Broncos' overtime stunner sinks Steelers
APGiants 24, Falcons 2 In East Rutherford, New Jersey, quarterback Eli Manning punctuated his best pro season Sunday by throwing for three touchdowns in New York's rout of misfiring Atlanta in the NFC wild-card game.
January 10, 2012, 12:24 am TWN
Manning hooked up on a 72-yard catch and run by Hakeem Nicks in the third quarter that put away the inept Falcons (10-7). Manning also connected on a 4-yard TD with Nicks in the second period, and a 27-yard TD throw to Mario Manningham in the fourth quarter that finished it off.
He also scrambled for a 14-yard gain and sparked the team to their first playoff victory since the Super Bowl victory over undefeated New England four years ago.
Next up is just as big a challenge for the Giants (10-7): on the road at the defending champion Green Bay Packers next Sunday. New York lost 38-35 to Green Bay in December.
The tempo in Sunday's game, the first playoff game at MetLife Stadium, was set by New York's defense, which never allowed Atlanta to get going, and by the league's lowest-ranked rushing game, which ran for a season-high 172 yards: 92 by Brandon Jacobs and 63 by Ahmad Bradshaw.
For all of Jacobs' and Bradshaw's success, it was Manning's escape and 14-yard dash on third down in the second period that got the Giants rolling. Jacobs soon broke a 34-yard run, and Manning hit Nicks to put the Giants up 7-2.
They never had to look back as the Falcons bumbled their way to their third straight playoff loss under coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan.
New York was aided greatly by Atlanta's penchant for gambling on fourth downs — and failing. Twice the Giants stymied the Falcons on fourth-and-1 as Ryan's sneaks went nowhere. The defense also stopped Michael Turner, supposedly the most effective runner on the field, on a third-and-inches late in the third period.
While they negated New York's recently revitalized pass rush for much of the day, the Falcons couldn't gain any traction on the ground, being held to 64 yards rushing.
Their only points came from a safety, when Manning was forced back in the end zone and threw the ball away to avoid a sack.