EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — All the missing pieces — defense and a running game — are aligning at the right time for Eli Manning and the Giants. And just in time to play the Packers.
After routing the Falcons 24-2 Sunday in an NFC wild-card game, New York heads to Green Bay this weekend, a place where it will need all the help it can get.
Manning carried the Giants for much of the season, hoping the defense would get stingy, the pass rush would materialize and the running game would get on track. Now, all that is happening.
"A great mix of run and pass and these guys have a great understanding of what our offense is," the quarterback said. "If we can get that run game going like we did in the second half, that opens up a lot of windows."
And if the defense remains impenetrable, watch out.
"If we can play defense like that, we will continue to make ourselves heard in this tournament," coach Tom Coughlin said.
Manning punctuated his best season by throwing for three touchdowns and scrambling for a 14-yard gain that woke up New York's offense in its first postseason victory since its Super Bowl upset of New England four years ago. Next is the defending champion Packers, who won here 38-35 in December.
"We know they are a good team," Manning said. "We played them tough here, did some good things here, we scored some points. We know offensively we are going to have to play strong, score some points."
The team that couldn't run the ball will be sprinting there, bringing along a defense the Packers actually might fear. Not to mention the passing offense led by Manning, who hooked up on a 72-yard catch and run by Hakeem Nicks in the third quarter that put away the Falcons.
The Giants' last postseason trip to frigid Lambeau Field was a 23-20 overtime victory for the NFC championship two weeks before they upset the Patriots.
"Cold, I remember that. I remember Coach Coughlin's face. I remember (tackle) David Diehl sweating and it froze on his hair, and he had icicles on his hair," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "And I remember us winning.
"Hopefully, we can go back there and do it again."
The tempo in the first playoff game at MetLife Stadium was set by New York's defense and the league's lowest-ranked rushing game, which had a season-high 172 yards. The Giants averaged 5.5 yards a carry, 2 more than in the regular season.
Meanwhile, the defense held Michael Turner to 41 yards on 15 carries. Osi Umenyiora sacked Matt Ryan with just more than a minute left to provide a fitting coda, and the secondary held receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones to 116 yards combined.
It's a unit that has a renewed swagger heading to Green Bay.
"We're not any slouches," Umenyiora said. "We're going to go out there and we're going to try to hit them in the mouth, and we'll see what happens."