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NFC EAST DIVISION CHAMPIONS
PLAYOFFS 2 - 0: ON TO THE OTHER BAY!
NEWARK STAR LEDGER
D'ALESSANDRO: TREY JUNKIN NOT THE SCAPEGOAT IN GIANTS' 2003 LOSS TO THE 49ERS
Excerpt: "Nine years after the infamous climax to a historic collapse, you still blame
one guy. Go ahead, you can admit it: Around your household, which probably
hasn’t been the same since, you probably refer to it as Junkin’s Blunder or
Junkin’s Folly or anything that might describe a 7-yard snap that only travels 5
yards, vulgarities optional.
“All I know is,” Jim Fassel says now, “if anyone can blame that game on one
player, they didn’t watch the whole game.”
Perhaps that’s the problem with the events of Jan. 5, 2003 — it wasn’t just
It was an NFL playoff encounter with multiple subplots, an implausible
momentum shift, an unprecedented officiating blunder, and one scapegoat. His
name was Trey Junkin, a 41-year-old long snapper who contributed in a small but
profound way during the Giants’ last
postseason visit to San Francisco — an epic, wild-card meltdown that punched the
ticket of a team that had a 24-point lead and a dormant death wish.
And when the Giants’ litany of screw-ups resulted in a head-banging, 39-38
defeat, Planet Blue had its Bill Buckner.
We always found that somewhat amusing — you blow a 38-14 lead with 20 minutes
to play and you blame the deep snapper? — and wondered whether Fassel shared
our, uh, amusement. Short answer: He does not, because you can’t find jollity in
the most agonizing defeat of a venerable career — especially one that defiled
his sturdy, seven-year tenure as Giants head coach.
But he doesn’t share the dim-bulb cant that it’s Junkin’s fault, either.
“People forget, Trey was our fourth long snapper that year,” the former
Giants coach said Tuesday from his home outside Vegas. “I didn’t cut any of ’em,
either — they were all injured. So the week before that game, I brought Trey in
because I knew him to be the consummate pro when I had him in Arizona (in
1996).” Read more...
AS GIANTS MAKE PLAYOFFS, TERRELL THOMAS MAKES PROGRESS OF HIS OWN
"There’s no doubt Terrell Thomas would’ve rather been getting a jump on film
study of the 49ers Tuesday instead of running on an AlterG anti-gravity
However, considering it was the first time he ran since undergoing surgery to
repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in late September, it was a pretty good
day after all.
“This is where the fun starts right now,” the Giants cornerback said by phone from
California before his workout. He had been placed on injured reserve before the
regular season even began after tearing
the ACL in his right knee for the second time.
“This is when you start bending and really seeing the progression in the
knee,” he said. “Before, it was just working on the stability and getting
everything stronger around it.
“The first time I tore my ACL, I never had any setbacks. Everything is going
to accordance so I’m just staying positive and trying to progress.”
It’s a challenge for Thomas to stay upbeat these days. While the Giants are
two games into a potential Super Bowl run and on their way to his home state for
Sunday’s NFC Championship Game in San Francisco, Thomas is “in his own season,”
as he put it.
The free-agent-to-be stayed away most of the past few months after his injury
in a preseason game against the Bears so he could focus on his rehab. But he
made an appearance at the team’s facility a few days before the wild-card game
against the Falcons. That Sunday, he was on the sideline during the pregame
before heading upstairs to the booth so he wouldn’t be a “distraction.”
Though he claims it “wasn’t that tough” because he was there to provide
support, Thomas is dealing with the same issues many injured players experience
— they’re part of the team but can’t help but feel a bit detached.
“The way they really came together this year, obviously we had our ups and
downs and struggled at times, but we played together. That’s the main thing I
missed most and the hardest part,” he said. “Last year, we were a roller
coaster. Sometimes we played as a team and sometimes we were all individuals out
there. But they’re all playing together right now. From offense, defense and
special teams and it’s working for them.
“They had two (playoff) games to win and they did what they had to do.
They’re jelling and they’re hot right now.”
Thomas says he never had a doubt this defense would get its act together,
even as he was sitting at home and watching the breakdowns against the Cowboys.
To him, they were mental issues, not physical ones, so he had a feeling they’d
be ironed out — and they have.
“Not to say my teammates (stink), but just to make a comparison, if a guy
(stinks) or a team (stinks) but they get hot and they believe in themselves,
that’s all that matters,” he said. “They got that mental process out of the way,
they believe in themselves, they’re playing good ball right now and
communicating and having fun. You see that confidence just like it was when they
were winning in the beginning of the season.
“The swagger is back and I don’t think they’re going to lose it.”
Speaking of things Thomas doesn’t expect to be lost, he believes he’ll
maintain the speed and “spring” he had before the surgery. He’s been through
this rehab process before, went to the same surgeon and once again opted for the
cadaver ligament instead of the hamstring tendon as a replacement. Plus, he’s
seeing positive signs early on that have him believing he’ll be as good as
“When you’re able to do things three weeks ahead of schedule like I have,
it’s definitely a positive,” he said, adding this about the two rehabs:
“Comparing my knee from then to now it feels the same way.”
The only question is whether the Giants will be the ones to potentially
benefit from such a recovery.
In a little less than two months, he’ll hit the market as an unrestricted
free agent. If he’d stayed healthy, Thomas would’ve been in line for a big
payday, especially since he was working to make more plays on the ball and was
having an outstanding training camp before Jason Pierre-Paul collided with him
with 22 seconds left in the first half against Chicago. Now, it’s a bit
trickier, as the Giants or another team will have to make an offer based on the
So far, there have been no contract talks. The team is focused on the current
season, and Thomas is providing support.
But pretty soon, he’ll get to feel included once again.
“I’m getting excited. It’s my time now,” he said. “I got hurt and had my
surgery and now it’s my time. Once they win this game and go to the Super Bowl,
once the season’s over, it’s all about me hopefully re-signing with the Giants
and moving forward.”
Thomas thanked the fans for lifting his spirits during his recovery, which is
why he's tried to keep them in the loop on his recovery via the blog on his website.
"My Twitter family and
all my followers have made me feel appreciated and never made me feel lost," he
said. "I get countless tweets about, 'We miss you out there, can’t wait to see
you back on the field,' and so on and so on. I definitely appreciate it. I know
the truth behind it, I’m out here in LA rehabbing and in my own season but I
definitely feel and appreciate the support from my team and the Giants fans."
WHILE GIANTS SHINE IN GREEN BAY, MARAS STAR ON RED CARPET AT GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS
Excerpt: "He was walking down the red carpet at the Golden Globes, a march with the
Hollywood elite that millions would die to make. And all Chris Mara wanted was a
better glimpse of that damn TV monitor.
There it was, so frustratingly close, outside the velvet ropes. Mara could
see that it had the Giants game on. But,
thanks to his poor eyesight and all those view-blocking celebrities — Hey,
Tom Hanks, down in front! — he could barely make out what was happening a
few thousand miles away in slightly less glamorous Green Bay.
“Did we just intercept that?!” Mara asked his wife.
No, he was told. Giants cornerback Aaron Ross had just knocked down a pass.
It was still in the third quarter, the divisional playoff game between the
Packers and Giants still in doubt, and his talented daughter Rooney was wowing
the papar***i in a black Nina Ricci gown. But she was stopping every 10 feet for
another interview, and her dad was running out of patience.
Rooney, the breakout star from “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” was
nominated for best actress in a drama — a field that included superstars Meryl
Streep and Glenn Close. Her father had missed his first Giants playoff game in
40 years to be at her side, a decision that ranked among the easiest in his
“Somebody said, ‘Jeez, you’re missing the Giants game,’?” Mara said, who
replied, “Yeah, this isn’t exactly a piano recital.”
But he warned Rooney: He would not linger on the red carpet. It wasn’t
exactly like the photographers were waiting to se what the Giants’ senior vice
president of player evaluation was wearing (which, for the record, was a vintage
Brooks Brothers suit with a Johnny-O tie).
So, as soon as he had an opening, Mara made like Victor Cruz and broke away
from the crowd. He hustled down the carpet and up to a suite in the Beverly
Hilton, where a couple of Sony executives told him that they’d be watching the
This is how Sunday went for Mara. If 45.1 million people watched the
Packers-Giants game, and another 16.8 million watched the Golden Globes, then
about a quarter of the country had some interest in what his family was doing.
Mara was desperate to watch both, and this led to one of the wildest days of
his life. He caught the first quarter in his hotel room, then watched most of
the second quarter in his daughter’s room." Read more...
49ERS DEFENSIVE BACKS SETTING PHYSICAL TONE FOR DOMINATING DEFENSE
Excerpt: "The change in the San Francisco 49ers' attitude this season might be most
evident when the defensive backs gather in a team meeting room each week to
watch the highlight video from the previous game.
Secondary coach Ed Donatell counts and compares the number of "domination
hits" in a fierce and friendly competition among players. The challenge is for
each to deliver at least one crushing -- but legal -- blow on an opponent every
"We're not really trying to hurt people," safety Donte Whitner said. "But
when we play physical, people get hurt."
The hard-hitting, ball-hawking secondary has created its share of imposing
images for San Francisco (14-3) this season, part of a defense that has carried
the franchise back to the NFC Championship Game for the first time in 14 years
to face the Giants (11-7) on Sunday at Candlestick Park.
Whitner and fellow safety Dashon Goldson were a last-minute pairing in
training camp. Goldson seemed certain he wouldn't return after Whitner signed as
a free agent from the Buffalo Bills, even tweeting goodbye to 49ers fans only to
have the franchise re-sign him days later.
The same might've been said for cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown.
San Francisco cut high-priced cornerback Nate Clements -- who received an $80
million, eight-year contract in March 2007 but never met expectations -- just
before training camp in favor of a duo that had its share of problems picking
General manager Trent Baalke's decisions in the secondary have turned into
49ers gold, building the back-end of a defense that led the NFL with 38
takeaways -- including a half-dozen interceptions each for Rogers and Goldson --
with a physical foursome that is drawing comparisons to the Pittsburgh Steelers
and Baltimore Ravens of recent years.
"They really bring a tone-setting physicality to their tackling," 49ers coach
Jim Harbaugh said.
Take last week for instance.
Setting the stage for a collision-filled 36-32 victory over the New Orleans
Saints, Goldson walked out for the team's first practice wearing his game-day
eye black. Whitner put in his mouthpiece for the full-padded practice -- rare
for NFL teams this late in the season -- and warned his teammates about what to
"I told them, 'Get out of my way, because I'm going to hit everything that's
moving,'" Whitner said.
He delivered on his promise." Read more...
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: GIANTS VS. 49ERSWILL BE MATCHUP OF "SCARY" AGAINST " DANGEROUS IN COACH SPEAK
Excerpt: "The NFC Championship Game kicks off Sunday in San Francisco at 6:30 p.m. The
following is a sampling of stories about the 49ers from the Bay Area leading up
to the matchup against the Giants.
Branch, San Francisco Chronicle: The Giants deserved to beat the Green Bay
Packers last Sunday because they played harder, according to the assessment of
49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. The first-year coach in San Francsisco also said
the Giants are a "scary opponent" during a press conference with reporters
of Harbaugh's thoughts on the Giants can be found in this video of Monday's
press conference. Interestingly, Tom
Coughlin characterized the 49ers as a "dangerous team" Monday.
Branch, San Francisco Chronicle: Harbaugh mentioned there is only
one NFL team he roots for besides the 49ers -- the Baltimore Ravens, coached by
his brother, John. The Ravens beat the Houston Texans last weekend to
advance to Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots,
meaning the brothers are each a victory from facing each other in Super Bowl
XLVI. (On Thanksgiving, the Ravens beat the 49ers, 16-6.) Jim Harbaugh mentioned
that his parents have yet to decide if they will be in Foxborough, Mass., or San
Francisco on Sunday. One option is to attend neither, Harbaugh said, and watch
on TV in Wisconsin.
Maiocco, CSNBayArea.com: 49ers owner Jed York announced on Twitter that
Eddie DeBartolo will serve as the honorary game captain Sunday. The franchise
won five Super Bowls during DeBartolo's tenure as owner, from 1977-2000.
Maiocco, CSNBayArea.com: Jim Harbaugh was coy about his team's injuries
Monday, not revealing much information on whether those players ailing from the
Saints game or earlier in the season will participate Sunday. Ted Ginn, the
49ers' No. 2 wide receiver, was seen limping in the team's practice facility.
Ginn hurt his right kneecap against the Saints. Harbaugh offered no update,
either, on Delanie Walker, the 49ers' backup tight end. Responding to an inquiry
about his right leg, thought to be jarred during the 49ers' final drive, running
back Frank Gore said,
according to the San Jose Mercury News, "I feel good."
Knapp, San Francisco Chronicle: Jonathan Goodwin also left Saturday's game
against the Saints briefly, with what CSNBayArea.com surmised was a left calf
strain. Goodwin returned and continue to anchor the 49ers line against his
former team, so well that Harbaugh referred to him as a "block of granite."
Goodwin was signed last offseason after the Giants lured David Baas to New York
to center the line to protect Eli Manning." Read more...GIANTS-49ERS HOT TOPIC: WHAT TURNED THE 7-7 GIANTS INTO THE TEAM WE SEE NOW?
"Be honest, Giants fans. After the 23-10 loss to the Redskins on Dec. 18,
would you have said the Giants were one of the four best teams in the NFL this
year? Some might not even say so now, but, haters, you can check the
scoreboard.POLITI: GIANTS HAVE SEEN HAKEEM NICK'S MASSIVE HANDS COME IN HANDY
On Dec. 18, however, the Giants lost
to the then 4-9 Redskins 23-10 at home, going 3-for-9
on third down, turning the ball over on three Eli Manning picks, having
trouble with the sun, struggling with
the two-minute drill - and ugh - that Hakeem Nicks dropped TD. It was a
smorgasbord of problems, badly blowing a game that would have made a playoff
clinch much easier.
You hated that game - you
hated the effort.
But here they are, four straight dominant wins later, one win from a trip to
the Super Bowl, one of the four best teams in the NFL. What changed?
We know about getting healthy - Osi Umenyiora came back two weeks later and
the defense has seemed completely transformed - and there were other key returns
from the training room. The 'Skins game sparked some
pretty ugly finger pointing, but maybe that was a good thing? And is it us,
or does it seem like the Giants quit dropping so many passes?
Giants fans, tell us how the 7-7 Giants turned into contenders for the NFC
Championship and the Super Bowl, one of the four best teams in the NFL this
Excerpt: "The opposing defensive backs in these NFC playoffs haven’t come close to
covering Hakeem Nicks, but they shouldn’t feel too badly about that. Isotoner
can’t cover him, either.
At least, not the kind Nicks has tried to find in stores. He gets the big red
gloves that he wears on the field from the team’s equipment staff, but gloves
for his own day-to-day wear?
Pockets will have to do.
“I don’t wear them,” he said just a few minutes before heading out into the
January cold. He hasn’t tried to buy a pair from a mall or a department store
since high school, when he realized what he had at the end of his arms. “I
already know not to try them on because I know they won’t fit.”
So there are drawbacks to having a 4-XL glove size. The massive mitts make it
difficult to do day-to-day things. Punter Steve Weatherford, for example, handed
Nicks a silver Sharpie to autograph a couple footballs Monday, and the marker
looked like a golf pencil as he signed.
Presumably, if you need somebody to open a pickle jar, Nicks can help. But if
you’re looking for somebody to get a quarter that’s falling between the seat and
the arm rest in your car ... not your man.
“The first time I met the guy, I shook his hands and I was like, ‘(Holy
cow)!’” fellow receiver Victor Cruz said. “His fingers were down here” — he was
pointing to the middle of his wrist, a bit of an exaggeration — “and I was like,
‘I know with his size and strength, he has to be a monster.’”
That monster is one victory away from a Super Bowl now in his first playoff
appearance. State Farm lost those “Discount Double Check” commercials when the
Green Bay Packers were eliminated. Maybe Allstate should hire Nicks. Because,
clearly, the Giants are in good hands
Those hands are the reason that, the moment Nicks left the ground and raised
them in the air at
the end of the first half in Green Bay, Coughlin had a good feeling his
13-10 lead was about to become 20-10.
“These are special hands, now,” Coughlin, who worked for years as a receivers
coach, said with a sense of wonder in his voice. “I could give you a bunch of
guys I’ve personally had a chance to coach that were great players, but this
guy, when he gets his mitts on the ball ...” Read more...
D'ALESSANDRO: GIANTS, 49ERS SHOW THAT IN THE PLAYOFFS, IT'S ALL ABOUT DEFENSE
Excerpt: "Maybe it’s all those years he spent on the outside looking in — the multiple
surgeries, the season he played in Germany, the job at Home Depot — but Dave
Tollefson can’t get enough of this league, so much so that he got home from
Green Bay on Sunday night and stared at the highlights until past 5 in the
After a while, he realized the shows were on a loop, but it didn’t matter —
he still was struck by something that was almost like a football epiphany.
“As I was watching the shows, I realized that it’s not even a question
anymore that playoff football is totally different from regular-season
football,” the Giants defensive end said. “But when you get to the playoffs —
and I mean this literally — what happened in the regular season means absolutely
Yes, he was talking about the defense again. Because if anything has
progressed to a mind-blowing extreme, it’s the transmutation of the Giants' defense from a speed bump to a
There’s something gratifying about this — not because we can count on them
shelving that annoying “Discount Double Check” campaign pretty soon, but because
this Giants group is getting closer each week to championing a style that we had
feared was almost obsolete.
We ended up being very wrong, of course: Of all those shaky defenses that
entered this tournament, only one — the generous Belichicks of Foxborough —
remains. Indeed, three of the teams in the Final Four are superb defensively,
and in the age of offensive dominion, what conclusions should be drawn from
Right, don’t say it: Defense still wins — no bulletin there. But as the game
has changed, it’s harder for that axiom to hold up. Occasionally, it even gets
demolished by the likes of New Orleans.
That’s why we find it comforting to see two teams in the NFC provide the
proof that you can disrupt high-octane offenses and ultimately win the chess
game. Some of us were surprised the Giants were able to do it against the
Packers. Some of us were surprised the San Francisco 49ers were able to do it
against the New Orleans Saints. But they both did it.
Giants’ case, brilliantly." Read more...
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.”
“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
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
“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
“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
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
* * * *
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
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
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
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
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
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
Packers LB Brad Jones. Blocked field goal and a sack in the
* * * *
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.
* * * *
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.
* * * *
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.
* * * *
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
* * * *
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
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
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.
GIANTS' TOM COUGHLIN DOESN'T AGREE WITH TWO QUESTIONABLE RULINGS IN WIN OVER PACKERS
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
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
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."
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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' DB ANTREL ROLLE IS READY TO PREY ON 49ERS AND ISSUES A WARNING TO VERNON DAVIS
"When 49ers tight end Vernon Davis
was watching the Giants-Packers game on Sunday, he admitted he “prayed” for the
Giants to win, so the NFC Championship Game would be played in San
Francisco.“Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1