The Game Balls
|Eli Manning leads Giants past Packers. (AP photo)|
* Eli Manning: Coming into the game, all the so-called experts made it clear that Manning would have to outplay Aaron Rodgers if the Giants wanted to win this game. Well, Manning did that and so much more. Manning was 21-of-33 passing for 330 yards and three touchdowns. He had a rating of 114.5 in the cold at Lambeau Field. Most importantly, he led the team to 37 points and a victory that sends the team to the NFC Championship next week in San Francisco. Manning may have finally solidified his stature as one of the best quarterbacks in all the NFL with this performance. He made it look easy against a Packers defense that has struggled this entire season. That's a mark of a great quarterback.
|Osi Umenyiora. (AP)|
|Hakeem Nicks. (AP)|
* Hakeem Nicks: The Giants wide receiver had yet another huge game in the playoffs, catching seven passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns. But it was his catch at the end of the first half that was one of those game-changing moments that led the Giants to victory. With six seconds to play in the second quarter, the Giants passed up a 54-yard field goal attempt and called a play. It appeared to everyone, even the Packers defense, that the Giants would call a quick sideline pass to gain a few extra yards to set up an easier field goal attempt. But quarterback Eli Manning dropped back and threw a Hail Mary pass to the end zone. In actuality, the pass was anything but a prayer, as Nicks had a completely open look to the pass, as he wasn't guarded in the end zone. He made the grab and the Giants went into halftime with a 20-10 lead. It was perhaps the easiest Hail Mary completion of all time, as the Packers' defensive backs simply didn't look ready to defend the play. And they didn't. The Giants, who were put at a disadvantage by the game officials several times in the first half, got a little payback here. Nicks has been the best wide receiver in the postseason by far.
|Ahmad Bradshaw. (AP)|
* Ahmad Bradshaw: The Giants running back didn't have a great game against Green Bay. He rushed for 53 yards on just 12 carries. But in a game with so many momentum-shifting plays, he came up with one of his own. With a third-and-one play from the Giants 30 in the final seconds of the second quarter, Bradshaw took a handoff in what was a safe choice to get the first down and either run out the clock or set up a Hail Mary that everyone would have been ready for. But Bradshaw took the handoff to the left, broke free to the right, and not only ran downfield, but made it all the way to the sideline to stop the clock. The huge 23-yard run to stop the clock, which was key as the Giants were out of timeouts, set up the touchdown bomb from Manning to Nicks with no time left. Without that run by Bradshaw, the Giants lead by just three at the break and who knows how the game turns out in the second half.
|Kenny Phillips. (AP)|
* Kenny Phillips and Chase Blackburn: After the Giants kicked a field goal to take a 23-13 lead with 7:48 to go in the game, Rodgers and the Packers came back on offense with a small bit of momentum. The Packers defense held the Giants to that field goal after getting a sack on third down. If the Packers were going to make their run, this was going to be the time. But on the second play, Phillips hit Ryan Grant after a 10-yard catch and forced a fumble. Blackburn picked up the loose ball and ran 40 yards to the Packers' 5-yard line. One play later Manning hit Mario Manningham for a touchdown that put the Giants up 30-13. The fumble recovery and subsequent touchdown ended the game for the Giants. Overall, the Giants defense forced and recovered three fumbles in the game.
|Michael Boley and Justin Tuck. (AP)|
* Michael Boley: We'll give out one extra "game ball" this week as the Giants linebacker definitely deserves to be highlighted for his contribution to the victory in Green Bay. Boley led the team with nine total tackles, including eight solo. He had two sacks, three tackles for a loss of yardage, one pass defense and two quarterback hits. One of his sacks could be one of the many momentum changers that led the Giants victory. With a fourth-and-five play at the Giants' 39 early in the fourth quarter the Packers, trailing by just seven, decided to go for it. But Rodgers couldn't escape the Boley rush, getting sacked as the Giants stopped the drive. The sack set up a 10-play drive by the Giants that ended with a field goal and a 23-13 lead.
The Game Falls
|Bill Leavy. (AP)|
* Bill Leavy: We'll have a little fun here as there really wasn't any member of the Giants, save for maybe Lawrence Tynes, that deserved a "game fall." So, we'll go to the one group on the field that had an absolutely horrible game - the officials. The calls made by the crew in this Giants-Packer game were embarrassingly bad. There was a fumble call on Greg Jennings that was overturned on the field and then upheld after head official Bill Leavy reviewed it on replay. The only problem was Jennings clearly lost control of the ball before hitting the ground. It should have been Giants football. But somehow Leavy saw it differently. The Packers scored a touchdown on the drive. There was also a helmet-to-helmet penalty called on Umenyiora for his hit on Rodgers. Again, the only problem was Umenyiora didn't hit Rodgers in the head. On top of that, he wasn't even late with the hit. Of course, that could be just a case of overreacting in an effort to protect the quarterback. Only the Packers didn't get called for a clear late-hit on Manning in the game. On that Manning hit and the fumble by Jennings, FOX analyst and former official Mike Pereira said the calls made on the field were incorrect. The officiating was enough to make any fan not in Green Bay pull for the Giants. In the end, it didn't cost the Giants the game and I'm sure Big Blue and their fans don't want to see this crew ever again.
* Discount Double Check: Thankfully, with the elimination of the Packers from the playoffs, we hopefully won't have to be subjugating to the awful State Farm commercials featuring Rodgers, B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews. The original may have been interesting, but the following two killed the entire spot. If we're lucky, the Giants not only killed off the Packers, but there appearance in this commercial as well.