The New York Giants did not look like the team with the least number of regular season wins of the NFC playoff teams this weekend, as they completely dominated a very good, very complete Atlanta Falcons football team in MetLife stadium on Sunday afternoon. The New York defense was relentless, shutting down an explosive Falcons offense for 60 minutes, and the Giants offense took over in the second half as Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks, and Mario Manningham dismantled the Atlanta secondary.
The Giants played a very complete game, led by an outstanding performance from the defensive line particularly from the tackles inside, and another brilliant performance by Eli Manning and this Giants passing attack.
KEY TO VICTORY – Dominant run defense
What an outstanding job by the Giants defensive tackles in this game. Chris Canty led the way with a physical, active game but we also saw some great play from Linval Joseph and Rocky Bernard inside, as Joseph played with great leverage and was key on the Giants fourth down stops with his ability to push offensive linemen back into Matt Ryan. Jason Pierre-Paul was very impressive against the run as well, doing a fantastic job of taking away the edge with his strength and athleticism to keep Turner from getting to the outside with a head of steam.
We talked about it in the game preview on Saturday – the one thing the Giants had to do above all in this game defensively was to contain Michael Turner to walk out with a win. They did more than that, really shutting Turner down and holding him to less than three yards a carry, allowing them to put the Falcons offense right where they want them – in passing situations where the defensive front was able to do what they do best and in turn control the football game.
- There’s only one word to describe the throws Eli Manning made in this football game: filthy. A lot of attention was paid to the beautiful touch pass over the top to Mario Manningham on the 27 yard touchdown connection and rightfully so, but how about the absolute strike he threw on 3rd and 8 to Nicks in the third quarter to keep the drive alive. Manning also made an incredible play on another third down to dodge pass rushers with his movement in the pocket, and find Victor Cruz for 22 yards. Unbelievable game from a guy who’s been playing as well as anybody in football in big games and big game situations this season.
- Once again, we can’t credit the play of this Giants defensive line enough – but this time, it starts with their run defense which was just dominant on the afternoon, as the Giants combined their strength and athleticism with great discipline up front to really make it difficult for Atlanta to get any consistent positive yardage on the ground. One of the most impressive things about the young Jason Pierre-Paul is just how complete a defensive end he has become and he sure was a force in his first playoff game. Excellent job from the interior where all three defensive tackles really contributed to a very strong effort against the ground game.
- The Giants secondary really did a great job against one of the best receiving groups in the National Football League. Webster did a great job on Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez was kept very quiet, but the guy I want to talk about is veteran Deon Grant – who after taking a lot of heat for his play during the middle weeks of the season, has brought a ton of physicality and attitude to into the past few games. It seems like the defensive struggles earlier in the season have really
- These Giants receivers are more than a handful. Nicks, Cruz, Manningham – as a defense you pick who you want to take away, and the others will show you exactly what they’re capable of doing. Nicks was a force in this game, taking a third down underneath route 72 yards through the Falcons secondary for the touchdown that really buried this Falcons team, as it put the Giants ahead 17-2 going into the fourth quarter. Nicks was also outstanding in his blocking on the outsides, playing a big role in the big runs you saw from Bradshaw and Jacobs on Sunday. And if Manningham continues to get healthy and can do the things we saw him do late in this football game… well, look out.
- The Giants running backs both were on top of their game on Sunday and you saw the result, as they wore down this Falcons defense over the course of the game with tough, bruising running and they did a great job with blitz pickup as well – as Ahmad’s Bradshaw’s block allowed a clean connection between Manning and Nicks in the third quarter that went for a 72 yard score. Jacobs really got a sputtering Giants offense going with his 34 yard gallop in the second quarter. If these two continue to play at the level they did in this game (against a very good run defense at that), the Giants are going to be next to impossible to contain offensively.
- Great to see Antrel Rolle getting going these last few weeks. Again he’s been forced to play a lot of different positions in a lot of different situations this season and continues to respond well. Great job in coverage duty from Rolle as you often saw him line up at nickel corner in this football game, with very few throws coming his way. Active game against the run as well, and we even saw some vintage Rolle as he got some pressure in Matt Ryan’s face on a blitz off the edge.
- How about the energy and experience Chase Blackburn has brought to this Giants defensive front seven? Excellent job in short yardage of keeping discipline and plugging up the holes and finishing his tackles. Blackburn is playing some of the best football we’ve seen in his Giants career and he couldn’t pick a better time to do it.
- Outside of Lawrence Tynes’ late missed field goal, another strong all around performance from Giants special teams in this game, coverage teams were very solid, and Weatherford had another strong game at punter. The improvement of this unit since last season has been somewhat overlooked this season, but they’ve played a big role in keeping a lot of games under control in the field position game until the Giants were able to break out offensively. This was another one of those games.
- Far too many costly penalties for the Giants in this game, particularly along the offensive line that negated substantial yardage gains.
- The Giants offensive tackles picked up their play as this game went on, but David Diehl and particularly Kareem McKenzie had some struggles keeping Eli Manning protected in the first half of this game. The Packers have some more dangerous pass rushers and playmakers so Tom Coughlin will certainly like to see a higher level of play from his guys on the outside going forward.
PLAYER OF THE GAME – WR Hakeem Nicks
In his first NFL playoff game, Hakeem Nicks had one of his best performances of the season for the Giants, taking a six yard pass for 72 yards and the touchdown late in the third quarter to break the game open, making it 17-2 and really putting a dagger in the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons chose to pay some extra attention to Victor Cruz in this game, and Hakeem Nicks chose to remind them that he was one of the 7 or 8 best all-around receivers in the National Football League.
OVERALL PERFORMANCE GRADE
This Giants defense has been exhilarating to watch over the past few weeks as the pass rush is flying around, defensive backs are playing aggressive and physical football, and the Giants linebacker group, led by Mathias Kiwanuka, has been playing at a very high level against the run. Excellent job of shutting down Michael Turner, which allowed them to tee off on Matt Ryan in the second half of this game.
The offense sputtered in the first half and didn’t play its best game, but Eli Manning took over the second half along with Hakeem Nicks who really came out and played one heck of a football game. Giants fans have a lot to be excited about with this Giants group of receivers.
The most encouraging sign may be the way the running game picked up throughout this game against one of the league’s best run defenses, finishing with 172 yards on 31 carries.
Very impressive opening game for the G-Men in this postseason.
- Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride has been a target of criticism throughout his time with the New York Giants, but he really deserves a lot of credit for what this offense has been able to do over the course of the season. He did a great job of committing to the running game and keeping this Atlanta defense honest – as their approach defensively was to send extra rushers at Eli Manning and attempt to take him out of his comfort zone early. While the running game didn’t see much success early, Gilbride kept mixing it up, and the Falcons struggled to continue to contain the Giants explosive passing attack while keeping focus on the New York running game.
- The one thing that seems to be happening throughout this Giants team is a real growth in confidence level. And come playoff time, when every game, every quarter, and every snap is critical – confidence can go a very long way. With a dominant performance against such a good football team in the Atlanta Falcons, the Giants have a lot of reasons to believe in themselves and what they are capable of.
- Be sure to "like" Giants 101 on Facebook and to follow Giants 101 on Twitter
- Meet Victor Cruz at the Poughkeepsie Galleria on January 17th
- Get your tickets to meet Brandon Jacobs at "The Man Show" January 29th
- Text "oneteam" to 20222 to donate $10 to the One Team for the Lights charity initiative.