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Sunday, January 8, 2012
Giants second half surge grounds Falcons



US Presswire
Hakeem Nicks celebrates after his 72-yard touchdown catch that put the Giants up 17-2.
A defensive struggle in the first half between the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons quickly turned into a Giants rout after halftime. The Big Blue offense erupted for 17 second-half points and the defense held the Falcons scoreless in final 30 minutes en route to a 24-2 win on Wild Card Sunday.

The Giants, who were making their NFL-record 31st postseason appearance, won their first playoff game since Super Bowl XLII vs the Patriots. It was also their first postseason win at home since beating the Vikings in the 2000 NFC Conference Championship.

With the loss, the Falcons fall to 0-3 in the playoffs during the Mike Smith/Matt Ryan era (since 2008). Ryan also becomes the sixth quarterback since the merger to begin his postseason career with three straight losses, according to Elias.

Why Giants Won
For the first time this season, the Giants passing and running games both clicked on the same afternoon. The Giants rushed for a season-best 172 yards and finished with 442 yards of total offense, their third-most in playoff franchise history.

Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw punished the Falcons defense all game long, piling up 155 combined yards on 28 carries.

Jacobs finished with a season-high 47 rush yards after contact and Bradshaw finished with 43. The 90 combined yards after contact were most for the duo in a game all season.

The Giants defensive line also shined as it shut down the Falcons ground game. They didn’t give the Atlanta running backs any space, allowing just 27 of the Falcons’ 64 rushing yards to come before initial contact. That’s the fewest rush yards before contact allowed by the Giants all season.

Turning Point
Deep in his own territory and facing third down late in the third quarter, Eli Manning dumped a short pass over the middle to Hakeem Nicks.

The former Tar Heel turned it into a back-breaking 72-yard touchdown catch to put the Giants ahead 17-2. The grab matched the longest touchdown catch in Giants postseason history, originally set by Earnest Gray in the 1981 playoffs.

Why Falcons Lost
Atlanta’s offense sputtered the entire game finishing with season-lows in points (2) and total yards (247). The last time the Falcons were held to two points or fewer was a 27-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2004.

Two of the Falcons 11 drives ended with failed fourth-down conversions. The second failure led to Nicks’ 72-yard touchdown catch-and-run.

Situations like that were not kind to the Falcons during the regular season this year. Only the Rams had a worse conversion rate on third- or fourth-and-one attempts than the Falcons this year.

Stat of the Game
The Falcons are the first team in NFL history to finish a playoff game with exactly two points scored.

What’s Next
The Giants advance to face the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Playoff round. The Giants have a formidable task as they try to avenge a 38-35 loss to Green Bay in Week 13. The Packers were 8-0 at home this season and have a current 13-game win streak at Lambeau Field.

However, the Giants have had success recently on the road in the playoffs. They have won their last three road postseason games, including a win over the Packers in the 2007 NFC Conference Championship. That contest was coincidentally the last time the Packers hosted a playoff game.