Giants loom large as title contenders

Giants loom large as title contenders

NEWYORK - Reuters
Giants loom large as title contenders

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (C) hands the ball off to Ahmad Bradshaw (L) in front of Green Bay Packers’ BJ Raji (R) in the third quarter during their NFL NFC Divisional playoff game in Green Bay. REUTERS photos

With a revitalized defense, The New York Giants have become a complete team and a force to be reckoned with in the NFL playoffs, a point they drove home in 37-20 trouncing of the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers on Jan. 15.

The Giants relied on a potent passing attack to squeeze into the postseason, but with the return from injury of defensive end Osi Umenyiora and his point-stopping colleagues, the Giants are firing on all cylinders and one win away from the Super Bowl.

“We know we’re a good football team and we’re a great defense,” said Umenyiora after posting two sacks and stripping the ball from Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers’s hand for a turnover in the NFC divisional round upset at Lambeau Field.

“We might not have showed most of it during the regular season but that doesn’t matter. This is the postseason and we’re playing the way we’re supposed to be playing right now.”

Fourth successive win

The victory was the fourth in a row for the Giants, who had to beat the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys in their last two regular season games just to qualify for the playoffs with a mediocre 9-7 record.

A 38-35 loss to then-undefeated Packers on Dec. 4 convinced the Giants they could go toe-to-toe with last year’s NFL champions, who finished the season a league-best 15-1.

Umenyiora missed that game because of an ankle injury and linebacker Michael Boley played sparingly due to a damaged hamstring.

Key moment

One key moment in the game came in the fourth quarter from Boley, who led the team with nine tackles and notched his second sack on a key fourth-down stop.

The Packers, trailing 20-13, drove into Giants’ territory to start the fourth quarter but faced a fourth-and-five at New York’s 40-yard line.

Green Bay decided to go for it, but Boley sacked Rodgers, turning the ball over on downs. On the ensuing drive, Lawrence Tynes kicked a 35-yard field goal to give the Giants a 23-13 lead with under eight minutes to play.

“They’ve done some great things on offense, and they have a lot of confidence in it,” Boley said about the Packers going on fourth down. “So for us, we stepped up, we made a big play.”

The Giants defense forced four turnovers from the NFL’s top-scoring team, recovering three fumbles and making an interception.

After a Packers’ fumble that linebacker Chase Blackburn returned all the way to the four-yard line, Giants quarterback Eli Manning fired a four-yard touchdown pass to Mario Manningham to ice it at 30-13.

“Aaron (Rodgers) and that offense have had a remarkable year. For us to come in here and win, we knew we would have to play one of our best games and I think we did that,” defensive end Justin Tuck said.

“I don’t think they have anything to hang their heads about. I just think it just seems like our time.”

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