So much to talk about, this is going to take more than one blog post, but here goes.
Packers averaged 35 points per game during the year so it's easy to say that the Giants won this game on the defensive side of the ball. In the regular season game, the Giants scored about the same number of points as Sunday - 35 during regular season 37 in the playoffs. But the Packers were held way down - 38 to 20. A lot of the geniuses analyzing the game are saying that the Packers were stale, they dropped a lot of balls, didn't take advantage of their opportunities. They are implying that the Packers are way better than the Giants and just had a bad day. Nonsense. These are the same geniuses who said that the only way the Giants can stop the Packers is with a big pass rush. Fair enough assumption coming in, but they also looked at the game and said the same thing - that the Giants pass rush won the game. This analysis is simplistic and incorrect. The Giants played the game from the back end in, instead of from the front end back. The DB-field played its best game of the year and the DC Fewell had a wonderful game plan. The Giants DL did not go wild and rush in uncontrolled manner, trying to keep Rodgers in the pocket; they were very disciplined in their rush lanes. Combined with this, they were very physical with the Packers smallish but quick WRs and knocked them off their routes, taking away Rodgers' first read. This sounds elementary, but the Packers passing offense is based on a lot of timing routes. Rodgers often likes to get the ball out quickly on short routes and let the WRs make a play after the catch. If they don't throw those quick timing routes, he will hold the ball a bit longer and wait for his WRs to get deep. Fearing Giants pass rush, Packers went to more of the quicker routes often and Giants were successful at disrupting the first read. When Rodgers went to his second read, it was often well covered because the Giants did a good job covering at that second level and if Rodgers wanted to look deep, the Giants pass rush got home and forced an inaccurate throw. The drops by the Packers WRs were not just bad plays, and sloppy dropped balls, although some of them were. Most of them were Giants DBs disrupting the timing and the WRs reaching for balls that were slightly off the mark and arriving at timing that was off from what Rodgers usually does. Think back to how many times Rodgers dropped back looked for his first read and then kind of held the ball, moving around looking for someone to throw to. The slant and go route where Jennings was open deep, but Osi got in for the strip sack is a perfect example. Rodgers pump faked looking to go deep and had to hold the ball a beat longer, by which time Osi got in. I am not even blaming Ross for getting beat, because his internal clock may have been that Rodgers had to get rid of the ball then or he will get sacked. He bit on the pump fake, but relied on Osi to make the sack. The really encouraging thing for me about the defense this game is not so much that the defense played well - because they have been playing better the last few games. What is particularly promising is that the defense played well led by the DB-field not the DL. The DL dominated the game in the last three wins against the Jets, Cowboys and Falcons. Sunday against the Packers, the pass defense was great. It was hard to tell on TV, but Amukamara looked like he was playing well. He was singled up in coverage several times with Rodgers intending to pick on him, but his coverage was too good and Rodgers had to go elsewhere with the ball.
One could legitimately ask - where the f@#$% has this defense been the first 14 games of the year, but we'll leave that discussion for another day.
Boley played a wonderful game, leading the team in tackles, getting two sacks and mimicking the Rodgers wrestling belt celebration. Jacquian Williams continues to come on and played very well Sunday.
I know that I have been propping up and praising Eli all year, but he continues to surprise even me with his brilliant QB play. I know everyone says his brother Peyton, among others, is better. But - Peyton had a 3-6 record in his first 9 playoff games. Eli is 6-3. I am just saying. I think we are seeing the beginning of an uptick in Eli's career and he is going to amaze us for the next several years.
I can't let this post go without mentioning the ridiculous refereeing calls that everyone has been talking about. I said in one of my previews of the game that I was afraid that the Packers would get a few home town calls and they would affect the game. I was right - the Packers did get several home town calls, they did affect the game, but the Giants overcame them. Obviously, it shows how complete the Giants domination was, because they won going away by 17 points and bad referee calls directly caused 14 points for the Packers and a few other bad calls indirectly probably took away points from the Giants. The most often discussed calls were the blown fumble call by Greg Jennings with its replay review and the inexplicable roughing the passer call against Osi each of which led to TDs for the Packers. The bad spot on the run by DJ Ware forced a Giants punt and the terrible holding call on Chris Snee stopped another Giants drive giving momentum and field position to the Packers in the 3rd quarter.
The Hail Mary play at the end of the half was not a lucky play for the Giants - it was a terrible defensive play by the Packers and a play call by the Giants that caught the Packers off guard. There were 6 seconds left in the half and the Giants had the ball on the 37 with no timeouts left. Packers were expecting the Giants to try a short sideline pass and get out of bounds for a FG try. To defend against this, the Packers DBs were playing up close to the line and were using outside leverage to defend those sideline patterns. Instead the Giants lined 3 WRs up on the left side of the defense, which is a standard formation for the deep Hail Mary try. Because the Packers were not ready for it, they had only two safeties back deep to defend it. When you see defenses protecting against the Hail Mary, there are usually 5 or 6 DBs back crowded around potential receivers and lots of arms jumping up and reaching to knock the ball away. Instead, you saw Nicks relatively alone going up unhindered with two DBs behind him, none in front of him and the ball falling easily into his arms. It was not a lucky play, it was terrible defense by the Packers combined with good play call and a great throw and catch by Eli and Nicks. That play really destroyed the Packers. It's demoralizing to go into the half giving up a score, especially on a play like that. More important, with that 10 point lead, the Packers had to play from behind and the Giants didn't need to play too risky on offense or defense.
I love the Giants WR corps; they complement each other very well. All can make plays after the catch and present a combination of elusiveness and great moves (Cruz), speed, great hands and physical WR play (Nicks) and pure speed (Manningham). In addition, Nicks and Cruz are very intuitive and instictive players and are usually right in tune with Eli, making the reads and the route adjustments very effective. Imagine what this receiving group would look like if they had a really good, athletic TE.Beckum is starting to make some nice plays in the passing game.
I hope everyone remembers some great Giants trivia: Nicks first TD catch against the Packers, which made the score 10-3 was the exact same play ..... I mean EXACT same play.... that Toomer scored on in the divisional round playoff game against the Cowboys in 2007. It was a simple in-cut, where the WR ran about 15 yards down field ran around 5-7 yards across the field towards the middle, caught the pass, stopped his route, made one guy miss (in Toomer's case it was an LB, for Nicks it was S), then turned, cut back to the sideline and ran for about 50-60 yards untouched into the end zone.
In 2007, Giants also won a first round playoff game against NFC South opponent (Tampa Bay in 2007, Atlanta in 2011) with Giants scoring 24 points in both games. In 2007, Giants won the divisional round against a heavily favored opponent, Cowboys on the road, as they did Sunday. But in that game, even though they outplayed the Cowboys badly, the Cowboys did have a chance to win the game with a throw into the end zone as time was expiring requiring INT by R W McQuarters to close the game. Sunday the last offensive play by the opponents was also an INT, but the game was not in doubt as Giants locked it up and won going away.
Giants first Super Bowl was 1986 and its second was 4 years later in 1990. Giants third Super Bowl was in 2007. It's now the end of the 2011 season, 4 years later. I'm just saying.