Sizing up the
Consider this the get-to-know-you stage of the game. Neither offense showed
much in the first 15 minutes, but that could be because we’ve gotten so used to
seeing the track meets this season in the NFL that have led to binge scoring.
The Giants ran a total of 10 plays in the quarter, as compared to 18 for the
Falcons. That is part of what explains the significant discrepancy. The Giants
were actually knocked off their game on the first play from scrimmage, when
Victor Cruz came across the middle, had a pass glance off his hands and then was
drilled by Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon -— the first of a few big hits
by Weatherspoon in the early portion of the game. The Falcons turned to the
no-huddle offense on their third possession, and things started to shake
Safety first, then it’s all
Two Eli Manning moments, surrounded by a lot of middling football. Three
plays after the Giants stopped the Falcons on a fourth-and-1 at the Giants’ 24,
Manning dropped back and was pressured. He rolled to his right, drifting into
the end zone, and threw the ball ... to no one. The grounding call, and
resulting safety, gave the Falcons a 2-0 lead. The next time the Giants got the
ball, Manning was more the player he has been this season — converting one third
down with a 14-yard scramble, another with a short dump off to Ahmad Bradshaw —
capping the drive with a 4-yard bullet to Hakeem Nicks for a TD. Meantime, the
Falcons stopped and started, but never got far on their own. One quibble: The
Giants seemed unaware that they faced third-and-1, and hadn’t earned a first
down, just before the half.
Making every snap
Proving all afternoon that it’s not how many times you have the ball, but
what you do with it when you are on offense, the Giants were quite efficient on
their two possessions. After shutting down the Falcons immediately after
halftime, Manning converted on third-and-8 and later third-and-12 before
Lawrence Tynes’ field goal pushed the Giants’ lead to 10-2. And chalk up the
next highlight — Hakeem Nicks’ 72-yard touchdown — to a superior scheme and
inferior tackling. How Nicks came across the field so uncovered means a
defensive back, or several, on the left side of the field blew a coverage. And
how Nicks then zipped through the secondary means a host more DBs fell down on
the job (some literally). In fact, the only negative of the third quarter was
that Aaron Ross was dinged with a concussion.
A little icing on a sweet
This was a victory lap in every fashion, wrapped in 15 minutes of game time.
A drive that technically started at the end of the third quarter again showcased
nearly brilliant play-calling. Five of the nine plays resulted in a gain of 7
yards or longer, the last -- and longest -- a 27-yard strike from Manning to
Mario Manningham in the back of the end zone. That toss showcased Manning’s
pinpoint touch. And with a 24-2 lead in hand, the Giants defensive front spent
the rest of the quarter frustrating Matt Ryan even more than he already was. Two
tipped balls at the line helped kill one drive, and the final indignity came
when Osi Umenyiora sacked Ryan -- and one of his offensive linemen -- for an
8-yard loss on fourth-and-10 from the Giants’ 17-yard line. The Giants ran out
the clock from there." Read more...
GIANTS' DEFENSE SHOWED ITS METTLE ON 4TH AND 1
Excerpt: "If a fourth-and-1 situation sometimes appears like a fierce, primal struggle, a
link to football’s 19th-century grunt-and-push origins, it may be worth noting
that modern-day pro football players view it no differently.
It’s basically a moment when one team is trying to prove it’s stronger than the
other team,” Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. “And the defense is very
aware of that challenge. Who’s stronger? It can be a very pivotal moment.”
Even in 21st-century football, with spread offenses and passes lofted in the
air on the majority of plays, games can still be determined by the ability to
gain a yard, or less, and often in the most direct way: a quarterback sneak over
the back of the center.
The Giants’ defense dominated the Atlanta Falcons in almost every facet
during a 24-2 playoff-game drubbing Sunday, but there were two plays deep in
Giants territory that could have provided Atlanta with the momentum needed to
quell a boisterous home Giants crowd while also allowing the Falcons to exert
control, especially in the most elemental way.
When Atlanta failed on each of those fourth-and-1 attempts, the Giants were
emboldened. The Falcons’ offense remained pointless.
“You could look in their eyes after that and see they were stunned and
unsure,” Umenyiora said. “Usually that means they’re going downhill. Those are
like two turnovers — we took the ball from them.”
There was exaltation on the Giants’ sideline after each stop, with
quarterback Eli Manning recalling past playoff moments when it was the Giants
who failed in such situations.
“When you don’t make it on fourth down, it’s tough to overcome,” Manning
said. “And conversely, when your defense stops them, it’s a huge momentum
As crucial as the fourth-down plays might have been psychologically, there
was no immediate benefit for the Giants after the first stop of Atlanta
quarterback Matt Ryan at the Giants’ 24-yard line to start the second quarter.
Three plays later, Manning was called for intentionally grounding in the end
zone, which resulted in a safety and a 2-0 Falcons lead.
But after the Giants’ defense, which held Atlanta to 247 yards on 64
offensive plays (3.9 yards per play), forced a Falcons punt later in the half,
Manning led the Giants on a 13-play touchdown drive. The Giants took command of
the game, churning up yards and winning the battle for field position.
By the third quarter, the Giants had extended their lead to 10-2, but
Atlanta’s short passing game took the Falcons to the Giants’ 21 and another
Atlanta Coach Mike Smith defended his decision to go for it twice on fourth
down instead of accepting the potential field goals by saying, “We ought to be
able to move the ball less than a half-yard on a quarterback sneak.”
But in each case the Giants were waiting — and knew what was coming. Several
Giants defensive linemen said their coaches had shown them video of Falcons
short-yardage plays from this season. According to the players, Ryan usually
kept the ball rather than hand it to a back. And the Falcons had occasionally
tried multiple shifts and delaying tactics before the snap.
On the first fourth-down play, Ryan made hand motions and various signals as
if preparing for a more elaborate play, or perhaps to draw the Giants offside.
“The coaches warned us about that,” defensive end Justin
said. “But once he got back under the center and the clock was down to
three or four seconds, we knew it was go time and he was keeping it.”
Three plays after the second defensive stand, Manning connected with Hakeem
Nicks over the middle, and Nicks ran away from the Atlanta secondary for a
72-yard touchdown and a 17-2 Giants lead.
The basic, head-to-head nature of the plays was the focus in both locker
rooms after the game — the Giants also stopped Atlanta on a third-and-1 — but
they were just highlights in a thorough and systematic rout spearheaded by the
Giants’ defense." Read more...
FINAL: GIANTS 24 - FALCONS 2
Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes and the Giants defense
pitched a shutout in a 24-2 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday in an
N.F.C. wild-card playoff game at MetLife Stadium.
Hakeem Nicks caught six passes for 115 yards, including an early 4-yard score
and a 72-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the third quarter, and Mario Manningham
added a 27-yard score in the fourth. That ball, a beautifully thrown pass from
Manning dropped into double coverage, helped erased memories of Manning’s only
real mistake: an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone in the first
quarter that provided the Falcons’ only points.
The Giants defense took care of the rest, shutting out the Falcons despite
recording only two sacks and without forcing a turnover. They did it by holding
Atlanta to 64 rushing yards — including a pair of stops on fourth-and-1 plays in
the red zone.
The Giants will travel to Green Bay next week to face the top-seeded Packers.
The teams met in a thriller on Dec. 4, a
38-35 Packers victory
decided by a field goal on the final play. But the
Giants’ mood will be far different.
That earlier loss was their fourth in a row in a midseason swoon that
imperiled both their playoff hopes and Tom Coughlin’s future as their coach.
What a difference a month makes. Now the Giants have won four of five, including
impressive wins over the Jets, the Cowboys and the Falcons in successive weeks,
and they may have the best defense left in the playoffs.
The last time the Giants went to Green Bay for a playoff game, in January
2008, they won it in overtime and went on to beat the Patriots in the Super