(Long Island, N.Y.) They say that playing on the road includes less distractions and the New York Giants can definitely write another chapter in that book. They have been the trendsetters in what seems to have become a more common occurrence of late, where just qualifying for the playoffs is enough of a boost to make it far.
Without even looking back to earlier seasons, the current Giants have ousted the one and two seeds in the National Football Conference and now can take care of the top team in the American Football Conference. So the mid-season slump that this team persevered through seems like an eternity ago.
Although Lambeau Field is certainly a tougher place to go into than Candlestick Park, both teams dominated the conference (and league) throughout the regular season and were favorites against Big Blue. But the underdog role is something that the Giants have embraced.
“Guys never quit; they never had any doubt,” Eli Manning said. “They keep believing and fighting to the very end no matter what the circumstances are. When we play our best ball and we win games it’s because offense, defense (and) special teams are all playing smart football, supporting each other and finding ways to win.”
While the G-Men outplayed the Packers in the NFC Divisional Round, this game versus the 49ers was a dogfight from start to finish. Both teams seemed to be trading punts throughout the majority of the contest, but that was because the defenses were playing extremely effectively. Niners tight end Vernon Davis caught two touchdown passes from quarterback Alex Smith but the Giants defense held tight other than those two big plays.
Manning was standing tall even though he was taking hit after hit. His two touchdown passes answered Smith’s and the Giants’ game plan was to move the ball through the air rather than on the ground. Tom Coughlin knew that his quarterback would be able to handle everything that came with that.
“They (the 49ers) have a tremendous pass rush,” the Giants head coach said. “We didn’t have a lot of run; there wasn’t much variety in what we were doing. Our screens didn’t seem to work very well either, but Eli just hung in there and made plays when we needed him to make them. He displayed the kind of leadership he displayed all year.”
The 23-20 overtime victory on Sunday may not have been as much of a shock than the win in Green Bay a week earlier, but is still huge considering what was on the table. But the unflappable Manning looked at ease as if it were a preseason game and now has an opportunity to earn a second championship. That will put him in the conversation of some of the top quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era and give him one more ring than his brother Peyton.
And the big game coming up will be held in Indianapolis, the same place that the aforementioned older Manning sibling plies his trade. Surely more of a road game to the Giants than the Pats, with it being an AFC stadium.
And that’s just fine to these Giants.