‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns
Ernie is the author of “Lombardi and Landry.” He’ll be covering football throughout the season.
Can you smell it, that 2007 aroma of ultimate success?
The olfactory sensation of burnt Dirty Bird that wafted around Giants Stadium (yeah, we know. It’s MetLife, but on Sunday it was solely and entirely true blue) after the Giants’ 24-2 win may not be just a temporary thing.
It’s beginning to feel an awful lot like that magical Super Bowl run of the 2007 postseason. They beat Green Bay that postseason in the NFC championship game, right after they got past top-seeded Dallas in a game at old Texas Stadium that nobody thought the Giants had a right to win.
That similar scenario could play itself out next week Titletown, USA, where the Giants will take a team that is far different from the one that gave the Packers a scare on Dec. 4 at Giants, er, uh, MetLife.
This team not only puts up points behind the golden arm of Eli Manning, but it stops people, too. And that — the defensive resurgence that began against the Jets, grew against Dallas, and emerged full-blown and scary dangerous against Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Michael Turner, and the rest of the Falcons — is why the Giants have given themselves more than a puncher’s chance against Aaron Rodgers’ slot-machine offense.
Even as Greg Jennings is expected back from a late-season knee injury, the Giants have positioned themselves to make much noise up there. Remember, they only lost by a field goal in their first go-around this year. And that was because the defense collapsed in the final minute.
On Sunday, that defense showed it’s a far different group. The former group would easily have given up a first down on fourth-and-inches. This one stopped two Ryan sneaks in that situation, thanks to DT Chris Canty’s inspired play in beating the center and coming in low on the quarterback.
The previous defense couldn’t stop key passes. This one kept White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez in check the whole game, with Corey Webster putting out an outstanding effort as the front line, now using Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul simultaneously, put much heat on Ryan.
The previous defense couldn’t stop the run. This one held Turner, the league’s third-best rusher with 1,300 yards, to a mere 41 yards, and the whole Falcons’ ground attack to 64. The Packers’ two leading rushers, James Starks (578) and Ryan Grant (559) didn’t come close to that, and now their ground game may be utterly suspect because of tackle Bryan Bulaga’s knee injury.
Look at the offense. The one that played Green Bay the first time around couldn’t run the ball. Twenty yards total. Sunday? 172.
Brandon Jacobs, with 92 yards Sunday and is running with as much authority as he ever has this year. Ahmad Bradshaw snapped off a 30-yard run.
And the offense put together a 17-point run in the second half to stretch a 7-2 lead to the final count.
One might say this team has undergone a spiritual makeover, a rebirth from the injury problems that beset the roster for most of the season. Even now, the Giants must worry about DJ Ware and Aaron Ross, both of whom left the Atlanta game with concussions.
But they have grown for the most part healthy and comfortable in their roles, and it showed Sunday.
It has come at just the right time.
Just in time to grab a whiff of that 2007 magic.
Upset Green Bay?
It could happen.
Will the Giants upset Rodgers & Co.? Make your prediction below…