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SUNDAY, LAMBEAU FIELD
THE GIANTS were a desperate team after they were beaten by the Packers 35--13 in September. They were 0--2, and their defense had cost them both games. Their coach, Tom Coughlin, wasn't expected to finish the season. They seemed lost.
How things change. New York's defense rose up and overran the Cowboys in Dallas on Sunday, and now the Giants are in the NFC title game against those same Packers. Coughlin is the toast of New York, and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is on head-coach interview lists around the league. All because the Giants' rush kicked in at the end of the Dallas game, and Tony Romo found himself inside a box from which there was no escape.
Bill Walsh once said, "A late pass rush is the key to NFL football." Well, if the Giants want to have a chance against the Pack, they'd better come up with some exotic ways to get to Brett Favre. The problem is that Green Bay, which was a pass-only team in September, has since balanced its attack nicely. And if Favre feels too much heat, he can always throw short, on rhythm. He didn't last 17 years in the NFL by standing tall and challenging the rush.
Frigid weather is predicted, and a frozen field would be a problem for the Giants. A slippery Lambeau blunted the Seahawks' rush last Saturday, but it helped Green Bay's impressive ground game. Ryan Grant (above, 25) is a skilled cutback runner, and he got a lot of yardage by stretching the front side and cutting back weak. The defense was slow to react. "The weather is the same for both teams," Coughlin says, which is like watching a guy fighting a shark and saying, "Well, it's wet for both of them."
I like the
Giants' offense. I like the running back tandem of Brandon Jacobs and
especially Ahmad Bradshaw. The New York secondary is banged up, but it's better
off with Corey Webster taking over for Sam Madison at one corner. I'm sure the
Packers will attack that unit with multiple wideouts and fill the air with
passes. The Giants will make it close, before bowing to superior firepower.