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Sunday, December 4, 2011
Halftime thoughts: Giants have a chance

By Dan Graziano

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- You could look at this two ways. You could say the New York Giants are only down by four points at the half to the 11-0 Super Bowl champions Green Bay Packers and therefore have a chance to win it. Or you could say that things have gone about as well as they possibly could have gone for the Giants so far and they're still losing. But you guys know me. I'm an optimist. I'm looking at it the first way.

The first drive of the game, when they went to Ahmad Bradshaw twice and then downfield to Travis Beckum for that dazzling catch-and-run for the long touchdown, showed that the Giants have what it takes to hang with the Packers offensively. Everybody laughed when I wrote last week that the Giants have enough in the passing game to outscore Green Bay, but it's true. The Packers came into this game ranked third in the league in pass yards per game, and the Giants were fourth. That's not a mismatch, and with the Packers' defense banged up, there will be and have been plenty of opportunities for Eli Manning down the field.

They key is to avoid turnovers, since that's the food that sustains the Packer defense. Manning made a poor decision on the early second-quarter interception that Clay Matthews returned for a touchdown. You just can't allow the Packers to put points on the board while Aaron Rodgers is on the sideline. The second turnover wasn't really Manning's fault, as the pass protection broke down and Matthews walloped him from behind to force a fumble. And it didn't end up costing anything (except a chance to score more points) because the Packers missed the field goal with time running out in the first half.

But the offensive line remains a concern. It has been a major weakness all season for the Giants, and now it is very banged up. With left tackle Will Beatty already out indefinitely and David Diehl having moved from guard to tackle to replace him, center David Baas was a late scratch due to headaches. So Kevin Boothe moved from left guard to center and Mitch Petrus started at left guard. While the line has blocked surprisingly well in the run game for Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, they've been a mess in pass protection, and that's likely to cost the Giants as they'll have to throw to keep up with Rodgers and the Packers.

There is a chance they'll be able to do it, though. They've already intercepted Rodgers once, and their pass rush seems re-engergized and has been delivering hits on Rodgers all game long. If those hits add up and begin to rattle Rodgers into mistakes, the Giants might be able to keep this game close.

A couple more thoughts: