Friday, November 24, 2017
Sports

Giants in odd role of NFC newcomer

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Giants are only four years removed from a Super Bowl victory, but they have nothing on the Falcons in terms of postseason experience.

The Giants will be the novices today when they host the Falcons in a wild-card game at MetLife Stadium.

New York returns to the postseason after a two-year absence that put coach Tom Coughlin's job in jeopardy, while the Falcons appear in the playoffs for the second straight year and third time in four seasons.

The Falcons' experience might not mean much, considering QB Matt Ryan has failed to lead them to a win in the postseason. Atlanta was the No. 1 seed last year but was blown out at home by the eventual Super Bowl champion Packers.

"Yeah, it's about time we won," Falcons WR Roddy White said. "This is our third time in the playoffs in four years. It's about time we get a W. We've been lacking in that case, and everyone wants to win really, really bad. We want to get that first win out of the way and after that you just take them one by one."

QB Eli Manning and the Giants enter the playoffs with momentum after an inconsistent season. They have won three of four, beating Dallas on the final weekend of the regular season to win the NFC East.

The late run has many making comparisons to the 2007 title sprint. New York gained confidence late by pushing then-undefeated New England in the regular-season finale and rode it to four straight playoff road wins, capped by the upset of Tom Brady and the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

The other similarity is the Giants' pass rush has gone to another level, recording 11 sacks in the last two games.

Manning, who was the Super Bowl MVP, agrees some of the core group is left from the franchise's third championship team.

"That's probably all we want to get into at that point," said Manning, who threw for a career-best 4,933 yards this season. "We have a lot of guys that weren't there. We have a lot of guys on this team that haven't been in the playoffs before. It's a new year. We have different players. It's a new team. It's a new environment."

The defensive key for the Giants will be slowing RB Michael Turner, who rushed for 1,340 yards. If the Falcons can run, that will neutralize All-Pro DE and former USF star Jason Pierre-Paul and the rest of New York's fierce pass rush. That would let Ryan attack a secondary that has given up 4,082 yards passing.

White is Ryan's top target, catching an NFC-leading 100 passes for 1,296 yards and eight touchdowns. Rookie Julio Jones is the deep threat with eight touchdowns and Pro Bowl TE Tony Gonzalez had another outstanding season with 80 catches.

"I think we match up pretty well," White said. "They've given up 71 explosive plays, so we've got to go up there and get some. That's what we're looking to do and exploit those guys in different aspects with mismatches."

Injury break: Lions CB Chris Houston hurt his shoulder while tackling FB Jed Collins during the first quarter but returned late in the half.

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