The Giants are heading to the Super Bowl, dashing the cheesy dreams of Green Bay fans everywhere with another episode of "Everybody Loves Eli."
Here are 10 Cold, Hard Football Facts culled from New York's improbable 23-20 win over the Packers Sunday at frigid Lambeau Field.
1. The Cold, Hard Football Facts couldn't have been more wrong about the 2007 Giants. Three playoff games now, we've picked the Giants to lose in lopsided fashion – not out of any dislike for Big Blue, but because their regular-season numbers told us they would. And they've made us look dumber than a monkey, literally. Our Bonzo the Idiot Monkey, the amazing coin-flipping prognosticator, correctly picked the Giants in all three games and now he won't let us hear the end of it. New York had a below average passing game and secondary in the regular season, and were clueless against Quality Teams (1-5). Yet here they are in the Super Bowl, defying all the odds. Congrats ... but don't expect us to change our tune much when it's time to break down the Super Bowl.
2. Brett Favre's fourth quarter was one of his (or anyone's) worst ever. In a tight game, the Packers' last four drives went 0, 7, 0 and 2 yards. From the start of the fourth quarter (an INT), Favre was 2-for-8 for 5 yards with two INTs. More than a third of Favre's 236 yards came on the second-quarter 90-yard catch-and-run by Donald Driver, and he threw two INTs to Eli Manning's zero in a situation where you would expect the cagey veteran to play well under pressure and the newbie to fold like a girl at the laundromat. Favre threw nine picks in his final seven games dating back to the regular-season loss at Dallas, and if he comes back for another season it'll be to right the wrongs of a disappointing finish.
3. New York's offensive line came up huge. Any time you control the clock for 40:01 in a game this big, the offensive line should expect to see shiny new Mercedes Benzes in the parking lot courtesy of the skill players. The Giants didn't have big numbers in yards per carry (3.4) or third downs (6-for-16), but they were much better than Green Bay's offense in both categories. And allowing just two Negative Pass Plays in Eli Manning's 42 dropbacks is a remarkable number.
4. Green Bay's luck finally ran out. The Packers were an excellent team this year, solid across the board, but they have also been a fortunate one. They played a favorable schedule (four Quality Opponents) and had almost no injuries. They also got two home games in the postseason despite being the No. 2 seed, both in classic Green Bay conditions foreign to the visitor. Even in Sunday's game, fortune was smiling as New York kicker Lawrence Tynes missed two fairly easy FGs, including a potential game-winning 36-yard attempt at the end of regulation. But in OT, Green Bay's luck hit a snag when Tynes became the first visiting kicker EVER to hit one from 40+ at Lambeau in the playoffs.
5. The Giants got lucky, too. Five times, New York fumbled the ball, and only once did it wind up in Green Bay's hands – R.W. McQuarters interception return was popped into the arms of Packers tackle Mark Tauscher, making a huge turnover moot. But the other four either wound up out of bounds or in white-and-red arms, a good ratio to be sure.
6. The running games were oddly silent. Packers fans will certainly criticize Mike McCarthy for just 13 run calls among 49 offensive plays, but neither team could get the running game going. The longest run all game was 13 yards, by Green Bay's Ryan Grant, and between them the two teams' RBs ran 50 times for 159 yards (3.2 YPA). In the divisional round, the Packers and Giants combined for 55 carries and 323 yards (5.9 YPA).
7. Green Bay won the battle, but lost the war. Packer tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, who allowed just 10 sacks all year, were perfect against the Giants' speed rushers – no sacks for the G-Men. But Green Bay couldn't run the ball, and Favre couldn't do much with all that solid protection – 1 for 10 on third downs is a fairly sure recipe for defeat, and it was actually somewhat amazing that the Packers were even able to push the game to overtime.
8. Jeff Feagles brings more individual records than the 2007 Patriots into his first Super Bowl. The Giants' punter hasn't missed a game in 20 seasons – really – since breaking in with the Patriots in 1988. He holds the record for consecutive games (320) along with a load of aggregate career punting records. Of course, Feagles isn't that great a punter (gross of 40.4, net of 36.0 in 2007), but no one's waited longer for their first Super Bowl trip.
9. Eli Manning is putting together one of the great unexpected runs of all time
. To win three straight road games in the playoffs is a once-in-a-decade type of thing (three times since 1985). To win three straight road games in the playoffs without throwing an INT, as Manning has done, is also a rarity. But to do it without any track record that suggests it's even possible, is off the charts. Sunday in Green Bay, Manning overcame the curse of the 10-6 team
, and his own inability to string together good games
, and all we can do is admire the suddenly all grown up Eli.
10. Giants TE Jeremy Shockey must feel like crap. First, Giants' team policy is that injured players don't travel with the team. So, Shockey, who was hurt with two weeks to go in the season, hasn't been on the sidelines for the regular-season finale against the Patriots or the three playoff wins. Worse, the Giants look like a different (better) team without him, with rookie fifth-round pick Kevin Boss staying into block more and the New York wide receivers stepping up their efforts. At least Shockey's got his millions of dollars to console him, while Packers fans just have cheese.