By Paul Dottino
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Call it unfinished business. Or revenge, if you will.
The Giants dominated the Green Bay Packers en route to a 37-20 victory in the NFC Divisional playoffs on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Yes, those 15-1 Packers … the defending Super Bowl champs … the guys who were 8-0 at home this season … the ones who scored at least 35 points in seven home games.
More important, it was those Packers who beat the Giants, 38-35, at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 4. The Giants seemed to gain strength from that game and several players said after this playoff win that they felt like they redeemed themselves in the rematch – much like they intend to do in San Francisco, where they’ll be Sunday in the NFC Championship game. Remember, the Niners escaped with a 27-20 victory over the Giants at Candlestick Park on Nov. 13.
We’ll have all week to talk about that one, so let’s get to our review:
Offense-WR Hakeem Nicks. He obviously has no bad feelings about being left off the Pro Bowl roster – he wouldn’t have been able to play, anyway, because he’s going to the NFC Championship. Nicks has responded from a bad case of the dropsies early in December with two TD catches in back-to-back playoffs games. His 66-yard TD catch with 3:47 left in the first quarter put the Giants up, 10-3. Nicks caught the ball near midfield, spun away from ex-Giants safety Charlie Peprah and took off down the left sideline for the score. But there was an encore. Nicks jumped up to snare QB Eli Manning’s desperation toss in the left corner of the end zone to end the first half and built the Giants’ lead to 20-10. Nicks pinned the ball against his facemask while outfighting Peprah and future Hall of Fame CB Charles Woodson for the catch. Nicks’ work for the day? He made seven catches (on nine targets) for 166 yards and the two TDs.
Defense-LB Michael Boley. His stat line does not do him justice. The nine tackles (three for a loss), two sacks and a pass breakup made him the most active of the Giants’ defenders. But it was the play he made on the fifth snap of the fourth quarter that emphatically put a hammer to the Packers, who were down, 20-13. Green Bay went for a 4th-and-5 from the Giants’ 39 and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell called for a rare five-man pressure package, with Boley racing around the Giants’ left edge. He sacked QB Aaron Rodgers and silenced the crowd, who watched the Packers give up a field goal on the Giants’ ensuing drive to make it a 10-point game with less than eight minutes left.
Special teams-DB Derrick Martin. He was on the left side of the front line when he recovered Green Bay’s shocking onside kick on the second play of the second quarter after the Packers tied the game at 10. Although the offense stalled and the Giants’ ensuing field goal attempt was blocked, there is no telling now momentum might have shifted if the Packers had been able to maintain possession. Special mention has to go to P Steve Weatherford, whose 51-yard punt out of bounds at the Green Bay 24 tilted the field with the Giants up, 20-13, late in the third quarter.
Offense-RG Chris Snee. He drew a holding flag in a game that had just six penalties and his infraction could have proven to be very costly. With nearly four minutes left in the third quarter, the Packers got a 35-yard field goal from Mason Crosby to cut the lead to 20-13 and energized the crowd. This was a critical time for momentum. On first down, after a touchback, Snee got called for the penalty to leave the Giants with a 1st-and-20 from their own 10. They wound up with a three-and-out before Steve Weatherford drilled a long punt that prevented Green Bay from having a short field and the Packers eventually turned over the ball on downs (thanks to Michael Boley).
Defense-LB Mathias Kiwanuka. We’re really getting tough here, but only because the unit played so well it’s hard to find any real issues. It appeared Kiwanuka failed to cover FB John Kuhn coming out of the backfield and to the left side to catch an 8-yard TD pass that tied the game at 10 on the first play of the second quarter.
Special teams-OL Tony Ugoh. He whiffed on his block that allowed LB Brad Jones to race in from the left edge of the Green Bay line to deflect Lawrence Tynes’ 40-yard field goal attempt early in the second quarter. The score remained tied at 10.