By Paul Dottino
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An old formula has resurfaced in the new building.
The Giants used a power running game, an opportunistic passing attack and a stifling defense to wipe out the Atlanta Falcons, 24-2, in the NFC Wild-Card playoffs on Sunday. The Green Bay Packers await next Sunday at 4:30 p.m. in a game that will stir up even more thoughts of the past. However, we’ll deal with those thoughts later in the week.
This was the kind of victory that put the Giants’ stamp on MetLife Stadium and might have given flashbacks to some fans who used to enjoy the way the team used to dominate opponents in the old Giants Stadium.
The victory proved two things: First, that the Giants’ recent surge is not a mirage – they needed a few months to get it right, but they are a legitimate playoff team that has a realistic chance to go further into the postseason. Second, that their non-descript two-year-old building can become a home-field advantage in a key spot – it was a loud and exciting atmosphere and it appeared to help fuel the Giants’ momentum.
Coach Tom Coughlin’s biggest concern coming out of this game likely will be the concussions suffered by starting CB Aaron Ross and RB Danny Ware, who will go for tests Monday. Rookie Prince Amukamara did well after plugging the hole left by Ross in the second half, but the Packers would be sure to test him.
Offense-RB Brandon Jacobs. Yes, we understand that Hakeem Nicks caught two touchdown passes, including an impressive 72-yarder that gave the Giants a 17-2 lead in the third quarter. But how can anybody underplay the value of what Jacobs brought to the table? He proved that the Giants’ power running game still exists. Jacobs rumbled his way to 92 yards on 14 carries, including a 34-yard jaunt that set up the Giants’ first touchdown. On the 12th play of the drive, he rewarded coach Tom Coughlin’s confidence by using a second effort to fight his way for two yards and a first down on 4th-and-a foot inside the Atlanta 6. Eli Manning hit Nicks for a touchdown on the next snap and it was 7-2. More important, the drive told the Falcons and everybody who was in the building that the Giants were coming to play.
Defense-Giants’ front seven. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell did not have to gamble very much, allowing the front seven to play straight-up for most of the day. Why? Because they remained disciplined in their gap control against RB Michael Turner (15 carries for 41 yards, 2.7 avg. with a long of 10). They also consistently won their battles at the point of attack and had just a few missed tackles. And they got enough pressure on QB Matt Ryan to make him look dazed and confused throughout the game.
Special mention has to go to the defenders involved in two key defensive series. Atlanta opened the second quarter with a 4th-and-inches at the Giants 25. Ryan tried to sneak ahead but was drilled by DTs Linval Joseph and Chris Canty and LB Michael Boley for no gain. With early four minutes left in the third – and Atlanta trailing, 10-2 – FS Antrel Rolle stopped WR Roddy White an inch short on a 3rd-and-15 pass to the Giants 20. Ryan tried another fourth-down sneak and was turned away by LB Chase Blackburn, DE Jason Pierre-Paul and Joseph.
Special teams-P Steve Weatherford. You have to think the time he’s spent conversing with Jeff Feagles this season has paid dividends – and it was no more evident that in this game. Weatherford had a 45.8 avg (40.8) on four punts, dropping one inside the 20 and allowing one touchback. In the first quarter, he forced Atlanta to start at its own 21, 21 and 10 by kicking the ball out of bounds every time. His other punt was a 54-yard touchback with 1:08 left in the first half.
Offense-RT Kareem McKenzie. We’ll allow him to run only half of a gasser since he righted his game in the second half after having a rough first-half against DE John Abraham, who used the edge to sack Eli Manning on the Giants’ second offensive series. Early in the second quarter, blitzing S James Sanders raced past McKenzie and prompted Manning to get called for intentional grounding in the end zone – a safety that gave Atlanta a 2-0 lead and its only points of the game. But McKenzie responded with a key block on Jacobs’ fourth-down conversion in the second quarter and he held up for the rest of the day.
Defense-None. These guys pitched a shutout. The Falcons’ longest run was 13 yards on an end-around to WR Julio Jones. The Giants registered five tackles for a loss. The Falcons’ two longest pass plays went for 21 yards to WR Roddy White and 20 to Jones. The Giants sacked QB Matt Ryan twice and had seven hits on him. No, no laps for these guys.
Special teams-CB Corey Webster. On the next to last play of the third quarter, he got flagged for an illegal block in the back on a punt return. The Giants were forced to start on their own 15 – a dangerous neighborhood – with a 17-2 lead, given that Atlanta was looking for anything to give them a spark.
Giants fans: Who gets your game ball for Sunday’s dismantling of Atlanta? Sound off below…