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The Big Blue Wrecking Crew Rolls On

The Giants move on to the NFC title game with a 37-20 win

By Josh Alper
|  Monday, Jan 16, 2012  |  Updated 6:56 AM EDT
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Giants Fans Trek to Wisconsin for Playoff

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Hakeem Nicks left the Giants with plenty to smile about.

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Giants Fans Trek to Wisconsin for Playoff

Before the big Packers-Giants playoff in Wisconsin, there was quite a scene in the parking lot: Bruce Beck catches up with some Giants fans who made the trip to Lambeau Field.
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You can forget about 2008. Sunday's Giants victory in Green Bay belongs in your scrapbook. It was that impressive.

Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes in one of the best performances of his career, helping the Giants march on to the NFC Championship Game in a commanding 37-20 victory over the Packers. The Giants never trailed in the contest. A magical play just before the half gave them a 20-10 lead at the half.

With seconds to go before the end of the first half, it looked like the Giants were going to the locker room with a 13-10 lead, but plenty to kick themselves over. Victims of a brutally bad call when the referees missed an obvious fumble by Packers receiver Greg Jennings, they had also taken three trips into Packers territories with only two field goals to show for it. The Pack had been sloppy throughout the first half with dropped passes, turnovers, a strangely timed onside kick attempt and some unusually spotty passing by Aaron Rodgers.

The Giants didn't take advantage. They let them hang around in a game that could easily have been a blowout, had they executed better. The lead was nice, but the fear of what was around the corner could have been worse.

And then Hakeem Nicks happened. Nicks, who had already scored on a 66-yard pass from Manning, hauled in a Hail Mary throw with three Packers around him to give the Giants a 10-point bulge at the break. It left the partisans at Lambeau Field booing their heroes.

Things would only get worse for the home team from there. Osi Umenyiora ended the first Packer drive of the second half when he stripped Rodgers as he tried to deliver a pass to a wide-open Jennings for what would have surely been a touchdown. Later, after trading field goals, Kenny Phillips delivered the death blow.

Packers running back Ryan Grant was trying to gain a few extra yards at the end of a run halfway through the fourth quarter when Phillips knocked the ball loose. Chase Blackburn recovered, took the ball near the end zone and Manning's third touchdown pass of the day, this time to Mario Manningham, ended the proceedings.

There was no shortage of Giants worthy of praise on Sunday. Nicks did his best impersonation of Plaxico Burress from 2008, Michael Boley had two huge sacks of Rodgers and the secondary did a fine job even while losing players to injury, but it was Manning's day in the end.

Time after time, Manning found himself facing third downs and it felt like he converted every big one that came his way. The last of them came with four minutes to play when Manning hit Victor Cruz, ending any comeback hopes after Green Bay closed back within 10 points following another debatable call.

Manning put to rest any lingering doubts about his ability as a big-time quarterback already this season, but he put a nail in it with his play on Sunday. For all the deserved talk about Rodgers and Drew Brees this season, Manning is the only one left playing in the NFC and it's because he did what he had to without getting into trouble by doing more than was necessary. 

And so, this playoff run that has had everybody talking about 2008 will continue with a game that will put the time machine all the way back to 1991. That was when the Giants went to San Francisco for an NFC Championship date with the 49ers that ended with Matt Bahr's fifth field goal of the day.

The Niners were favored that day, just as they will likely be next week and just as the Packers were on Sunday. There's plenty of reason to believe that won't bother these Giants one little bit.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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