Commentary

Giants mentally ready to face Packers

With Big Blue rolling and having won at Lambeau Field before, confidence is high

Updated: January 11, 2012, 3:46 PM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

The Green Bay Packers have beaten the New York Giants twice since December of 2010.

And the last time the Giants were in Aaron Rodgers' house in a game that both the Packers and Giants desperately needed to win, Tom Coughlin's team was whipped 45-17 last season in a game that ignited the Packers' Super Bowl run.

So it would be easy to assume that the defending champs and 15-1 Packers would own the mental edge over the Giants entering this Sunday's playoff rematch.

"I don't know if they have that much mental edge," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. "Time will tell. We know what it takes to go up there and win and obviously they know what it takes to win there too."

There have been plenty of comparisons between this surging Giants squad and the one that won Super Bowl XLII.

One thing the Giants hope to mimic from that postseason run was that championship team's ability to win on the road and win at Lambeau despite bone-chilling conditions when the Giants beat the Packers, 23-20 in overtime, to win the NFC championship.

That team relished playing in enemy territory with an entire stadium rooting against it. Tuck wants to see whether this Giants team can duplicate the road warrior mentality of the 2007 team.

"It will be intriguing to see how we come out and play again," Tuck said. "The last couple of games have been at home in the friendly confines of MetLife Stadium. And we have played well here.

"Now we can channel some of our recent history of road warriors going back to Lambeau Field, and picking up that one thing I would like to pick up from '07 is that road warrior mentality," Tuck continued. "Going up against a team on the road, it seemed like we didn't miss a beat. So hopefully that can be the same for this year too."

That Giants team began to believe what it was capable of after narrowly losing to a then undefeated New England team, 38-35, at home. The Giants then won at Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay before avenging their loss to the Patriots in that memorable Super Bowl.

This season's team saw that it was able to hang with any team after losing to a then undefeated Green Bay, 38-35, at home on Dec. 4. The Giants have won four of five since and their confidence is swelling although the last three victories have all come at MetLife Stadium.

Tuck believes this team has the potential to be better than the 2007 team because Eli Manning is playing the best football of his career and his offensive weapons are more dangerous. As good as Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer were, the Giants have big-play threats in Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham.

Defensively, the Giants' pass rush is starting to resemble the Michael Strahan-led 2007 front four. Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul are healthy and Chris Canty, Linval Joseph and Rocky Bernard were forces in the middle against Atlanta.

The Giants have a total of 13 sacks in the last three games and have been stuffing the run.

"I am enjoying this group and I am enjoying those similarities," Coughlin said of the comparisons to the 2007 team. "There are some and if we can get on a roll and play our best football right now, then yes. We have demonstrated that to a certain extent but I will say this, we are playing a little more like Giant football right now."

There are currently 18 players -- including Domenik Hixon, who is on injured reserve, Mathias Kiwanuka, who was on IR in 2007, and D.J. Ware, who was inactive during that postseason run -- who were on the team during that Super Bowl run.

Veterans like Manning, Tuck, Umenyiora and Chris Snee will try to prepare the younger players on this roster for what they will experience in Lambeau on Sunday.

It won't be minus-23 with wind chill this weekend in Green Bay, but many Giants like Pierre-Paul, Cruz, Nicks and Joseph have never experienced an environment like Lambeau in January.

But those Giants go in knowing that teammates like cornerback Corey Webster and kicker Lawrence Tynes made some of the biggest plays in franchise history in Lambeau to send the Giants to the Super Bowl.

Tuck remembers that game like it was last Sunday. He practically shivers when thinking about the coldest game in Giants history.

"Cold, I remember that," Tuck recalled. "Coach Coughlin's face. I remember David Diehl's sweat had froze on his hair, so he had icicles on his hair. What else? I remember us winning and that's the most important thing. Hopefully we can go back there and do it again."

Tuck admits that the past might "help us not one iota come Sunday" and it likely won't help in trying to stop Rodgers, who likely will not throw a costly interception like an aging Brett Favre did against the Giants in that NFC Championship Game.

But the Giants enter this game with the type of confidence they had during their 2007 Super Bowl run. And confidence sometimes means everything to a Giants team that can win in New England yet get swept by the Redskins.

"We're a better team," safety Antrel Rolle said when asked how different the Giants are now compared with back when they lost to the Packers on Dec. 4. "We're a more confident team. And I think we're mentally tougher, which says a lot." "This game is more mental than physical," Rolle added. "Everyone has the physical ability but once you have that mental aspect, that's when things go great."

And part of that mental edge will be the knowledge that the Giants can beat the Packers and that Lambeau mystique in the playoffs.

Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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