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    "Victor Cruz had 82 catches, 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns in his first real
    season of meaningful action with the Giants. He now owns the team's all-time
    single-season receiving record for yards, and his year was often defined by huge
    plays -- catching a 99-yard touchdown, beating Nnamdi Asomugha for touchdowns,
    making juggling catches and plenty more.

    Oh, and his
    salsa dance has become known
    throughout the league and metropolitan area,
    and even got him an invite to "Dancing with the Stars."

    Whether it has been feature stories, columns or game-day stories, plenty has
    been written about him, as his success and emergence have been well-documented
    by The Star-Ledger.

    So now, we thought we'd go back in time to give you a sense of just how the
    second-year receiver from Paterson has evolved this season. Check out some of
    the articles written about him and then drop down to the comments
    to talk about Cruz. What we want to know, Giants fans, besides your
    thoughts on Cruz, is if you can think of an undrafted, possible sparkle to
    record-setting star in such little time like Cruz has?

    • Aug. 17, 2010 (preseason): Rookie
    Victor Cruz living a dream after catching three touchdowns against Jets

    • Oct. 30, 2010: Victor
    Cruz staying positive despite season-ending hamstring injury

    • May 10, 2011: Victor
    Cruz joins Eli Manning as QB hosts second week of workouts at Hoboken High

    • Aug. 13: Victor
    Cruz is ready to shine at receiver with Steve Smith gone

    • Aug. 26: Victor
    Cruz aiming to make progress in critical role at wide receiver

    • Sept. 21: Victor
    Cruz learning to get Eli Manning out of 'hot' water

    • Sept. 25: Politi:
    With two touchdowns, Victor Cruz energizes Giants, stuns 'Dream Team'

    • Sept. 27: Victor
    Cruz makes waves with big plays against Eagles

    • Oct. 10: D'Alessandro:
    Big plays, both good and bad, continue to define Giants wideout Victor Cruz's

    • Oct. 16: D'Alessandro:
    Victor Cruz has risen from Paterson to the NFL, driven by his father's memory
    and mother's strength

    • Nov. 8: Victor
    Cruz, Jake Ballard developing into key players on offense

    • Nov. 16: Victor
    Cruz learns from night-club shooting he's far from anonymous

    • Dec. 14: Victor
    Cruz becomes household name as he nears single-season receiving record

    • Dec. 25: Victor
    Cruz's 99-yard TD vs. Jets gives Giants momentum

    • Dec. 25: Jets
    know all about Victor Cruz after loss

    • Dec. 28: Victor
    Cruz doesn't think he's a Pro Bowl snub

    • Jan. 1, 2012: As
    Giants prep for Cowboys, Victor Cruz draws unprecedented attention

    • Jan 2: Victor
    Cruz torches Dallas Cowboys' secondary

    • Jan. 3: D'Alessandro:
    Victor Cruz puts Giants one step closer to their goal with his astonishing

    • Jan. 4: Falcons
    WR Roddy White says Victor Cruz is in for 'rude awakening' and 'good pay day'
    next year

    • Jan. 5: Victor
    Cruz's breakout season doesn't surprise Giants

    • Jan. 6: Victor
    Cruz turns down 'Dancing With The Stars' offer, says maybe in the future

    • Jan. 8: Victor
    Cruz, Tony Gonzalez highlight growth of Hispanic players in NFL

    • Jan. 8: Politi:
    Giants' Victor Cruz is a walking, breathing 'message of hope' for

    • Jan. 16: Victor
    Cruz eager for another dance with San Francisco's Carlos Rogers

    We posed the question earlier, and we'll ask it again: Can you think of
    another player who has gone from undrafted, possible sparkle to record-setting
    star in such little time?


    "Tom Coughlin said he hoped it was just a 24-hour bug and Victor Cruz
    dismissed any concern about it. All in all, the Giants weren't worried when
    their Eli Manning couldn't finish yesterday's practice because of a stomach
    illness and for good reason. Manning was back out on the field today during the
    portion of practice open to the media and looked fine, doing his normal routine.

    For the second day in a row, Ahmad Bradshaw is the only Giant not practicing.

    Bradshaw, who has not practiced more than once a week since his return from a
    foot injury, is expected to participate tomorrow.

    The other five players on yesterday's injury report -- LB Mark Herzlich
    (ankle), Justin Tuck (shoulder), Osi Umenyiora (ankle/knee) and Corey Webster
    (hamstring) -- are practicing today after being limited yesterday."


    : If you had wagered Nov. 13 that the matchup between the
    Giants and San Francisco 49ers would be a dress rehearsal for the NFC
    Championship Game, your recollection is strong. No teams have met more in the
    postseason -- Sunday's game with tie an NFL record with the eighth meeting
    between the teams, all since 1981. The
    matchups have produced agony and ecstasy for both sides
    -- and success in
    the Super Bowl. Between 1981 and 1990, four times the winner of the postseason
    brawl between the clubs lifted the Lombardi Trophy. "There are a lot of memories
    [of this rivalry], and they went from maybe the great, to the greatest, to the
    worst," former Giants quarterback Phil Simms told "I remember our
    playoff victories in our stadium, and of course, I remember the playoff losses
    out there, too. The games were awesome, and there was something very good about
    it. We always knew somewhere along the line, it was going to be about us and
    them there in the mid-to-late '80s.''
    As an accompaniment to its Giants-49ers coverage, Sports Illustrated put
    together a photo gallery depicting the postseason matchups between the teams
    since 1981. A retrospective was also posted
    earlier this week on

    Jerry McDonald, San
    Jose Mercury News
    : The 49ers secondary has received praise all week. The
    unit leads the 49ers' determined defense from the back, with assured coverage
    and a knack for creating turnovers. The unit will be tested by Eli Manning
    Sunday, and safety Dashon Goldson will be hobbled. He sat
    out Wednesday's practice
    with an ankle injury.

    : Delanie Walker, a valued blocker from the tight end
    position, returned to practice Wednesday in a limited capacity. Walker
    is wearing special padding to help protect his jaw
    , which he broke in two
    places on Christmas Eve. Ted Ginn, who has an injured knee, and Jonathan
    Goodwin, who has an injured left leg, sat out.

    Mark Purdy, San
    Jose Mercury News
    : Alex Smith, the 49ers quarterback who led his team down
    the field twice in the fourth quarter to beat the New Orleans Saints last
    weekend, has been profiled ad nauseum. The Mercury News quotes former 49ers
    quarterback Steve Young outlining Smith's progress. The San Francisco Chronicle
    presents Smith through
    the analysis of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman
    , like Young a
    Hall of Famer.

    Branch, San Francisco Chronicle
    : Smith and Manning are both former No. 1
    overall draft picks, and Sunday's game will mark only the second time
    quarterback's picked No. 1 will face off in a conference title game. Smith said,
    though, that Manning faced a set of unique circumstances that he did not even
    though they share a draft slot.

    Mike Taugher, San Jose
    Mercury News
    : Since a power outage cut the lights at Candlestick Park during
    a Monday Night Football game between the 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers a month
    ago, the city and PG&E, the local power provider, have spent nearly a
    million dollars to assure the incident will not be replicated.
    In his press conference Wednesday, Jim Harbaugh gave this assessment of his
    opponents Sunday: "Class, class team that also is a cruel team. They don't give
    you things. They don't let you have what you want."


    "Star-Ledger writers have been breaking down the X's and O's of this Giants-49ers matchup all week and will
    continue to do so leading up to Sunday's NFC Championship. So you know about key
    players and battles on both teams, but that doesn't always cover all of the
    possible intangibles you might be thinking about: the
    , the Giants' road-warrior mindset; the revenge tour, etc.

    So taking all things into consideration, it's time to get the good vibes
    going, Giants fans. Here's your chance to turn the non-believers into believers.

    It's simple: Tell us your top three reasons why the Giants will beat the
    49ers on Sunday. Could be related to X's and O's; could be a trend; could
    something involving a superstition; could be because user Carbo will pick the
    Niners! Point is, it could be anything. Drop down to the comments
    section and start talkin'."



    Excerpt: "With the San Francisco 49ers down 13-12 early in the fourth quarter, Vernon
    Davis stood just off the line next to his right tackle in the double wing
    formation — one of the countless ways the 49ers utilize their versatile tight

    At the snap, he released untouched into his shallow crossing route in front
    of Giants rookie linebacker Greg Jones’ zone coverage. Actually, no one laid a
    paw on him until he reached the goal line — 25 yards after he caught Alex
    Smith’s pass.

    He concluded the catch and sprint by showing off his 4.38-second 40-yard dash
    speed and freakish athleticism, leaping over safety Kenny Phillips into the end
    zone to give the 49ers a 20-13 lead they would not relinquish when the teams met
    the first time.

    For the Giants, it was a devastating
    blow in the game and a lesson learned for the remainder of the season.

    If the Giants have their way when the teams meet again on Sunday with the NFC
    Championship on the line, Davis won’t get off the line untouched on any play,
    let alone wide open. From the defensive line back to the safeties, the Giants’
    goal is to be as physical as possible.

    “We have to keep hands on him,” said linebacker Michael Boley, who was lost
    to injury halfway through the first meeting against the 49ers. “Whether he’s
    coming from a regular tight end spot or split out, we have to always have guys
    in his face.”

    The increased physicality has been a point of emphasis for the Giants in
    recent weeks after a run of elite tight ends bullied defensive backs and burned
    linebackers during their four-game losing streak in the regular season." Read more...


    Excerpt: "“It seems like people are in a panic about the perception (that) we are
    not doing a lot. We had a game plan, and we stuck to our game plan.”

    Giants general
    manager Jerry Reese, on Aug. 11

    We were lions looking for blood that summer day, and Jerry Reese was like a
    three-legged gazelle when he stepped in front of the microphones to answer
    questions about what appeared to be the offseason from hell.

    His star defensive end was not practicing and demanding a trade. His starting
    tight end had signed a fat contract with Oakland. His slot receiver had stunned
    everyone when he took a one-year deal with Philadelphia — the latest of a half
    dozen major moves by his bitter division rivals.

    So the tone of the
    press conference that August afternoon
    ? Put it this way: At least nobody
    tossed a shoe.

    And it wasn’t just the media on the attack, either. The first comment on the
    transcript of what the GM said that day — on the team’s own website — begins, “I
    think Jerry Reese is blowing smoke up Giant fans’ buttocks.”

    Few people believed in Reese then, but one of them was watching with interest
    from his Manhattan apartment. There are many qualities Ernie Accorsi liked about
    Reese when he persuaded the young scout to leave his home in Tennessee and
    become an executive in training at the team’s East Rutherford office.

    But his strength of conviction was tops on the list. Accorsi, when he held
    the same job for the Giants, would spend hours listening to scouts read through
    their reports on players. Many had far more experience than Reese, but when it
    was his turn, there was no wavering in his beliefs.

    “All you can ask for in this business is to have conviction,” Accorsi said
    over the phone this week. “If you have that conviction and it didn’t turn out?
    Well, you can live with that.”

    Reese had that conviction and it did turn out. On a day when everyone thought
    he was asleep at the switch, he told the world that the Giants would get into
    the playoffs and make a run.

    And here they are."


    Jim Harbaugh warned his players that the Giants would be in no short supply of
    bulletin board material this week. So when Antrel Rolle declared that his team
    could not be beat, it seemed right on cue.

    They expected things to go this way, fully anticipating a "cocky" team.

    "I would say yes (they're cocky), even watching them when they were going to
    play the New York Jets, I don't know if that's their philosophy, I don't know if
    their psychologist up there is trying to get into our head or something but we
    don't plan on taking the bait," safety Donte Whitner said. "We plan on going out
    there, working, preparing the same way and when we get out there at the end of
    the fourth quarter, let the chips fall where they may."

    On Monday, the same day Rolle's comments were made, Whitner posted this on
    his Twitter page: “Out here in San Fran we'll let our Shoulder Pads do all the
    talking … haha.”

    Added tackle Anthony Davis: “Are the Giants doing drunk interviews? Lol.”

    But they were determined to leave it at that, predicting that Sunday, any
    bravado will be answered on the field. Whitner, for example, was the one who
    knocked out Saints running back Pierre Thomas last Saturday with a devastating
    blow that knocked him out for the remainder of the game.

    "If you watch film and you see secondary guys out there getting physical
    sometimes it gets into offensive guys' minds, sometimes they pay more attention
    to the defender than they do to the football and that causes some drops, some
    tips, some overthrows so hopefully that's why we do it," he said. "Because we
    want that to be in their head."

    * * *

    It wasn't all tough talk here in Saints camp, though. Here's what Whitner had
    to say about the trio of Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham:

    "I compare these guys to the receiving group up in Pittsburgh, the Saints and
    Green Bay. They're all the same, they're all the same guys. These guys are
    really good, they can all play the slot, they can all play the X or the Z, which
    gives them opportunities to move guys around so that you can't double one guy or
    get a beat on what they're doing. So, I would say these guys are at the top of
    the league."

    "Now (instead of Victor Cruz) it's Hakeem Nicks, he's out there, he's making
    a lot of plays, he's trying to set records for receiving yards and touchdowns in
    the first couple games of the playoffs and that's the guy we're really going to
    have to understand where he's at at all times."

    * * *

    Harbaugh said that TE Delanie Walker (jaw) would practice today but that he
    wasn't sure about Sunday. He said he needed to see how Walker responded to
    treatment and some extended work in practice.

    * * *
    Harbaugh said that he's heard from Ronnie Lott and Steve Young this
    week already.

    "Very very positive, very excited for the fellas," he said.

    * * *

    When asked what the biggest difference in the Giants now and when he beat
    them back in Week 10, Harbaugh said:

    "Well, they were playing really good at that time and they're playing really
    good now. I think they're a healthier team, then when we played them, but this
    is a Super Bowl contending team and that's who they are, offensively,
    defensively, special teams, a class team. They don't give you things, they don't
    let you have what they want, they don't make mistakes."


    "As the Giants began their week of preparation for the NFC Championship Game,
    quarterback Eli Manning left today's practice early with what coach Tom Coughlin
    called "a stomach bug."

    "Hopefully it is just a 24-hour deal," Coughlin said, "and he’ll feel better

    Manning was in meetings all morning, and he participated in the jog-thru
    period of practice and took a few reps, but was sent inside when he felt ill.
    Back-up David Carr took over and said he took about 75 percent of today's

    Manning was scratched from his usual Wednesday media availability. He has not
    missed practice all season, but Carr said Manning's reduced reps shouldn't
    affect the team during a critical week.

    "If he didn’t have the red-belt mastery of the offense then maybe, but he
    does," Carr said. "It's not something that is going to affect him. The biggest
    thing would be the players, the rest of the guys. So what I try to do is go in
    and do exactly what he would do, keep it consistent, so their practice and their
    Wednesday was as normal as possible, and I think that it was."

    Guard Chris Snee was also not overly concerned, saying that if anyone could
    miss practice and play well Sunday, it is Manning. He said Manning was at the
    facility Monday and Tuesday and has the game plan down.

    "I'm actually going to bring him some soup tomorrow," Snee said. "I’ll do
    whatever it takes to make sure he is at full strength."


    Late last week LB Mark Herzlich said if the Giants beat the Packers on Sunday
    he hoped to return to practice this week. It wasn't a certainty, but Herzlich,
    who was the only Giant not to make the trip to Lambeau, was optimistic after
    working on his ankle pain-free.

    Today he's practicing for the first time since fracturing his ankle against
    the Saints on Nov. 28, which forced him to miss the last seven games. Herzlich,
    who had earned a starting spot when he was injured, was participating in the
    routine drills with his fellow linebackers without any sign of hindrance during
    the portion of the session open to the media.

    Herzlich's return left RB Ahmad Bradshaw as the only player sitting out
    today, but that's to be expected -- Bradshaw only has only practiced on Fridays
    since he has returned from a foot injury. Bradshaw was watching practicing from
    a stationary bike.

    That means the Giants have everyone as healthy as they can get for this late
    in a season and the healthiest they've been all season.

    The three other players on the Giants pre-practice injury report -- Justin
    Tuck (shoulder), Osi Umenyiora (ankle/knee) and Corey Webster (hamstring) --
    were also practicing during the portion open to the media."


    Excerpt: "
    Lynch, San Francisco Chronicle
    : The Giants have history stacked against them
    as they look to finish this year's postseason run with two more victories: No
    team to finish the regular season 9-7
    has ever won the Super Bowl. But
    Sunday's opponent will also be swimming against an historical current. The San
    Francisco 49ers entered the postseason with the No. 26 ranked offense in the
    NFL, by total offense. The lowest a Super Bowl champion's offense has been
    ranked by that metric has been No. 24, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the
    Oakland Raiders in 2003. The 49ers have maneuvered around their shortcomings,
    though, compensating with an insatiably forceful defense and razor-edged special
    teams units. The 49ers finished No. 11 in the NFL in scoring -- thanks to the
    defensive and special teams phases who provided starting field position in
    opponents' territory an NFL-high 37 times -- while reaching 14 wins this

    Cam Inman, San Jose
    Mercury News
    : The 49ers turned opponents over 38 times during the regular
    season, an NFL high that continued last weekend when they registered a plus-four
    in turnover differential against the New Orleans Saints. The stat is
    historically a predictor of success for NFL teams, but particularly for the
    49ers. In postseason games in which they have the higher turnover differential,
    the 49ers are 19-1.

    Branch, San Francisco Chronicle
    : The Giants' confident declarations about
    their level of play have been answered by the 49ers via Twitter. Donte Whitner,
    the veteran
    safety who has helped set San Francisco's confidence and physicality with his
    hard hits and hissing barbs leveled at opponents
    , responded by tweeting,
    "Out here in San Fran we let our Shoulder Pads do all the talking….haha.”
    Anthony Davis, formerly Rutgers' left tackle and outspoken tweeter, asked, "Are
    the Giants doing drunk interviews? Lol.”



    Excerpt: "Bart Oates had been on
    one side of one of the biggest rivalries in the NFL and he wasn’t going to cross
    over without a little initiation from his former foes and new teammates.

    “I was treated pretty good because any time they started busting my chops I’d
    say, ‘Do you remember a game back in January of ’‘91?’ ” Oates said, who joined
    San Francisco in 1994 after spending nine seasons with the Giants. “It was the
    ’94 season but it was amazing, four or five years later, it stung like it
    happened a month ago.”

    From 1981 to 1994, the teams split their six
    playoff meetings, with the Niners pulling ahead in the all-time playoff series
    with a victory in 2003.

    “Playing the 49ers was like getting the girl you
    wanted to be with for the last 20 years of your life,” said Giants DE Leonard
    . “You were going to get the chance to prove yourself. The way we
    took it, we couldn’t wait to get on the field.”

    Here’s a look at each

    1981 Divisional playoff: 49ers 38, Giants 24
    guess I’ve become a little popular,” Joe Montana said after
    his first NFL playoff game.

    The Giants were in the playoffs for the first
    time since 1963 and had just upset the defending NFC champion Eagles in the
    wild-card round at the Vet. But they were about to become the first victim of
    the Montana dynasty in the Niners’ first playoff game since ’72. Little did
    anyone anticipate the rivalry that would come to pass over the next

    The Giants dared Montana to throw deep. He did. The 49ers dared
    rookie Lawrence Taylor to
    beat offensive guard John Ayers. He

    The 49ers’ task got easier when safety Beasley Reece
    couldn’t play with an injury. They shot out to a 24-7 lead and while the Giants
    fought back, turnovers eventually did them in. Rookie safety Ronnie
    had two interceptions of Scott Brunner, who
    had replaced the injured Phil Simms late in the
    regular season.

    1984 Divisional playoff: 49ers 21, Giants

    The ’84 Niners rolled to a then-unprecedented 15-1 regular-season
    record and closed the year as one of the most under-appreciated Super Bowl
    champs of all time. The Giants, 9-7, during the year, began the postseason by
    beating the Rams in Anaheim, but after spending Christmas practicing in Fresno,
    they met their match.

    Montana threw for 309 yards and three TDs. Dwight Clark burned
    the Giants for nine catches, 112 yards and a touchdown. Gary Reasons
    intercepted Montana twice and Carson had a pick-six, the Giants’ only TD of the
    game as their offense never got rolling
    “We knew the price you had to
    pay to win, but they were just at another level,” Marshall said. “I just felt
    that once we graduated football school, we could compete with these guys. That
    butt-whipping in ’84 would be the push that we needed as a team to grow
    up.”


    Excerpt: "Chris Canty doesn’t
    expect Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against the 49ers to score very high in
    style points.

    A week after the Giants dispatched a finesse Packers team, which came a week
    after they routed a soft Falcons squad, Canty is expecting something a little
    more, shall we say, bruising when they kick off Sunday evening:

    A 3,000-mile trip to take part in what will amount to an NFL street

    And Canty says, “Bring it on.”

    “Physical, physical,” the Giants defensive tackle said when asked what kind
    of game he expects. “This is not going to be a cute football game. It’s not
    going to be for the meek and mild. This is going to be a bloodbath.”

    Unlike the Giants’ past two opponents, the 49ers make no bones about their
    physical style of play. They are a virtual mirror image of the Giants, which is
    why Canty is expecting something along the lines of a steel-cage match this

    “They don’t try and make it a secret, they want to beat you up,” Canty said.
    “And we pride ourselves on being a physical football team. Something’s got to
    give on Sunday. Something’s got to give, and this football team is preparing
    itself to be able to put ourselves in a situation where we can be successful,
    and a big part of that is going to be our physicality.”

    After holding the mighty Packers offense to just 20 points last week and
    shutting down the Falcons completely in the wild-card round, Canty and the
    Giants are playing with a level of brashness that has taken off like Google

    “We’re playing with confidence, understanding that if we perform at a high
    level we can compete against the best of them,” Canty said. “I think the
    confidence has taken us a long way. That’s something that’s definitely welcome
    in this locker room.”

    The Giants will try to continue to channel their inner Road Warrior again
    this week at a hostile Candlestick Park. And even though Canty would rather
    entertain the Niners for the NFC title at MetLife Stadium, there is certainly
    nothing intimidating about playing away from home for this group.

    “We got some experience in some tough road ballgames, not always turning out
    the way we wanted them to, but we’ve had that experience nonetheless and we
    played in tight ballgames before,” Canty said. “So having that experience
    definitely means a lot for us going into this football game. I think this
    football team has shown what it can do on the road, and we’re looking forward to
    being able to demonstrate that again.”

    And what better way to pave their way for a trip back to the Super Bowl than
    to knock off the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds on the road, no matter how bloody it
    might get.

    “You enjoy an opportunity to compete,” Canty said. “We could play a football
    game in Antarctica, it doesn’t matter. It’s just an opportunity to compete
    against the best, and right now San Francisco is the best out there in our
    conference, so we’re enjoying the opportunity to go out there and compete. We’ve
    earned that right. Bring your hard hat and come to work.” Read more...


    Excerpt: "With rain expected Sunday in the Bay Area, former Niners great Jerry
    , in an appearance on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” said he thinks a muddy
    track would favor the Niners because he views Brandon Jacobs as

    “I like Ahmad Bradshaw, I
    like Brandon Jacobs,” Rice told ESPN. “But I feel like Brandon Jacobs is a
    little soft. He can’t get away from a defender. The guy is 265, and it upsets me
    when I see him get tackled by a guy that’s like 190 or 200

    Jacobs did not speak to the media on Wednesday and is scheduled
    to speak with them on Thursday.

    Rice's credentials include three Super
    Bowl rings and an NFL Hall of Fame induction.

    Jacobs, of course helped power the Giants to a win over the previously
    undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

    After rushing for a career-low 571 yards and a paltry 3.8 yards per carry
    this regular season, Jacobs has raised his game in the postseason averaging 5.0
    yards per rush."


    "Not many human beings, not even the swimsuit models in Sports Illustrated,
    are objectified quite like pro football players. These athletes have become
    little more than the sum of their body parts. Bettors and tweeters demand to
    know daily the status of every joint and each ligament.

    Eli Manning has a
    stomach problem. Nausea or intestinal pain, Eli? Justin Tuck’s shoulder
    still bugs him. He plays with the aches, yet isn’t quite the same. Osi
    has a sore ankle and knee while Corey Webster’s
    hamstring has been stretched too far.

    But then there is Hakeem Nicks, the hero
    against Green Bay who attests to the good health of all relevant functions. His
    strained hamstring has been swinging freely, like a freshly oiled screen door,
    ever since the second Dallas game. His feet are ready to cut and run in the
    Candlestick mud on Sunday. They just need to slip into cleats with extra-long
    spikes. His huge hands, glove size 4-XL, are nimble as ever and prepared to make
    another Hail Mary catch if required.

    “You can have large hands and not catch,” Nicks said Wednesday. “But I like
    to pluck the ball out of the air when I see it.”

    Those steady hands, protected again by red gloves, will not be the problem
    for Nicks against the Niners. He must worry instead about cornerbacks, safeties
    and field conditions. San Francisco’s defensive backs did a good job last week
    protecting against the big play from Drew Brees, forcing the
    Saints quarterback to check down to shorter routes throughout the game. Those
    defenders like to strip balls, create turnovers. And Nicks will need to navigate
    an extremely sloppy field, drenched by several days of heavy rain.

    Depending on his own thoughts and recommendations from the equipment manager,
    Nicks may go to the shoes with spikes anywhere from a quarter-inch to a
    half-inch longer, for traction. The Giants did that in Green Bay, digging deeper
    into the frozen, natural turf. It’s hard to predict what will work best. Back in
    1934, on frozen surface at the Polo Grounds, the Giants fared well with flat
    sneakers against the favored Chicago Bears.

    Nicks has prepared a mantra for these less-than-ideal conditions: “Nose over
    toes,” he says. If he leans forward, focuses on his routes, Nicks feels the edge
    will be his.

    “Just have to pay attention to details and routes,” Nicks said, of the
    predicted quagmire. “Being a professional, you play in all kinds of conditions.
    It’s always a receiver’s advantage. We know what we’re doing on a route. The
    defensive backs are just guessing.”

    Not surprisingly, at least one defensive back respectfully disagrees with
    that assessment. Antrel Rolle says the
    state of the field is a non-factor. “We play in muddy games, rainy games,” Rolle
    said. “I don’t feel there are any advantages. (The receivers) know what they’re
    doing when the field is dry, too.”

    A lot of people have been asking Nicks how he caught that ball in the end
    zone against the Packers, the one that took all the air out of Lambeau Field.
    He’s tired of talking about it already. That was last week, this is this
    week. This isn't next week, either. Nicks knows he must focus on the work at
    hand and not on the Super Bowl, a childhood dream. He joined the Giants three
    years ago, missing out on the miracle in the desert. He is one win away from
    Indianapolis now, from all the fuss and glory.

    The Giants are on a roll. So are the 49ers.

    “We always know what we’re capable of doing,” Nicks said. “When you doubt us,
    we look forward to step up to the challenge, but we’re humble about it.”

    Humble and limber. Legs, arms, feet and hands reporting for duty."


    Excerpt: "Donte Whitner, the
    safety who sent the Saints’ Pierre Thomas into
    never-never land with a helmet-to-helmet stick, thinks the Giants may be a
    little cocky.

    “I would say yes,” he said Wednesday. “Even watching them
    when they were going to play the Jets. I don’t know if that’s their philosophy.
    I don’t know if their psychologist is trying to get in our heads or something,
    but we don’t plan on taking the bait. We plan on working and preparing the same
    way and when we get out there in the fourth quarter, let the chips fall where
    they may.”

    Whitner had responded via Twitter Tuesday to the Giants’ early
    bravado, saying, “Out here in San Fran we let our Shoulder Pads do all the
    talking….ha ha.

    “That's how we talk,” he said when asked about it
    Wednesday. “I put on Twitter we talk with our shoulder pads. But they’ve been
    doing that all year long, so it doesn’t surprise us. The coach (Jim
    ) even warned us that it was going to happen so we knew it was
    coming. We’re going to continue going about it our way and they’ll go about

    The media-savvy Harbaugh even mentioned the potential for a war
    of words in his first press conference of the week. Then he told his team, which
    seems to be taking it all in.

    “He told us that their guys would probably
    say stuff to the media, to just leave it alone. Because that’s their blueprint.
    They have a big game and they talk and talk. We’re not going to do that. We’re
    only going to talk on Sunday. They can say whatever they want. God bless them.
    But we’re going to come prepared to win a football game.” Read more...


    Excerpt: "Curses!

    The Giants now have more than just the 49ers and a soggy forecast in San
    Francisco to worry about in advance of Sunday's NFC championship game at
    Candlestick Park.

    Sports Illustrated, which has jinxed more than a few playoff runs during its
    history, sent panic through the Big Blue faithful Wednesday morning when they
    released this week's cover.

    Hakeem Nicks' Hail
    Mary grab at the end of the first half that helped spark the Giants' stunning
    37-20 dismantling of the 15-1 Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field Sunday graces
    this week's cover with the headline 'SURPRISE! SURPRISE! It's Giants vs. Niners
    for a Ticket to Indy' set to hit newsstands Wednesday afternoon.

    According to SI, this is the first time the Giants have appeared on the cover
    since Aug. 4, 2008. David Tyree got the nod
    back then for the magazine's NFL Training Camp preview issue coming off his
    unforgettable catch to help Big Blue upset the Patriots in Super Bowl
    XLII."



    They knocked heads earlier this season and this week studied enough film to
    see the carnage and almost feel the damage. No one ever said the 49ers cannot be
    beat, but the Giants understand the physical challenge before them is unlike any
    they have faced thus far in their exhilarating postseason run.

    The 49ers leave nuance to others. The singular characteristic of how they go
    about their business is one of sheer force.

    “They’re a tough team, very solid and disciplined in what they do,’’ fullback
    Henry Hynoski said, “But you know what? So are we. We’re ready for it. It’s
    gonna be a dogfight.’’



    That description of Sunday’s NFC Championship game at what likely will be a
    wet Candlestick Park might be tame. From the sound of it, the Giants are
    preparing more for a steel-cage match than a football game to decide which team
    gets to represent the conference in Super Bowl XLVI.

    “This is not going to be a cute football game,’’ defensive tackle Chris Canty
    said. “It’s not going to be for the meek and mild. This is going to be a
    bloodbath. That’s what it’s going to be. They do not try to make it a secret
    that they try to beat you up. We pride ourselves on being a physical football
    team. Something’s got to give on Sunday. Something’s got to give.’’

    The Giants did the giving on Nov. 13, losing in San Francisco 27-20 in a game
    at the time they swore they should have won. Still, they came away impressed
    that all of the talk about the punch the 49ers pack was legitimate.

    “After the last time we played them, we walked away saying that’s a very
    physical team and the only way to beat them is to out-physical them,’’ Snee

    There’s no doubt the 49ers were the tougher, rougher outfit in last week’s
    36-32 Divisional win over the Saints. Safety Donte Whitner, with a legal
    helmet-to-helmet blow, knocked running back Pierre Thomas out of the game in the
    first quarter. Thomas became the seventh running back unable to finish a game
    against the 49ers defense, a knockout record to make Mike Tyson proud.

    Former Giants quarterback and current CBS lead analyst Phil Simms said the
    49ers might be the NFL’s most impressive-looking team coming off the bus. In
    this case, appearance is not deceiving. Their defensive front is fierce, and
    inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are swift and strong
    magnets with their attraction to the ball.

    “They just have great players,’’ Snee said. “On the defensive line, All Pro
    Justin Smith, the rookie Aldon Smith, the tackle, Ray McDonald, they’re all
    great,” Giants left guard Kevin Boothe said. “And then the two inside
    linebackers I feel are probably the best in the NFL.”


    "The “No Toughness, No Championship!” signs have followed the Giants from
    their old Giants Stadium headquarters to the Timex Performance Center.

    They might want to start plastering a new sign as we close in on Sunday’s NFC
    Championship in San Francisco against the 49ers, which likely is to be
    remembered more as the Blood Bowl than the Mud Bowl.

    “No Blood, No Championship!”

    “This is going to be a bloodbath,” defensive tackle Chris Canty said.

    The word from the West Coast, however, is that these 49ers would welcome a
    Blood Bowl.

    “If that’s the kind of game this is gonna turn out to be,” Hall of Fame 49er
    Ronnie Lott told the Post last night by cell phone, “it means it probably bodes
    well for the 49ers because they’ve been in those kind of battles all year

    “I think they would say, ‘Hey, bring it on! You’re talking our language.’ I
    don’t think they will shy away from something like that.”

    Tom Coughlin’s Giants are prepared to bleed every ounce of Giants blue as is
    necessarily to reach the Super Bowl.

    “Most championship teams got to fight through some kind of adversity —
    whether that’s injuries, whether that’s not playing your best early in the
    year,” Justin Tuck said. “Toughness is just fighting through those things. Along
    the course of a season like this, you’re going to have things did not go your
    way, and it’s going to challenge you mentally, physically. It’s going to
    challenge your togetherness as a football team. But all of that has to be ... I
    guess, strong, to be a champion.”

    How tough is your team?

    “We’ll find out,” Tuck said. “I think we’re pretty tough though. But we’re
    going into the hostile environment of a team that’s pretty tough too, so we’ll
    see. ... We’ll see exactly how tough we are this week.”


    Excerpt: "You know what they say about guys with big hands? They make big catches — big
    playoff catches, historic catches.

    They catch passes off their helmets. They catch passes with one hand on the
    bottom of the ball as it’s moving away from them. They catch passes with one
    hand, then go around the back and switch it to the other hand.

    If a good man is hard to find, what value does the NFL place on a receiver
    with big hands, deceptive speed and a driving desire to be the best football
    player on the field?

    Giants fans will tell you there is no dollar amount that can be placed on
    Hakeem Nicks, whose 10 1/2-inch hands are 3 inches larger than those of the
    average man.

    Packers fans will tell you there is no depth to the grief Nicks inflicted on
    them late in Sunday’s first half with his “Hail Hakeem’’ 37-yard touchdown pass,
    the one he pulled in with his size 4X, red Spider-Man-looking gloves.

    49ers fans are hoping Nicks misses the team plane for Sunday’s NFC
    Championship because it’s becoming apparent the only way to secure those hands
    is with police cuffs.

    It’s always been this way for Hakeem “Big Hands” Nicks.

    “He made a catch against Duke, a one-handed catch off his helmet, that when
    he got to the sidelines I just looked at him and we just laughed,’’ Nicks’
    former North Carolina teammate and good friend Greg Little of the Cleveland
    Browns told The Post. “So when he made that catch against Green Bay, I just
    said, ‘That’s just Hakeem being Hakeem.’ ’’


    Excerpt: "Donte Whitner thinks Big Blue have big mouths.

    The 49ers’ hard-hitting safety yesterday described the Giants as cockier than
    any team he has faced all season and vowed that San Francisco would “talk with
    our shoulder pads” in Sunday’s NFC Championship at Candlestick Park.

    “That’s their blueprint — whenever they have a big game, they talk and talk,”
    Whitner said. “We’re not going to do that. The game is played on the football
    field. We’re going to talk on Sunday. They can say whatever they want, God bless
    ’em.”


    Excerpt: "Giants fullback Henry Hynoski recalls playing high school football in
    Elysburg, Pa., on a field that was “a pile of mud.’’ There’s rain in the
    forecast for Sunday’s NFC Championship against the 49ers at Candlestick Park,
    and that’s just fine with the rookie fullback.

    “I found out it was going to rain [and] I kind of got excited,’’ Hynoski said
    yesterday. “I’m a mudder. There’s really nothing fancy about me. We’re tough
    guys on our team and we’ll accept any challenge because we’re just a bunch of

    It is supposed to be rainy for days in the Bay Area, but the 70 percent
    chance of rain from earlier in the week has been reduced to a 30 percent chance
    of showers for Sunday. That can change, and the Giants are gearing up for a
    sloppy playing field.

    “Even when it’s dry, it’s wet,’’ said backup quarterback David Carr, who
    spent last season with the 49ers. “It’s one of those deals where you just have
    to make sure you have the right cleats, make sure you’re sure of your footing,
    make sure receivers are really focused on their fundamentals, in and out of
    their breaks.’’

    Hakeem Nicks said if the field is muddy it’s an advantage to the receivers,
    “because we know where we’re going on a route. [Defensive backs] are just
    guessing or playing their coverage.’’

    * There are six players on the Giants’ injury report and only one of them, RB
    Ahmad Bradshaw, was not on the field for practice. All the
    others participated on a limited basis: DE Justin Tuck
    (shoulder), DE Osi Umenyiora (ankle/knee), CB Corey
    (hamstring), QB Eli Manning (stomach bug) and
    LB Mark Herzlich (ankle). Herzlich hasn’t played or practiced
    since Nov. 28, when he suffered a high ankle sprain against the Saints in New

    “It’s up to the doctors, I can’t really make that decision,’’ Herzlich said.
    “It feels good. I can accelerate. We’ll see.’’

    * LT Will Beatty paid a visit to the training facility and
    said his recovery from surgery to repair a detached retina is on schedule. “It’s
    100 percent recovery forecast,’’ Beatty said. “I’ll be back out for training
    camp, for workouts, for the offseason program. The only unfortunate thing is I
    get to miss the Super Bowl with the team.’’ Read more...


    Excerpt: "Dave Tollefson shrugged off any worries about the Giants' under-the-weather
    quarterback. He figures there’s an Eli Elixir that will get him better

    “It’s Eli Manning. He’s probably got some type of special, like, virus pills
    that only Eli Manning can use,” the defensive end said yesterday. “I’d be sick
    for two weeks, but he’ll be good [today].”

    Manning missed the latter part of yesterday’s practice with what Tom Coughlin
    called “a stomach bug.” The coach said Manning worked in the beginning of
    practice before leaving with only two more practices before Sunday’s NFC
    Championship against the 49ers.

    “Hopefully it’s just a 24-hour deal and he’ll feel better [today],” Coughlin

    But what if Manning doesn’t? If his bug doesn’t get squished, he could have
    to sit out part of today’s or tomorrow’s practices as well. He could also be
    dealing with dehydration or loss of appetite, which would affect him.

    Manning is surely the last player the Giants want to be dealing with
    anything, and his teammates weren’t the slightest bit concerned. Guards Chris
    Snee and Kevin Boothe said they were not aware Manning was ill.

    “He was in all the meetings and he was out there for the jog-through.
    Mentally, he’s into it,” Snee said. “If there’s one guy who can miss a Wednesday
    practice, mentally I think it’s No. 10. I’m pretty sure he was in here
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1

  • #2

    Busy news cycle


    • #3

      Thanks RF. Time for reckoning is getting closer. Let's go Blue


      • #4
        Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2012 - 10:33 A.M.

        Thanks for posting!


        • #5
          Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2012 - 10:33 A.M.

          Good Read. So happy Eli is back.


          • #6
            Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2012 - 10:33 A.M.

            Appreciate the read. Gotta start my day the Big Blue way.
            “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”
            ― George Carlin


            • #7
              Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2012 - 10:33 A.M.

              thanks Ro.....

              its getting closer......

              "Measure Twice......Cut Once"
              You couldn't be more full of **** if you were break dancing in a Port-a-Potty.......Kruunch


              • #8
                Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2012 - 10:33 A.M.

                [quote user="GameTime"]

                thanks Ro.....

                its getting closer......


                Hard to believe we came from being media-hyped "also ran's" before the season to top dog in the NFC East and now we're playing in the NFC Championship game. But here we are!
                “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


                • #9
                  Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2012 - 10:33 A.M.

                  [quote user="ANON837"]Appreciate the read. Gotta start my day the Big Blue way.

                  “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


                  • #10
                    Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2012 - 10:33 A.M.

                    [quote user="ashleymarie"]Good Read. So happy Eli is back.[/quote]

                    He's made of pretty stout stuff, that Eli.
                    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


                    • #11
                      Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2012 - 10:33 A.M.

                      [quote user="NYG4ME"]Thanks for posting!

                      “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


                      • #12
                        Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2012 - 10:33 A.M.

                        [quote user="lttaylor56"]Thanks RF. Time for reckoning is getting closer. Let's go Blue[/quote]

                        Destiny awaits []
                        “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


                        • #13
                          Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2012 - 10:33 A.M.

                          thanks rf


                          • #14
                            Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2012 - 10:33 A.M.

                            Thanks RF !
                            " Success is never final, but failure can be " B.P.


                            • #15
                              Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2012 - 10:33 A.M.

                              [quote user="derekunion28"]thanks rf[/quote]

                              “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1