the third quarter.




    Bush and Shields. See above.




    Finley, Grant, Starks,
    Packers FB John Kuhn, TE Tom Crabtree. Drops
    and fumbles from this bunch.




    Referee Bill Leavy and his crew. Between the botched replay,
    the helmet-to-helmet hit by Umenyiora that never came close to happening, the
    helmet-to-helmet hit by Bishop on Manning that actually did happen but wasn’t
    called and a few other missed calls, that was a bad job by that crew.




    * * * *




    UNDER-THE-RADAR PLAY




    Maybe I’m trying to be a bit too smart for the room again, but the open-field
    tackle by Rolle on Starks at the end of his 29-yard run turned out to be a big
    one. When I saw Starks get the edge, I thought he was gone. Rolle came down to
    cut the angle and get a piece of Starks as he tried to cut back. It was Rolle or
    the end zone there and Rolle won.




    The Packers wound up settling for a field goal that made it 20-13. If they
    get a touchdown there, the game takes on a new feel. Plus, when the Giants kick
    a field goal midway through the fourth quarter, it’s still a one-possession game
    and the Packers can take the lead with a field goal.




    But that’s not the way it played out, thanks to an unheralded play by Rolle,
    which was followed by his excellent pass defensed on a fade in the end zone a
    few plays later. That was a dandy because he avoided Driver when he crossed with
    Jennings in an attempt to rub him off the route.




    * * * *




    SECOND GUESSES




    I was telling someone recently the NFL should just do what the NHL does with
    its replay system and have everything reviewed in the “War Room” (though not the
    one in Toronto). PFT’s Mike Florio, a hockey buff, mentioned
    that same concept on Sunday night
    . I’m waiting to hear back from the league
    on the fumble by Jennings that was twice ruled down by contact, but Fox’s
    Mike Pereira agreed it should’ve been ruled a fumble. Bad job
    by Leavy and the replay official there. It’s clear they thought Jennings’ calf
    was down before the ball started to move but that’s not the way I saw it. There
    has to be a way to make these rulings more consistent and accurate. To me, if
    there’s a way to bump this up the chain of command to a more centralized
    decision-maker, I’m all for it.




    DE Jason Pierre-Paul badly wanted a holding call on Packers
    LT Chad Clifton on a second-and-9 late in the second quarter.
    Of all the holding calls the players and coaches were begging for, that one
    brought with it the best case because Clifton prevented him from working back to
    the line of scrimmage after getting a good push upfield. Still, he was
    complaining about it far too long. After the next play, in fact.




    The other holding complaint that had some juice to it was when Tuck got
    tackled by Bulaga on the next-to-last play of the third quarter.




    I know the Packers wanted the wind and that’s why they deferred after winning
    the opening toss. I’m not second guessing that decision at all. I just wonder if
    this game was played over again today, would they decide to put their offense on
    the field first? That long Giants drive to open the game, even though it only
    netted a field goal, did exactly what they wanted it to do: play keep-away from
    Rodgers & Co.




    Pereira tweeted the spot on RB D.J. Ware’s run on
    third-and-2 after Umenyiora’s strip sack was a good
    one
    . I don’t know what angle he saw but I’ve watched the broadcast view a
    few times now and Ware certainly doesn’t look a half-yard short of the stick. I
    mean, he might be short by inches but I don’t see it from the high sideline
    view, which didn’t show the ball because it was obstructed by Ware’s body. Maybe
    Pereira had a different angle in the studio. In any event, that was a pretty
    powerful run by Ware to spin off Bishop and even come close to the stick. It was
    reminiscent to a run by Jacobs against Atlanta to pick up a first down.




    One good call by the officials was when they didn’t flag CB Charles
    Woodson
    for pass interference when he jammed Beckum in the fourth
    quarter. It looked like the contact happened before the ball left Manning’s
    hand. And that’s after I slowed it down to watch it. They got it correct
    live.




    * * * *




    ODDS AND (TIGHT) ENDS




    I ran out of room in Boley’s game ball so I’ll tackle it here because there’s
    an interesting moment right before his sack on fourth-and-5 that was pretty much
    the defensive play of the game. Tuck is standing and signaling to Umenyiora.
    They were obviously working out some kind of twist there. But then, Tuck says
    what sounded like, “(Forget) it,” and puts his hand in the dirt. From the look
    of things, Umenyiora might’ve missed Tuck nixing whatever they were planning
    because he tries to loop into the “A” gap only to see Tuck has rushed there. If
    Boley doesn’t get his outstanding rush from the outside to get around RB
    Brandon Saine and get a hand on Rodgers, there’s a big hole for
    Rodgers to step up, escape and either run for the first down or buy time to
    throw to the crossing WR Jordy Nelson. But Boley got there and
    held on for a big, big play.




    Joe Buck and Aikman were trying to figure out why the Giants
    called a timeout before their third play from scrimmage. They guessed there was
    a substitution issue and that’s exactly what it was. You hate to burn a timeout
    that early, but the Giants had an extra guy on the field. Bradshaw was in the
    slot in a six-receiver set. As you know, that’s impossible because five linemen
    plus a quarterback and six receivers is too many on the field. The Packers
    wanted a 12-men-in-the-huddle penalty and I’m not sure how the Giants weren’t
    nailed for that one because you can’t see the huddle on the broadcast. Had they
    been backed up another 5 yards there, maybe they don’t convert the third-down
    pass to Manningham (It went for 19 yards, but who knows how the extra 5 would’ve
    changed the calls on both sides) and that important long first drive doesn’t
    happen.




    Speaking of Aikman and Fox, good job by them immediately identifying
    Umenyiora had saved a TD with his strip sack because Jennings had gotten past
    Ross. Aikman saw it right away and they had the replay ready when they came back
    from break. Now, one I thought they might’ve missed while watching live was a
    second-and-7 check-down pass from Rodgers to Starks. I would’ve loved to see a
    wide-angle replay there because Driver
    had gotten past Rolle
    and appeared to be open enough for Rodgers to take a
    shot. It seems like he’s looking in Driver’s general direction but never takes
    the shot. Live, I thought it was there for the taking.




    One more note about the touchdown Umenyiora saved: that was probably set up
    in the Packers’ minds by Ross’ breaking on an earlier pass that could’ve been a
    pick six had Rodgers not delivered it close to the sideline. The coaches
    probably thought Ross couldn’t wait to get his hands on another one. If so, they
    timed the double-move call perfectly. The only problem was Clifton and
    LG T.J. Lang didn’t stop Umenyiora on a swim move between
    them.




    The Packers have a go-to play for them they tried in the third quarter on a
    deep ball to Nelson Ross knocked down. It’s a fake stretch play to the right and
    a throwback deep to the left. The Giants obviously scouted that one well.




    Packers S Morgan Burnett had a pretty good game. He got his
    hand on a pass for TE Jake Ballard in the end zone and also
    made a very nice tackle on Jacobs in the fourth quarter. Burnett avoided a stiff
    arm and got to Jacobs’ body. That’s not easy to do.






    I thought Bradshaw was going to rip apart at the knees when Matthews chased
    him down from behind on first-and-goal two plays after Kuhn fumbled. Good hustle
    by Matthews, as always, and good flexibility on Bradshaw’s part because that
    could’ve been ugly. It looked like he might’ve slid a bid on the turf, which
    surely helped.




    I didn’t see when Kuhn got injured while watching live. Now I see when. And
    now I see why. LB Mathias Kiwanuka absolutely crushed him while
    Kuhn tried to stick him on a lead block. That wasn’t what caused the injury. The
    problem was Crabtree threw Rolle down into his legs. But the only reason he was
    in position for that to happen was Kiwanuka blasted him backward. Another
    outstanding physical play for him that didn’t make the stat sheet.




    Ross said a big reason for the secondary’s improved play of late is “the
    after-work studying is really helping us a lot. About a month and a half now at
    my house, Kenny’s house and Corey’s house.” They used to do one night of group
    studying a week. “Now, we do like three nights,” Ross said.




    Snee said Packers DL B.J. Raji came up to him to talk about Raji’s saying the
    Giants’ offensive line isn’t as “physical” as other units. “First of all, me and
    B.J. are cool and he immediately said at the beginning of the game that was
    blown out of proportion. And I believe him,” Snee said. “He’s a heckuva player.
    They’ve got a bunch of big bodies inside. It was tough sledding for the running
    game.”




    The Packers should’ve seen the Giants’ draw play when they called a timeout
    right before Bradshaw’s run and realized the Giants were content with running
    the ball and heading into halftime with a 3-point lead. In fact, they did the
    Giants a favor by calling that timeout. You’d have to figure the draw up the
    middle wasn’t going to allow Bradshaw to get out of bounds, even though
    LT David Diehl said the linemen thought they were going to gash
    the Packers’ three-man front there. On the next play, Green Bay was still in a
    three-down front and Bradshaw was able to work his magic.




    And finally, at the end of Bradshaw’s 23-yard run, who was waiting with open
    arms on the sideline for him? Mitch Petrus. No
    apology necessary this time.
    Oh, and I finally got to Petrus to ask him what
    the heck he was saying and why in that clip from the Falcons game. He insists he
    was talking about a play from much later in the game and not the safety. Plus,
    he said he was out of breath at the time so that’s why he was tough to
    understand. … Sigh … I liked our version so much better."

    GIANTS' TOM COUGHLIN DOESN'T AGREE WITH TWO QUESTIONABLE RULINGS IN WIN OVER PACKERS

    "
    Tom Coughlin, like basically everyone who has seen the replays, doesn't have
    an explanation for two calls officials made that ultimately allowed the Packers
    to go on to score their two touchdowns in the Giants'
    37-20 win Sunday
    .


    First there was the apparent fumble by Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings.
    Giants safety Deon Grant stripped Jennings late in the first quarter and replays
    showed that Jennings' knee was not down prior to the ball coming out as ruled on
    the field. Yet, even after going under the hood when Coughlin challenged the
    play, referee Bill Leavy did not overturn the ruling.




    Five plays later, Aaron Rodgers connected with fullback John Kuhn for an
    eight-yard touchdown, which tied the game at 10 early in the second quarter.



    When asked about the play, Coughlin said he "doubts" he will receive an
    explanation from the league.




    "There is, but I won't get into it," Coughlin said when asked if he saw
    something on film that made the ruling any clearer one way or another, an
    indication that he didn't agree with the call.




    NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, citing Rule 7, Section 2, Article 1 of the NFL
    Rule Book, told the Star-Ledger in an email that Leavy ruled Jennings' calf to
    be down on the play and didn't need his knee to be down.




    "Referee Bill Leavy conducted the instant replay video review and determined
    that there was no indisputable visual evidence to warrant reversing the on-field
    ruling of down by contact." Aiello wrote. "As a result, the ruling on the field
    stood."




    On 3rd-and-10 with 6:28 remaining in the game and the Giants leading 30-13,
    Rodgers' pass to Donald Driver fell incomplete setting up an all-or-nothing
    fourth down. But Rodgers was hit by Osi Umenyiora as he released the pass and an
    official threw a flag, ruling the hit to be helmet-to-helmet.




    Once again, replays prove otherwise. The Packers capitalized scoring a
    touchdown six plays later when Rodgers found Driver for a 16-yard score to give
    them some semblance of life.




    When asked why he thought the penalty was called Coughlin said, "I have no
    idea."




    What he does know is that it was a legal play and one that he won't
    discourage his players from doing.




    "Aggressive football play," Coughlin described it as. "The quarterback is
    following through as he releases the ball. The hit is from the side, there’s not
    helmet involved, it’s from shoulders to waist. We’ll coach that one
    forever."

    NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: OSI UMENYIORA WITH GIANTS TODAY DUE TO ERNIE ARCORSI'S STUBBORNNESS

    Excerpt: "
    The Giants defense has been a
    stubborn unit this postseason, conceding 22 points in two games. Sunday, the
    unit smothered the NFL's No. 3 offense this season
    , by means of forcing
    timely turnovers and consistent pressure on Aaron Rodgers
    , the Green Bay
    Packers quarterback.


    SI.com's
    Peter King wrote today
    that the stubbornness of former Giants general
    manager Ernie Accorsi benefited the Giants once again Sunday.




    In the trade that landed Eli Manning with the Giants, on draft day in 2004,
    the San Diego Chargers would not relinquish the soon-to-be Giants quarterback
    without acquiring defensive end Osi Umenyiora as part of the compensation, King
    writes.




    Accorsi refused to yield, even though Umenyiora was a little known player at
    the time. The dividends were once again felt by the Giants Sunday, when
    Umenyiora's strip-sack of Rodgers (the 32nd forced fumble of Umenyiora's career)
    proved a pivotal moment in the second half of the Giants' victory." Read more...

    NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: ELI MANNING, GIANTS, WILL FACE HISTORICAL DISADVANTAGE AT CANDLESTICK PARK

    Excerpt: "
    The Giants face the San Francisco
    49ers Sunday in the NFC Championship Game with a trip to the Super Bowl at
    stake. The following pieces tell the 49ers' side of the story leading up the
    game.


    Kevin
    Lynch, San Francisco Chronicle
    : Unlike the Giants, who have won four road
    playoff games under Tom Coughlin, the 49ers have historically struggled --
    they're only won twice on the road in the postseason since 1957. Luckily, with
    the Giants' victory, the 49ers will play Sunday at Candlestick Park, where they
    are 18-4 since 1980, including Saturday's victory over the New Orleans
    Saints.




    Vittorio
    Tafur, Chronicle
    : 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers, who intercepted Eli
    Manning twice when the teams met in San Francisco on Nov. 13, watched Sunday's
    game between the Giants and Green Bay Packers
    in bed. "We got the turnovers
    and were able to get to Eli,” Rogers told the Chronicle of the Nov. 13 game.
    “The team has gotten better since we played them. They’re familiar with us just
    as we’re familiar with them.” Read more...

    http://www.nj.com/giants/

    NY DAILY NEWS

    GIANTS' COACH TOM COUGHLIN WELL ON HIS WAY TO BEING SECOND ONLY TO BILL PARCELLS AMONG BIG BLUE COACHES

    Excerpt: "Tom Coughlin, great
    football coach, moved around in a hallway as crowded as a rush-hour train
    between the interview room at Lambeau and the first open doors to the Giants’
    locker room, hugging his son Brian and smiling and laughing every time somebody
    new would pound him on the back, in no hurry to go anywhere.



    This was one of those nights in sports, one of those moments. You play for
    nights like this. And sometimes they make a coach who has been at this,
    honorably, for 40 years look and feel and act young.




    Archie Manning was
    there to shake Coughlin’s hand, and Olivia Manning, and
    Eli, getting bounced around himself in this small, confined, happy space more
    than the Packers had bounced him around. John Mara was maybe 50
    feet up the hall, taking it all in, mostly watching a coach he has backed when
    Mara was all the backing Tom Coughlin had.




    There was plenty of time to start thinking about next week. This was about
    Sunday night. One of those nights, one of the best the Giants have ever had,
    going all the way back, whatever happens next week against an opponent out of
    their playoff past. This was Coughlin, such a good man, letting his guard down
    in front of family and friends and letting himself look happy and not caring who
    saw at Lambeau.




    “I’m good,” he kept saying, “I’m good,” and one time he said, “Yeah, that was
    pretty great, wasn’t it?”




    Yeah. Yeah, it was. Good man. Great win for the Giants, an improbable season
    for them that goes on to San Francisco. Packers gone. Saints gone. At 7-7, what
    Giant fan and what Giant players and what Giant coach don’t sign up for
    that?




    And how does everybody like Tom Coughlin now?




    You know who everybody wants the next Giants coach to be? Him.




    A guy that hard guys couldn’t wait to get rid of when the Giants lost five of
    six in the second half of the season before finding themselves — maybe finding
    the kind of greatness in them their quarterback has — will righteously hear
    people begging him to stay if he wins another Super Bowl and even hints that he
    might be ready to ride off into the sunset.




    Coughlin was supposed to be gone after the Giants blew that lead at home to
    the Eagles and he blew up at his punter, and they missed the playoffs even at
    10-6. And when the Giants started to get wobbly again in the second half of the
    season, people were lining up to fire him again.




    But how does everybody like him now, now that the only Giants season worth
    talking about has become these four straight wins against the Jets, Cowboys,
    Falcons, 15-1 Packers? Maybe they see all over again why Bill Parcells once
    said Tom Coughlin was as good a football coach as he ever worked with
    anywhere." Read more...

    GIANTS' ALL TIME NFC CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM: OFFENSE - VOTE


    "The Giants have played in four NFC Championship Games.



    They have won
    all of them.

    From their wind-swept victory over Washington in 1987 to the
    Ice Bowl in 2008, all four games have been filled with remarkable moments and
    performances.

    It’s nearly an impossible task to choose the
    best.

    After all, which was better, Kerry Collins
    lights-out performance in a 41-0 win over the Vikings in 2001 or Eli
    Manning
    ’s brilliant game in minus-23 wind chills at Lambeau in 2008?




    Do you want steady Matt Bahr lining up with
    the game on the line?




    Or would you go with Lawrence Tynes who
    kicked a frozen cinderblock of a football through the uprights at frigid Lambeau
    to send the Giants to Super Bowl XLII?

    With those types of tough choices
    in mind, we did our best to put together the Giants’ all-time NFC Championship
    Game team.

    The team was chosen, based not on the best players, but on the
    best performances.




    Although, sometimes those obviously go hand-in-hand, there have been plenty
    of Giants to step up big when a Super Bowl trip was on the line.

    You can
    vote in the reader polls to the right of this story and, after the votes are
    tabulated, we will announce your all-time NFC Championship Giants offense (the
    offensive line will be voted on as one collective unit, for wide receiver, the
    top two vote getters will make the team).




    So don't take our word for it, but we will present it to you
    anyway.

    Here is a look at our all-time
    offense:

    QUARTERBACK

    KERRY
    COLLINS


    Eli Manning’s game in frigid Green Bay in ’08 was unreal
    under adverse conditions, but Collins’ 381-yard, five-touchdown performance
    against the Vikings in ’01 was one of the best in playoff history.





    WIDE RECEIVERS

    PLAXICO
    BURRESS


    Playing with several injuries, he caught 11 passes for
    151 yards in minus-23 windchills in Green Bay in ’08 and had no problem diving
    and pounding his body into the rock-hard turf.

    IKE
    HILLIARD


    Less than two minutes into the ’01 game, he caught a
    46-yard touchdown pass to set the tone. He ended up with 10 catches for 155
    yards and two touchdowns.

    RUNNING
    BACK


    BRANDON
    JACOBS


    Only 67 yards on 21 carries in ’08, but ask Packers
    CB Charles Woodson
    how significant his first carry
    was.

    FULLBACK

    MAURICE
    CARTHON


    A punishing blocker on two NFC championship teams (’87,
    ’91) that were powered by the run, despite his two lost fumbles late in the ’87
    games.

    TIGHT END

    MARK
    BAVARO


    Played in two title games (’87, ’91) and caught seven
    passes for 90 yards, but chipped in with some powerful
    blocking.

    OFFENSIVE
    LINE


    LEFT TACKLE

    BRAD
    BENSON


    The Pro Bowler dominated Redskins DE Dexter Manley in the
    ’87 game.

    LEFT GUARD

    WILLIAM
    ROBERTS


    Another from the ’91 line that bullied the 49ers in a
    defensive struggle.

    CENTER

    BART
    OATES


    The center for two NFC champions (’87, ’91), and both were
    run-oriented offenses.

    RIGHT
    GUARD


    BILLY ARD

    On a wind-swept day
    at the Meadowlands in ‘87, the Giants had to run and barreled to 117 tough
    yards.

    RIGHT TACKLE

    KARL
    NELSON


    That ’87 team rushed 46 times for only 2.5 yards per
    carry, but the line was
    relentless.

    KICKER

    MATT BAHR


    Five field goals, two in the fourth quarter, and a game-winner
    at the buzzer from 42 yards on the notoriously bad Candlestick Park turf/mud.
    That’s clutch.

    COACH




    BILL
    PARCELLS


    Winner of two NFC championship games, including the
    first. For now he’s a step ahead of Tom Coughlin in
    franchise history."

    GIANTS' ALL TIME NFC CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM: DEFENSE - VOTE


    "The Giants have played in four NFC Championship Games and won all of
    them.



    Big Blue will play another one Sunday night against the San Francisco
    49ers.




    And this team has a red-hot defense that has helped shut down
    opponents.

    But for now, let's focus on the vaunted Big Blue defenses of the past in NFC
    title games.




    After all, which was better, the image of Corey Webster picking
    off Brett Favre in Lambeau
    in overtime or the Giants D throwing a shutout in the Meadowlands in a 41-0 rout
    of the Vikings?

    With those types of tough choices in mind, we did our
    best to put together the Giants’ all-time NFC Championship Game team, based not
    on the best players, but on the best performances.

    We gave them a 3-4
    defense, because there were more linebackers to choose from than defensive
    tackles.

    You can vote for each postion in the polls to the right and we
    will tabulate the fans all-time Giants defense later in the week (defensive line
    and linebacking corps are voted on as a single unit, top two vote-getters will
    be taken for cornerbacks and safeties).

    So, don't go and take our word
    for it.

    But, here's a look at our all-time
    defense:

    DEFENSIVE ENDS

    LEONARD
    MARSHALL


    He had two sacks in the ’91 games and one of them left
    a permanent mark on 49ers quarterback Joe
    Montana
    .

    MICHAEL
    STRAHAN


    An NFC champion in ’01 and ’08, he was the best
    defender on the field both times and absorbed most of the double
    teams.


    DEFENSIVE TACKLE

    ERIK
    HOWARD


    He forced the Roger Craig
    fumble that led to the game-winning field goal in the ’91
    game.


    LINEBACKERS

    JESSIE
    ARMSTEAD


    He was everywhere during the ’01 playoffs and had
    seven tackles a sack and two tackles for a loss vs. the
    Vikings.

    HARRY
    CARSON


    The fiercest player on the ’87 team that shutout the
    Redskins and the leader of the Giants’ greatest-ever team.

    GARY
    REASONS


    A two-time NFC champion (’87 and ’91) and had a
    second-half interception in the ’87 game.

    LAWRENCE
    TAYLOR


    A two-time NFC champion (’87, ’91) and the player
    that scared offenses more than any
    other.


    CORNERBACKS

    JASON
    SEHORN


    He not only shut down Randy Moss in ’01, he
    crushed his will and made him quit.

    COREY
    WEBSTER


    His overtime interception of Brett Favre in ’08 is the
    reason K Lawrence Tynes got
    his third chance.

    SAFETIES

    SHAUN
    WILLIAMS


    Contributed to the ’01 shutout with a sack and a forced
    fumble.

    SAM GARNES

    Helped shut out the Vikings in
    ’01 with an interception and two passes
    defensed.


    PUNTER

    SEAN
    LANDETA


    Two-time NFC champ (’87, ’91) and averaged 42.3 yards on
    six punts in the wind-swept ’87
    game.

    COACH

    BILL
    PARCELLS


    Winner of two NFC championship games, including the
    first. For now he’s a step ahead of Tom Coughlin in
    franchise history."

    ANTREL ROLLE SAYS GIANTS "CAN'T BE BEATEN" HEADING INTO NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GMAE WITH 49ERS

    "The Giants are brimming — perhaps even Rolle-ing — with confidence after
    their Sunday demolition of the Green Bay Packers.



    “We wouldn’t say we’re unstoppable, but our mindset is extreme at this point.
    We’re not going to be denied. … I might be a little biased, but in our minds, we
    can’t be beat,” safety Antrel Rolle declared
    Monday at the Meadowlands as the Giants began to prepare for their return trip
    to San Francisco with a Super Bowl trip on the line this weekend in the NFC
    Championship Game. “We’re extremely confident and we’ve given ourselves the
    reasons to feel that way. We have to continue to give ourselves those reasons,
    and we will. We have no doubts. It’s right there at the tip of our
    tongues.”

    The outspoken Rolle clearly intended to use “fingertips” at the
    end of that sentence, but “tongues” also suddenly seems appropriate based on the
    continual swagger emanating from the Giants’ locker room — beginning with Jason Pierre-Paul
    guaranteeing a victory over Green Bay immediately after Big Blue had dispatched
    Atlanta, 24-2, in the wild-card round two weeks ago.

    “It don’t matter who
    we play. You can put an All-Star team in front of us, and we’re going to go out
    there and compete,” Rolle said. “We don’t fold. No matter what happens, if
    there’s a bad call, or things aren’t going our way, we’re not going to
    break.

    “We’re not going to lose focus on what’s at stake and our ultimate
    goal.”

    That would be a return to the Super Bowl for the first time since
    2008. But to get to Indianapolis on Feb. 5, the Giants will have to maintain the
    “road warrior” mentality preached by Coughlin and outscore a balanced 49ers
    squad that held on to beat them, 27-20 on Nov. 13 at Candlestick Park en route
    to a 13-3 record and the NFC West title.

    “It’s not going to be easy, I’m
    telling you,” guard Chris Snee said.
    “That’s as good a defense as we’ve seen all year, if not the best… I had a
    feeling at some point we’d see them again.”

    Rolle and other defensive
    players similarly came away impressed with quarterback
    Alex Smith
    and the 49ers after their wild 36-32 win Saturday over New
    Orleans, although the safety made sure to direct at least one tweak at this
    week’s opposition.

    “They weren’t playing against the Giants, but yeah, it
    was a good game,” Rolle said.

    Defensive end Dave Tollefson noted
    that several Giants already began reviewing tape of the Niners on their flight
    home from Green Bay.

    Eli Manning, whose
    potential game-tying pass on fourth down in the closing seconds was batted down
    in the November loss out West, dubbed the 49ers’ linebacker corps – led by Pro
    Bowler Patrick Willis
    “about the best there is.”

    But while Victor Cruz called it
    “very motivating” to get another crack at San Francisco — and preferable to
    having to go to New Orleans — Manning stressed that avenging another
    regular-season loss was not consuming the Giants as they hone in on
    Sunday.

    “This is about the NFC championship. It’s an opportunity to get
    this win and go on to the Super Bowl,” Manning said. “We played them once
    before. We know they’re a good team. There’s no denying that. They’re playing
    great football. They’re playing with great confidence. It’s going to be exciting
    going out there and having another shot and seeing what we can
    do.”

    A GAME AWAY FROM SUPER BOWL, GIANTS FINALLY SACK INJURIES, STRUGGLES, AND DOUBTERS WITH BERTH IN NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

    Excerot: "After closing the book on the Green Bay, the NFL’s most dominant team this
    season, Antrel Rolle was given
    the opportunity to do a little chest thumping for the defense in the Giants’
    locker room on Monday. But he was in a generous mood.



    “I think we played a pretty good game all around — offensively, defensively
    and special teams,” he said.




    And all of that has created a special feeling for the Giants.




    “I may be a little biased, but in my mind we can’t be beat,” Rolle said.




    There was a time, not too long ago, that feeling couldn’t have been coursing
    through the Giants defense. Injuries had sapped the unit of its invincibility
    before the end of September as cornerbacks Terrell Thomas, Bruce Johnson and Brian Witherspoon
    and linebackers Jonathan Goff and Clint
    Sintim
    went down with season-ending injuries.




    Defensive end Osi Umenyiora was
    working his way back from knee surgery. Rookie cornerback Prince Amukamara
    was sidelined with a broken foot. Defensive end Justin Tuck hurt his
    neck and later his groin.




    As the losses mounted, the Giants begn to watch their season slip away. Then
    something amazing happened: The defense began to get healthy. With that the Big
    Blue defense stood up to reclaim the promise that was held out before the season
    started. And just in time.




    Coming off a stifling performance against Aaron Rodgers and
    heading into the NFC title game at San Francisco Sunday, the defense is riding
    high.




    “Everybody being on one accord, just one impenetrable unit,” linebacker Michael
    Boley
    said. "That’s the way we played.”




    If the Giants are to realize their Super Bowl dreams, they will do it with
    this often-maligned, injury-plagued unit paving the way. The resurgence of the
    defense is remarkable, considering the Giants have been playing a game of high
    stakes poker — lose and go home — since they lost to Washington in the 15th game
    of the season.




    In the past four games (the last two regular-season games and the two playoff
    victories), the defense has recorded 13 sacks, four INTs, recovered three
    fumbles and forced four.




    In the playoffs they have kicked into overdrive. The Giant defense has given
    up just 11 points and recorded six sacks, two forced fumbles, three fumble
    recoveries and an interception.




    Defensive end Dave Tollefson has
    an explanation of why the Giants have been so dominant.




    “I think Boley coming back healthy. Maybe you can say that. Osi, having him
    back,” Tollefson said. “It’s a number of little things that have lined up that
    have allowed us to be aggressive and play with some fever that we wanted to play
    with all year. The little things we’ve been practicing really well, paying
    attention to the details because that’s what gets you beat this time of year.
    It’s paid off.” Read more...

    VICTOR CRUZ ADMITS GIANTS ARE BETTER OFF FACING 49ERS OVER THE SAINTS IN NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

    Excerpt: "One day after the Giants eliminated the Super Bowl champion Packers, wide
    receiver Victor Cruz
    acknowledged Monday it works to their advantage that the 49ers beat the Saints,
    which sends Big Blue to San Francisco for Sunday's NFC Championship Game rather
    than New Orleans.



    Drew Brees and the
    Saints have been kryptonite to the Giants defense on their last two visits to
    the Superdome while the Giants nearly beat the 49ers at Candlestick Park in
    November.




    Considering the Saints-Giants game was lopsided and the 49ers-Giants game
    came down to the final minute, Cruz was asked Monday if the Giants are better
    off that the Niners beat New Orleans.




    "I guess so," he said. "Just coming from our schedule and how it turned out
    and how we played against New Orleans and how we played against San Fran, it
    definitely works out in our favor a little bit that we're able to get San Fran
    as opposed to New Orleans, just because of how we feel about them and we
    understand we have a good chance of winning that game."




    Cruz was not being disrespectful to the 49ers. He was expressing how the
    Giants felt about the potential of having to go back to New Orleans, where the
    Saints turn games into track meets.




    The Giants’ 27-20 loss to the 49ers on Nov. 13 got them started on a
    four-game losing streak. Down seven points and looking to send the game into
    overtime, the Giants advanced to the San Francisco 10, but Eli
    Manning
    's fourth down pass was knocked down at the line by All-Pro Justin Smith with 34
    seconds remaining." Read more...

    http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/giants

    NY POST

    ANTREL ROLLE SAYS GIANTS WILL NOT BE DENIED

    "The Giants are one step from their ultimate goal and at this point they
    believe they are more than ready to take that step.



    “We’re not going to be denied at this point,’’ safety Antrel Rolle said
    yesterday. “We know what we have as a team. It’s not all about talent, it’s
    about chemistry, gelling at this point. We have one goal in mind and that’s to
    win a championship.”




    The Giants will try to take that next step Sunday, and they are confident
    they will stomp out the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game at Candlestick
    Park.




    “We wouldn’t say we’re unstoppable, but our mindset is extreme at this
    point,” Rolle said. “We’re not gonna be denied, that’s our mindset. I may be a
    little biased, but in our minds we can’t be beat.’’

    Beating the 49ers in San Francisco figures to be a different challenge — but
    not likely a more difficult challenge — than knocking off the Saints in New
    Orleans. Many of the Giants on Saturday were lounging in their hotel rooms in
    Appleton, Wis., watching along with countless millions as the 49ers were taking
    it to the favored Saints. The game was headed to a dramatic finish, but the
    Giants had team meetings and dinner on the schedule.
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1
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