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Sunday, December 16, 2012
Halftime: Falcons 17, Giants 0

By Matt Winkeljohn | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

ATLANTA -- There wasn't much positive to take out of the first half of the Giants' game in the Georgia Dome, where the Falcons rolled to a 17-0 lead by intermission with big-time assistance coming in the form of two interceptions of Eli Manning.

The game is important to each team for different reasons. The Giants (8-5) are fighting for their playoff lives while the Falcons (11-2) want to prove that last Sunday's loss to the Panthers was an aberration.

The Giants will enter the second half hoping the first was an aberration.

Eli wasn't right: Manning's first pass was intercepted when Atlanta cornerback Asante Samuel stepped in front of a throww intended for Hakeem Nicks. That set up the Falcons' first touchdown. Manning's second pass was tipped at the line, but Victor Cruz caught it for a short gain. His third pass sailed way over Cruz's head.

In the second quarter, Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud stepped in front of another pass intended for Nicks and picked that one off. That led to a 17-0 Atlanta lead. Manning cranked it up a bit later in the second quarter, but not enough to score.

Field position has been brutal. Matt Bosher's first kick was 6 yards deep in the end zone, and Giants rookie David Wilson was able to return it out just to the 13-yard line. Two plays later, Manning was intercepted by Samuel to set up Falcons' first touchdown. Bosher's second, third and fourth kickoffs were touchbacks.

Meanwhile, the Falcons started their first drive at New York's 16-yard-line, and their fourth drive at the Giants' 27. Those possessions -- coming after Manning's interceptions -- led to 10 points for the Birds.

The Giants' fifth and final possession of the first half began at their own 10 after a holding penalty as they were receiving a punt.

Wilson's not the problem. The absence of running back Ahmad Bradshaw hasn't had much to do with this so far. Wilson rushed six times for 47 yards in the first quarter, including a 25-yard jaunt. He finished the half with 46 yards on eight carries, and backup/relative newcomer Kregg Lumpkin added 42 yards on seven carries. The Giants out-rushed the Falcons 88 yards to 42 in the first half.

Wilson, however, was stuffed on fourth-and-1 at the Atlanta 32 in the middle of the second quarter.

Did head coach Tom Coughlin opt against what would have been a 49-yard field goal try because his team trailed 17-0, or because Lawrence Tynes had earlier missed a 30-yard field goal wide left? You decide.

Good time for a sack. New York mustered a total of one sack over the previous two games, and the Giants rarely got close to Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan as he completed his first eight passes.

But shortly after New York's failed fourth-down try, Chris Canty dropped Ryan to leave the Falcons with third-and-15. After a false start, Atlanta managed just a short completion and that forced a punt.

About that second fourth-down try ... Manning led the Giants 79 yards from their own 10 to the Falcons' 11 in the waning moments of the half, only to once again meet fourth-and-2. After a timeout, Coughlin opted against a field goal try and went for it.

Again, the Giants failed as Manning threw on the run to Cruz only to have Samuel arrive at the same time. The ball fell incomplete, and the Falcons then ran out the clock to end the half.

Actually, Giants fans probably thought Samuel arrived a moment before the ball. Close call.