x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

NFL: New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens rise in division title bids

The Packers fumble against Eli Manning and his receivers while Houston Texans fail to break the shackles in Baltimore.

Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay is sacked by New York Giants' Michael Boley, center, and Corey Webster.
Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay is sacked by New York Giants' Michael Boley, center, and Corey Webster.

With their own star quarterback and a dominating defence, the New York Giants exposed the Green Bay Packers for what they now are - former Super Bowl champions.

The Packers dropped passes, fumbled the ball and simply could not stop Eli Manning and his receivers in the Giants' shocking 37-20 divisional play-off victory Sunday. To the Giants' delight, a Green Bay team that had a real shot at an undefeated season less than a month ago is heading home.

And that the win came at Lambeau Field, well, that was just as sweet. The site has become a familiar launching pad for the New Yorkers. After beating the Packers (15-2) at home for the second time in four years, they only hope this trip ends the same way - in the NFL title game.

The Giants will play the 49ers in San Francisco for the NFC championship next Sunday.

"I think we're a dangerous team," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "I like where we are and how we're playing."

The Giants (11-7) have been on a roll ever since beating the rival Jets on December 24, beating the Dallas Cowboys to get in the play-offs and then blowing out Atlanta in the wild card round last week.

They took down the Packers on Sunday, as Manning threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns.

The Giants are 3-4 against the 49ers in the play-offs, including their memorable collapse in a wild card game at San Francisco on January 5, 2003. New York led 38-14 in the third quarter but fell apart and lost 39-38.

That probably will not be much of a worry for this year's Giants, who were oozing confidence even before they beat the Packers.

"This team knows how to win on the road," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "It seems like right now it's our time."

The Giants stunned the Packers with a touchdown off a long heave from Manning to Hakeem Nicks just before halftime, then knocked them out with a late touchdown off a turnover.

Lambeau Field fell silent as the Giants swarmed the field in celebration, with a handful of New York fans chanting, "Let's go, Giants!"

"I knew we were going to beat them on Wednesday, to be honest with you," running back Brandon Jacobs said.

The win came four years after the Giants beat a Brett Favre-led Packers team in the NFC title game. It was not nearly as frigid this time around, and the Packers' vulnerable defence seemed to be waiting to get sliced up.

Manning found six different receivers against a porous Packers defence. But Manning did the most damage with his throws to Nicks, who caught seven passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns.

Nicks' biggest play was a 66-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. His score at the end of the half came on a 37-yard pass into the end zone with defenders all around.

"It was a big momentum play for them, but we were not deflated as a football team," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

The Packers fully expected to go back to the Super Bowl, but the reality hit Rodgers quickly. "Oh, it's real," Rodgers said. "We got beat by a team that played better tonight.

"We play to win championships. You win a championship and you're kind of at the top of the mountain, and you forget kind of how bad this feeling is. We had a championship-caliber regular season and didn't play well today."



If style points and offensive fireworks meant anything, the Baltimore Ravens would not stand a chance of making it to the AFC championship.

Playing defence and protecting the football are what they do best, and that formula led to a 20-13 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday, putting Baltimore in the AFC title game against the New England Patriots.

"I always say there is a right way to do things, there is a wrong way to do things and there is just the Ravens' way of doing things," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "It wasn't pretty but we're not really a pretty team. We got the W and now it's on to the AFC championship."

The Ravens (13-4) had almost as many punts (nine) as first downs (11) and scored only three points over the final 46 minutes. But Baltimore were not penalised once, did not commit a turnover, intercepted rookie quarterback TJ Yates three times and totaled four takeaways - two in the first quarter and two over the final eight minutes.

"If we didn't get any of those turnovers it would probably be a different game," Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said.

Baltimore visits New England next Sunday, with the winner advancing to the Super Bowl in Indianapolis on February 5.