WRITTEN BY DAVID MENZE
It was a stellar game for Eli Manning and co. as the New York Giants crushed the Atlanta Falcons 24-2 on Sunday as Manning won his first ever home playoff game.
The game started off with both team’s defenses showing their tenacity as the first four possessions (2 for New York and 2 for Atlanta) of the game netted only 16 total yards while all four drives ended with a punt.
Atlanta got the ball moving on their third possession of the game as the Falcons drove down the field into Giants territory on a 14-play 68-yard drive that ended with a Falcon turnover after Atlanta elected not to kick a 41-yard field-goal but instead risk going for it on fourth down, needing just one-yard.
Ryan tried a quarterback sneak up the middle but was halted by ex-teammate, Giants linebacker, Michael Boley.
After forcing the turnover on downs, New York failed to capitalize on their defense stand when quarterback Eli Manning was penalized for intentional grounding, resulting in a Giant safety and two points for the Falcons.
The next series for New York was much better as Manning and company milked a seven minute, 85-yard drive that took 13 plays and was capped off by a four-yard touchdown pass from Manning to wide receiver Hakeem Nicks.
Atlanta got the ball back two more times after New York’s score but the Falcons couldn’t manage to score any more points of their own as the first half ended with the Giants leading 7-2.
The second half got under way with Atlanta controlling the ball, hoping to drive down field and put some points on the board but the Falcons had another ineffective series once again as they were forced to punt.
New York took over on their own 24-yard line and marched down field with ease on a balanced attack of run and pass plays that resulted in a 22-yard field goal by kicker Lawernce Tynes.
Before the field goal, the Giants were faced with a crucial third-down and needed to get 12-yards when Manning completed a 22-yard pass to star receiver Victor Cruz that helped keep New York’s drive alive.
The very next play later running back Ahmad Bradshaw took a carry to the right side and busted out for a huge 30-yard gain.
Despite the commanding drive from the Giants, Atlanta was able to hold New York to just a field-goal, increasing the Giants lead 10-2.
Down by eight points, mid-way through the third-quarter, Atlanta took their possession needing a score to try and cut the Giants lead in any hopes of making a comeback.
Too bad Atlanta like to shoot themselves in the foot.
The Falcons had an eight-play 58-yard drive working for them before they were faced with another crucial fourth down with inches to go.
Some may think that after Falcon Head Coach Mike Smith’s last decision to go for it on fourth down backfired, it would make this decision to kick the field-goal and score some points a no-brainer.
However, Smith didn’t seem to think that way.
Atlanta lined up, bruising running back Michael Turner nowhere to be found, and tried for another quarterback sneak.
Falcons got stuffed by the punishing New York defense and once again threw away an opportunity to score points.
New York reclaimed control and capitalized just three plays later on a 72-yard score from Manning to Nicks, extending their lead 17-2.
It got even worse for Atlanta after they were forced to punt on their next possession and watch Manning and company storm down the field yet again for another score – this time a methodical 10-play, 85-yard drive that put New York up 24-2 early in the fourth quarter.
The Giants drive was capped off with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Manning to third wide receiver Mario Manningham.
With time winding down in the fourth, Atlanta needed some type of score so they could at least walk out of MetLife Stadium with their heads held high.
That didn’t happen.
Falcons got the ball after Manning’s third touchdown pass of the day but couldn’t manage to gain a single yard due to the stingy Giant defense and were forced to punt the ball for the seventh time in the game.
The only miscue New York had all game was a missed 32-yard field goal by Tynes late in the fourth quarter – maybe the Giant kicker felt bad for the underachieving Falcons who only scored two points in 60 minutes of play.
Manning had a great game for New York as he completed 23 of 32 pass attempts for 277 yards with three touchdowns.
Nicks was the biggest beneficiary of Manning’s touchdown passes as the North Carolina Tar Heel product racked up 115-yards through the air on just six receptions with two touchdowns.
The two-headed rushing attack of Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs combined for 155-yards on just 28 carries.
Falcon’s running back Michael Turner on the other hand had a miserable 41-yards rushing on 15 carries.
Coming into the game the Falcon’s Coach said we should expect a heavy workload from Turner because Atlanta was 9-1 on the year when the running back had at least 19 carries in a game.
That plan, like most of the others the Falcons had organized, failed tragically.
Ryan, Smith, and the rest of the Falcons get bounced in their first game of the playoffs for the third consecutive time.
New York meanwhile, advances on to the next round where they will head to Lambeau Field and battle the defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers next Sunday at 4:30pm.