|ESPN.com: NFL Playoffs 2011||[Print without images]|
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants wanted a rematch against the San Francisco 49ers the second they walked off the field at Candlestick Park with a 27-20 loss in November.
But the Giants say it really doesn't matter who is in front of them at the moment. With their confidence and swagger growing by the minute, the Giants would take on a Pro Bowl team right now and believe they would come out victorious.
"We're not going to be denied," safety Antrel Rolle said of the Giants' "swagged out" mental state of mind at the moment. "We understand what we have as a team. It's not all about talent, it's all about chemistry. We're jelling at this point."
"We wouldn't say we're unstoppable but our mindset is extreme at this point and we're not going to be denied," Rolle continued. "That's our mindset. In our minds, we can't be beat."
The Giants face the 49ers on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game riding a four-game winning streak and a tidal wave of confidence. Fresh off dismissing the defending Super Bowl champion Packers, 37-20, the Giants like their chances of going back to their first Super Bowl since the 2007 season.
"We are riding a lot of momentum, a lot of confidence," wide receiver Victor Cruz said. "We're a scary team right now because of the confidence and amount of passion we are playing with right now. At every position, not just Eli (Manning) or myself or the defense. Everyone is playing with that same confidence and intensity."
The Giants probably would have expressed the same type of confidence if they had to face the Saints. But they suffered their worst loss of the season to Drew Brees in New Orleans, 49-24, in November.
The Giants got the match up they wanted. They don't have to go through the Superdome to get to the Super Bowl and get to face a 49ers team that they feel they should have beaten the first time around. They fell 10 yards shy of scoring a late touchdown that would have sent their last meeting to overtime.
"Just how we played against New Orleans and how we played against San Fran, definitely, it works out in our favor a little bit," Cruz said when asked about facing the Niners as opposed to the Saints. "That we are able to get San Fran as opposed to New Orleans just because of how we feel about (the 49ers) and we understand that we have a good chance of winning that game. We felt like we had a chance to win. We understood that if we saw them again, it could potentially be a different outcome and we wanted that opportunity."
The Giants were a much different team when they last saw the 49ers. They were coming off the high of winning in New England and were 6-2 at the time but they lost linebacker Michael Boley in the first half to a hamstring injury and the defense fell apart without their valuable linebacker in the fourth quarter. With Boley watching on the sideline, the Giants suffered breakdowns that led to two 49ers' touchdowns in 61 seconds.
Defensive end Justin Tuck wasn't healthy at that point in the season, and the Giants secondary is much more in sync and the pass rush is considerably more formidable this time around.
The Giants forced four turnovers and held Green Bay's explosive offense in check as Aaron Rodgers' longest pass was for 21 yards. In their four consecutive wins, the Giants have collected 17 sacks and have allowed an average of just 12 points per game. They also shut down Green Bay's talented tight end Jermichael Finley, who had just four catches for 37 yards. One of the Giants' main focus points on Sunday will be containing San Francisco's tight end Vernon Davis.
"Has to be," Boley said. "He is one of the two things that keeps their team going."
That other thing is running back Frank Gore. Of course, the Giants don't want to underestimate quarterback Alex Smith either.
But they are oozing confidence because of the play of their own quarterback. Manning has engineered an offense loaded with dynamite big-play ability and connected with wide receiver Hakeem Nicks for a 66-yard touchdown and a 37-yard Hail Mary at the end of the first half against Green Bay. He also has touchdowns of 72, 74 and 99 yards in the last four games.
And it doesn't matter where the Giants play as they have embraced coach Tom Coughlin's call to be Road Warriors again like that 2007 Super Bowl team that won as the road team in the postseason.
The Giants welcome the idea of playing at an amped up Candlestick again.
"I could care less about how hostile it is," Rolle said. "When you're at home, you want to bring 'em to their feet. When you're away, you want to bring 'em to their knees."
"It doesn't matter who we play," he added. "At this point, the way we are playing ball, if we go out there and take care of things during the week, it doesn't matter who you put in front of us. You put an all-star team in front of us, we are going to go out there and be the best that we can be on that Sunday."Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com.