A calm, collected and super efficient Eli Manning led the Giants into the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field yesterday, where they cruised away with a 37-20 victory over the defending Super Bowl champions, the 15-1 Green Bay Packers. This was the fourth win in a row for Big Blue, the league's hottest team, who is catching fire at just the right time, and the seventeen point shellacking set the record for largest playoff margin of victory ever over the reigning champs.
The Giants have outscored their two opponents by a combined score of 61-22 thus far in these playoffs, and much like they did in January of 2008, they're getting it done with a dominating dose of defense and Eli. However, that's where the similarities between the two seasons stop. During that miracle playoff run four years ago the Giants eked out road victories week after week, many coming in the closing moments, en route to a Super Bowl title. This time around, the games haven't even been close.
Manning out shined soon-to-be NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers yesterday, throwing for more yards and touchdowns on fewer attempts and with greater accuracy. The Giants secondary, their long time Achilles heel, deserves much of the credit for this feat, having successfully taken away the deep ball and in turn did not allow any Packer receivers to top the fifty yard mark. They forced Rodgers to try to beat them with his feet, not his arm, and Perry Fewell's boys executed that game plan perfectly.
During the regular season no team forced more turnovers than the Green Bay Packers. Yesterday, the Giants won the turnover battle by three, and that number does not include the heavily scrutinized, second quarter Greg Jennings no fumble call that had many fans and talking heads alike up in arms. Everytime the ball hit the grass yesterday the Giants walked away with it. This includes five fumble recoveries (two got overturned) and two failed on-side kicks by Green Bay that proved to be the difference maker in the game. Big blue wanted it more, and they went out and got it, time and time again.
The most encouraging sign for the Giants moving forward is their newly found big play ability on offense. They can strike on any given down, regardless of where they are on the field. Every week it seems as if a new player is stepping up and breaking free for backbreaking long plays and this week was no different. Third year wide out Hakeem Nicks added a 66 yard score and 37 yard Hail Mary touchdown to his resume, the latter swinging momentum the Giants way for good, extending their lead to double digits heading into the half. In the 2012 playoffs alone, Nicks already has four touchdowns (a Giants playoff record) and 280 receiving yards.
The Giants now head to San Francisco in what is sure to be a grueling, hard nosed, defensive battle to the finish. These two teams met back in week 10 at Candlestick Park, and the 49ers emerged victories, 27-20. But all you have to do is open your eyes to see that this Giants team that's clicking on all cylinders now is hardly reminiscent of their mediocre, mid-season selves. They're playing like a team that's been to the promised land before, but more importantly they're playing like a team that wants to get back there. With just one game standing in their way of another trip to the Super Bowl, that dream is closer than ever before to becoming a reality. When it's all said and done, it looks like they might be Giants, once again.
dan is the editor and chief of the 2 man weave