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Sunday, January 15, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Giants 37, Packers 20

By Dan Graziano

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' 37-20 playoff victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

What it means: Well, it means the Giants are one game away from the Super Bowl. The defeated the 15-1 Packers on the Packers' home field and now get a chance to avenge another of their regular-season losses next week in San Francisco. It also seems to give credence to the theory that playing at playoff-level intensity in the weeks leading up to the playoffs can give a team an advantage.

Who are these guys?: These are not the same Giants that were losing four straight games to fall to .500 and into second place a little more than a month ago. We knew they were tough, and that Eli Manning was a fourth-quarter assassin. But during those tough November/December days, it did not appear as though the Giants had the manpower to win these kinds of games against these kinds of teams. They are healthier now, and they look as focused, driven and confident as any team left in the field. And they are a legitimate threat to bring home the fourth Super Bowl trophy in franchise history.

Discipline deep: The Giants looked lost in coverage in the first quarter, as they did for most of the season. But they tightened up in the second and made plays in the secondary all day when it counted. Green Bay helped out by dropping its share of passes, but Antrel Rolle led the way for a clearly fired-up Giants secondary, and for maybe the first time all year it looked as though the front four was feeding off what the guys on the back end were doing. Michael Boley got two sacks from the linebacker position as the Giants tried everything they could to get Aaron Rodgers to stop beating them with his legs. Most importantly, the Giants stayed disciplined in the secondary, so that even when they didn't break up the pass, there was a safety and/or a cornerback there to keep the gain from turning into a big, backbreaking one. It wasn't always pretty, but they did an excellent job of keeping the Packers' explosive offense in front of them, and they benefited as a result.

Winning the turnover battle: The Packers are plus-23 in the turnover category during the regular season. But the Kansas City Chiefs -- until Sunday, the only team to have beaten them -- didn't turn the ball over at all against them. And the Giants had a 3-1 turnover edge in Sunday's game. Manning threw an interception, but the Giants recovered three Green Bay fumbles to seize the edge in a category that routinely decides games in the NFL.

Who's No. 1?: Victor Cruz has been the headline-grabber in New York this year, and for good reason. But Hakeem Nicks showed everybody he's still the best wide receiver the Giants have. Nicks turned in the long catch-and-run that's becoming a Giants' staple -- a 66-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. He caught the Manning Hail Mary in the end zone that gave the Giants a shocking 20-10 halftime lead. He finished with seven catches for 165 yards and made the biggest plays of the day.

Big plays at the right time: The Giants were 8-for-15 on third-down conversions for the game. The Packers were 6-for-11, which might have been the story if the game had swung the other way. But on this day, the Giants had the better offense.

What's next: The Giants will travel to San Francisco, where they will play the 49ers in the NFC Championship game at 6:30 pm ET. The winner of that game will advance to Super Bowl XLVI two weeks later in Indianapolis.