Packers, Giants know the score after initial meeting
By Gary Mihoces, USA Today
~In early December, the Green Bay Packers were perfect and the New York Giants were anything but. Green Bay’s 38-35 victory against New York boosted the Packers to 12-0 and dropped the Giants to 6-6 with four consecutive defeats.
Wipe the slate clean for Sunday’s rematch in Green Bay in the NFC divisional playoffs. But that game told quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers of the Packers and Eli Manning of the Giants that big plays were there for the taking. Now Rodgers and Manning meet for the first time in the postseason.
“I think you have to expect (Manning) and their offense to make some plays, so you have to go in knowing that you are going to have to put up some points of your own,” Rodgers says. “You understand that Eli has played in big games before and played well, so you expect them to play their best.”
En route to a Super Bowl victory in the 2007 season, Manning led the wild-card Giants to a 23-20 overtime win against Brett Favre and the Packers in the NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field.
Rodgers now leads the 15-1 Packers, coming off a first-round playoff bye.
“He had a great season,” Manning says. “They have a good offense. That means our offense has to do our job. … We have to stay on the field as long as we can and not give them a short field to work with.”
In the Dec. 4 meeting on the Giants’ home field, Rodgers threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns with one interception that set up a New York touchdown. Manning threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns with an interception that was returned 38 yards for a touchdown by Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews III.
Rodgers drove the Packers 68 yards in the final 58 seconds for the winning field goal as time expired.
Sacked twice in that game and hurried often, Rodgers again will face a New York pass rush that racked up 48 sacks in the regular season, 16½ by end Jason Pierre-Paul— who also said this week that the Giants would win in Green Bay. That rush has been bolstered by the return from injury of end Osi Umenyiora, who missed the first meeting.
“We had a lot of respect for their defensive line when we went in there six weeks ago, and we still do,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy says.
McCarthy says his team has stuck to its preparation this week despite coping with the death of the son of Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. The body of Michael Philbin, 21, was found Monday in a Wisconsin river. In Joe Philbin’s indefinite absence, McCarthy and his assistants have divvied up his duties.
“Everybody is dealing with it very well,” McCarthy says. “Personally, I really don’t have the words for you to express emotionally how you would feel for Jim and what his family is going through.
“He would want us more than anybody to pour our hearts into this preparation.”
In the first meeting, the Packers were without inside linebackers A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop because of injuries. They’re back.
“They have lost players from time to time … and have been able to overcome that as well,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin says. “They are averaging 35 points a game, so that’s a pretty good start.”
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