Falcons 2

(10-6, 4-4 away)

Giants 24

(9-7, 4-4 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, January 8, 2012

MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ 

1 2 3 4 T
ATL 0 2 0 02
NYG 0 7 10 724

Top Performers

Passing: E. Manning (NYG) - 277 YDS, 3 TD

Rushing: B. Jacobs (NYG) - 14 CAR, 92 YDS

Receiving: H. Nicks (NYG) - 6 REC, 115 YDS, 2 TD

Eli Manning shreds Falcons, powers Giants to rematch with Packers

Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- All the missing pieces -- defense and a running game -- are aligning at the right time for Eli Manning and the New York Giants. And just in time to play the Packers.

After routing the Atlanta Falcons 24-2 Sunday in the NFC wild-card game, the Giants head to Green Bay next weekend, a place where they will need all the help they can muster.

Manning carried the Giants (10-7) for much of the season, hoping the defense would get stingy, the pass rush would materialize and the running game would get on track. Now, all of that is happening.

"A great mix of run and pass and these guys have a great understanding of what our offense is," Manning said of the help he's receiving. "If we can get that run game going like we did in the second half, that opens up a lot of windows."

And if the defense remains impenetrable, watch out.

"If we can play defense like that, we will continue to make ourselves heard in this tournament," coach Tom Coughlin said.

Manning punctuated his best pro season by throwing for three touchdowns and scrambling for a 14-yard gain that woke up New York's offense in its first postseason victory since its Super Bowl upset of undefeated New England four years ago. Next up is as big a challenge: the defending champion Packers (15-1), who won here 38-35 in December.

"We know they are a good team," Manning said. "We played them tough here, did some good things here, we scored some points. We know offensively we are going to have to play strong, score some points."

The team that couldn't run the ball will be sprinting there, bringing along a defense the Packers actually might fear. Not to mention the passing offense led by Manning, who hooked up on a 72-yard catch and run by Hakeem Nicks in the third quarter that put away the inept Falcons (10-7). Manning also connected on a 4-yard TD with Nicks in the second period, and a 27-yard TD throw to Mario Manningham in the fourth quarter that finished it off.

The Giants' last postseason trip to frigid Lambeau Field was a 23-20 overtime victory for the NFC championship two weeks before they upset the Patriots.

"Cold, I remember that. I remember coach Coughlin's face. I remember (tackle) David Diehl sweating and it froze on his hair and he had icicles on his hair," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "And I remember us winning.

"Hopefully, we can go back there and do it again."

The tempo in the first playoff game at MetLife Stadium was set by New York's defense, which never allowed Atlanta to get going, and by the league's lowest-ranked rushing game, which ran for a season-high 172 yards, 92 by Brandon Jacobs and 63 by Ahmad Bradshaw. The Giants averaged 5.5 yards a carry, 2 yards more than in the regular season.

For all of Jacobs' and Bradshaw's success, it was Manning's escape and 14-yard dash on third down in the second period that got the Giants rolling. Jacobs soon broke a 34-yard run, and Manning hit Nicks on a post pattern to put the Giants up 7-2.

"I don't think anyone is game-planning for me to run the ball," Manning said, "but obviously there were a couple of situations where you have to do it. I am not scared of running to get a few yards."

The Giants never really had to look back as the Falcons bumbled their way to their third straight playoff loss under coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan.

"They did a great job of defending us, especially in the second half," veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez said. "That shouldn't happen to a team like we have. We're a lot better than this."

New York was aided greatly by Atlanta's penchant for gambling on fourth downs -- and failing. Twice the Giants stymied the Falcons on fourth-and-1 as Ryan's sneaks went nowhere. The defense also stopped Michael Turner, supposedly the most effective runner on the field, on a third-and-inches late in the third period.

"That really inspired everybody, to be honest with you," Coughlin said. "Those plays that our defense made really inspired everybody.

Atlanta missed on a fourth-down try in overtime that cost the Falcons a game against New Orleans during the season. While they negated New York's recently revitalized pass rush for much of the day, the Falcons couldn't gain any traction on the ground, being held to 64 yards rushing.

"Our defense played great, kept us in the lead," Manning said.

Other than some sporadic movement, Atlanta's offense was incompetent -- particularly in short yardage.

"It's less than a yard, less than half of a yard. It's a play we go through all the time," Smith said. "I felt it was the right play both times, but we didn't execute. We should be able to move the ball there."

Both offenses sputtered in the first half with an assortment of penalties, drops and poor throws.

When the Falcons wheeled out the no-huddle offense, though, they marched from their 10 to a fourth-and 1 at the New York 24. On the first play of the second quarter, Ryan was stacked up on his sneak.

But it turned out positively for the Falcons anyway.

Giants guard Chris Snee was called for holding, and, from his 13, Manning was pressured back into the end zone by James Sanders. He threw the ball away to avoid the sack, resulting in a safety.

New York had its own fourth-and-inches run on its first touchdown drive. Jacobs ran over safety Thomas DeCoud on the play from the Atlanta 6.

Nicks caught his post pattern over Dominique Franks, the fill-in for injured cornerback Brent Grimes, to make it 7-2.

Game notes

The Giants' most recent home playoff victory was a 41-0 rout of Minnesota for the 2000 NFC title. ... Atlanta's last playoff win was in 2005 over St. Louis when Michael Vick still was the Falcons' quarterback. ... Ryan was 24 for 41 for 199 yards and was sacked twice. .. There were no turnovers in the game. ... Giants CB Aaron Ross and RB D.J. Ware left with concussions. ... Gonzalez is 0-5 in playoff games in his 15-year career.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

1st Downs1419
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
Total Plays6464
Total Yards247442
Yards per play3.96.9
Total Drives1111
Yards per pass
Interceptions thrown
Sacks-Yards Lost
Rushing Attempts
Yards per rush
Red Zone (Made-Att)0-11-3
Fumbles lost
Interceptions thrown
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00

Passing Leaders


Rushing Leaders


Receiving Leaders


Scoring Summary

atlSF13:50Penalty on Eli Manning, Intentional Grounding In Own End Zone
Drive info: 2 plays, -24 yds, 1:10
nygTD2:55Hakeem Nicks 4 Yard Pass From Eli Manning (Lawrence Tynes Kick is Good)
Drive info: 13 plays, 85 yds, 7:32
nygFG7:55Lawrence Tynes 22 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 11 plays, 72 yds, 4:47
nygTD2:58Hakeem Nicks 72 Yard Pass From Eli Manning (Lawrence Tynes Kick is Good)
Drive info: 3 plays, 79 yds, 1:32
nygTD10:04Mario Manningham 27 Yard Pass From Eli Manning (Lawrence Tynes Kick is Good)
Drive info: 10 plays, 85 yds, 5:38

Research Notes

This is the first time in Falcons franchise history they have scored exactly 2 points (regular season and playoffs).
Eli Manning now has 11 career postseason TD passes, surpassing Phil Simms for the most in Giants history.
The 72-yard reception by Hakeem Nicks from Eli Manning matches the longest pass TD in Giants postseason history. In the 1981 Divisional Playoffs, Scott Brunner threw a 72-yard pass TD to Earnest Gray vs 49ers.

RyanMatt Ryan can't seem to figure out playoff football. Ryan again struggled in a postseason game, going 9 for 21 on throws of more than five yards downfield against the Giants.

Brandon Jacobs finished with 47 rush yards after contact and Ahmad Bradshaw finished with 43. The 90 combined yards after contact were most for the duo in a game all season. Jacobs also set his single-game high for the season, besting his previous high of 41 (Week 14).
Eli Manning completed seven of nine passes against five or more pass rushers on Sunday, including four of his five attempts to Hakeem Nicks for 98 yards and two touchdowns. The only incompletion against five or more pass rushers that targeted Nicks was a pass Manning threw off the back of center David Baas' head. During the season, Nicks was the most-targeted player in the league when his quarterback was facing five or more pass rushers (64 targets).
Matt Ryan was 0-2 converting first downs on quarterback sneaks Sunday, both coming on fourth down. The first failure helped push the Giants into a safety, but the second led to Hakeem Nicks' 72-yard touchdown grab. On designed quarterback rushes needing 1 yard on third or fourth down this regular season, a first down was picked up 80.9 percent of the time, including Ryan going 3-4. The Giants allowed 5 of 8 such rushes (62.5 percent) to be converted for firsts, sixth-best in the NFL.
The Giants defense didn't give the Falcons running game 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, who allowed 75.4 such yards per game.

ManningEli Manning completed 14 of his 21 attempts inside the numbers for 206 yards and three touchdowns Sunday. It was the first time all season he threw multiple touchdowns over the middle in one game.

The safety allowed by the Giants is the second postseason safety allowed by the Giants since the merger. The other was in Super Bowl XXV by Bruce Smith of the Bills (1990 season).
Entering Sunday, Eli Manning had been flagged for intentional grounding 11 times in his career (since 2004). Only Matt Hasselbeck (12) had more during that span.
Falcons scoreless in 1st quarter. The Falcons ranked 2nd in the NFL in 1st quarter points (120) behind the Packers (132). Only twice this season did Atlanta fail to score in the first quarter. They lost both of those games: Week 3 at Tampa Bay and Week 13 at Houston.

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