Sunday, November 25, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Giants 38, Packers 10
By Dan Graziano
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' overwhelming 38-10 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night at MetLife Stadium.
What it means: The Giants' lead in the NFC East remains at two games over both the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys, which is obviously the most important thing. But if you believe in "statement" games, you have to admit the Giants made a statement with this victory. The Packers came in winners of five games in a row, re-establishing themselves as one of the NFC's best teams. The Giants had lost two straight prior to their Week 11 bye and had spent the past two weeks answering questions about their annual "November swoon" and the idea that the Redskins and Cowboys were closing in on them. A victory this convincing pushes a lot of those questions into the background for at least a week.
Making history: Former Giants quarterback Phil Simms may not consider Eli Manning one of the "elite" quarterbacks in the NFL, but Manning took something from Simms in this game. His third-quarter touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks was the 200th of his career, moving him past Simms and into first place on the all-time Giants touchdown pass list. Manning had not thrown a touchdown pass since Week 7, but he broke that drought with first-half strikes to Rueben Randle and Victor Cruz as the Giants built a 31-10 halftime lead. Interesting that Manning targeted Nicks more in this game than he targeted Cruz. Could indicate that Nicks' health has improved to the point where he'll be a larger part of the offense going forward.
Discount double-check: Pressuring Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was one of the keys to the Giants' playoff victory in Green Bay in January, and the Giants were able to do it again Sunday. They sacked Rodgers three times in the first half and five times in the game, and other than the first-quarter touchdown bomb to Jordy Nelson that tied the score at 7-7, Rodgers couldn't find time to find his receivers down the field. It was one of the most impressive performances of the year from the Giants' defensive front, which has struggled to get consistent pressure on opposing passers for much of the season. Osi Umenyiora had a sack and forced fumble that led to a touchdown late in the first half, Mathias Kiwanuka had two sacks and middle linebacker Chase Blackburn picked up a sack of his own and was a key part of the pressure packages.
Flip side: New York's offensive line had a big game too, opening holes for Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown in the run game more reliably than they had at any point this season. The backs found particular success on the left side of the line, where Will Beatty has been playing very well at tackle and Kevin Boothe appeared to have a very good game at guard.
New kid: Randle's touchdown catch was the first of his career, and while he struggled with a couple of muffs on punt returns in the second half, he does appear to be getting more and more looks on offense as the season goes along. The Giants' second-round pick this year out of LSU, Randle can play on the outside and allow Cruz to work in the slot, where he is at his best.
But he just got back: Safety Kenny Phillips was active for the first time since Week 4, and his impact was obvious on both the run defense and the pass defense. But he left the game in the third quarter with an injury to the same right knee that had kept him out of the previous six games. If Phillips has to miss significant time again, the Giants' defense would surely suffer for his absence. ... Andre Brown also left the game in the fourth quarter with what the team described only as a "lower leg injury."
What's next: The Giants will travel to Landover, Md. next week to play the Washington Redskins on "Monday Night Football." The Redskins are 5-6, two games behind the Giants in the NFC East with five games to play. They lost a heartbreaker to the Giants at MetLife Stadium in Week 7 when Manning hit Cruz for a 77-yard touchdown pass in the final two minutes.