Film critics might call it formulaic, but the Giants and their fans won't mind if this year's script feels familiar to the one they rode to a Super Bowl after the 2007 season. The New York Giants beat the Atlanta Falcons by a final score of 24-2 on the strength of a shut down defense and Eli Manning's three touchdown passes.
The Giants' defensive line has long been hailed for their ability to get to opposing quarterbacks, but their work against the run today made all the difference. They held Michael Turner to just 41 rushing yards on 15 carries, thwarting Falcons' offensive coordinator Mike Mularky's run-heavy game plan. In the secondary, New York had the Falcons receivers smothered for sixty minutes of play, rarely allowing the likes of Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez to come up with the yards needed for a first down, much less a score.
Atlanta's only points came on a first quarter safety, with a little help from Eli Manning. From there, New York rattled off 24 unanswered points. Eli Manning finished the game with 277 passing yards and three touchdowns. On the ground, big plays from the Giants' running backs kept drives alive. Ahmad Bradshaw had a 30-yard run and Brandon Jacobs had a 34-yarder on key drives. Jacobs finished the game with 92 yards on 14 carries.
This was not the outcome Atlanta envisioned when they swapped a boatload of draft picks to the Cleveland Browns in order to move up and draft Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. Jones led the team with seven catches for 64 yards, but could never get past the corners and safeties when he needed to. Matt Ryan struggled, completing 24 of 41 passes for 199 yards and nothing else. Whatever draft picks the Falcons have left they may want to use on offensive linemen, as their front five struggled to open running lanes or keep pass rushers out of the pocket.
New York gets a big test next week as they travel to Green Bay to face the Packers, another date with inevitability. They've seen this script this before. Will it end the same way?
SB Nation's NFL bloggers made predictions for Wild Card weekend and here's a look at the updated NFL playoffs schedule for Sunday. Check out Big Blue View for the latest on the Giants and The Falcoholic for the latest on the Falcons.