Giants followed Super Bowl script vs. Pats

The Giants drove 80 yards in the final two minutes for the winning touchdown last week to stun New England, conjuring memories of the way the Giants also upset the 18-0 Pats in the Super Bowl four years ago. Reliving how they did it here with the same 10-85 conntection, along with Brandon Jacobs running large, Justin Tuck saying New York's not an elite team yet, Giants report card and much more.

When it comes to playing games that matter against New England, there's just something special about the Giants' "10 to 85" connection.

Ten, of course, is the jersey number worn by quarterback Eli Manning, the Super Bowl XLII MVP who in 2007 calmly led his team back from a 14-10 deficit against the then-undefeated Patriots to a 17-14 upset played on the world's biggest stage.
As for 85, previously worn by receiver David Tyree, who could forget his famous reception made over the middle of the field in which he trapped the ball against his helmet to keep the Giants' game-winning drive alive?

Fast forward to 2011.

The Giants squared off against a Patriots team that had won 20 consecutive regular-season home games, 18 consecutive home games against NFC teams, and 31 consecutive regular-season home games in a row started by quarterback Tom Brady.

However, just as the Giants weren't impressed in 2007 with the Patriots' then-perfect 18-0 record, the same held true this time around, as the magic between 10 and 85 took center stage in sending New England to its second consecutive loss, a comeback 24-20 victory for the Giants.

Tyree might be retired, but the man wearing his jersey number these days certainly did him proud.

That would be tight end Jake Ballard, who was on the receiving end of a big 28-yard, fourth-quarter pass play on the Giants' game-winning drive that led to a one-yard touchdown pass, also to Ballard.

"The offensive line pinched and I ended up getting off quick and breaking it out because I knew I had to get separation from the linebacker," said Ballard of his game-winning reception. "As soon as I turned around Eli threw it and it was there, I was just concentrating really hard to make sure I caught the ball."

Manning was asked how difficult Ballard's 28-yard reception that put the Giants on the Patriots' 33 was.

"I haven't seen the replay, but they were playing man underneath, with two safeties high, and we really hadn't thrown anything to him down the middle and so he got even with the guy and he's just a big target," Manning said.

"Sometimes they get their hands up after the ball hits them, or the safety can come and hit it out, but Ballard is a big sucker and made a big catch."

Manning smiled when asked about the similarities between the 2011 game-winning drive against the Patriots and the one in Super Bowl XLII.

"(I was just thinking about) the fact that the last time we played when we had a two-minute drive to win the game," said Manning when asked if he compared this game to the Super Bowl win.

"I think anytime you come into this stadium against the Patriots and get a win, it's a big win. They've been a great team for the last 10 years."

Except when they have come up against the Giants' "10 to 85" connection, that is.

Notes and quotes

FOR AS IMPRESSIVE AS THE GIANTS' win over New England was, defensive end Justin Tuck was not quite ready to agree with the notion that Giants are an elite NFL team.

They should get another good gauge of that this Sunday when they play the streaking 49ers in San Francisco, a matchup of first-place teams from the NFC East and NFC West.

"We'll have more opportunities coming up, but I think we're close," he said. "I've always told you it doesn't matter what you do in November. No one is going to remember what we did in November. No one is going to remember what we did in December. It's all about getting to the Super Bowl and winning that. When you do that, that's when you're elite.

"We don't play this game to be second best, or third best or whatever. So, if you're not holding that trophy at the end of the year, you're not elite, in my opinion."

The Giants would know as the attempt to put together another run that takes them deep into January, and perhaps even February.

LAST WEEK, RUNNING BACK BRANDON JACOBS vowed to change his sour attitude and to start making the most of his opportunities when they came.

He did just that against New England in his first game as a starter this season, toting the ball for season-high totals of 18 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown rushing.

"I just took what they gave me and made the best of it," said a humbled Jacobs after the game. "I wish I could have played better, I ran hard, but I still think I may have left some yards out on the field, but no one is perfect, I went in and did what they asked me to do."

Jacobs, who was on the field for one play in the Giants' game-winning drive – he failed to convert a second-and-one from the Patriots' 1-yard line – praised Manning for finding a way to bring the Giants back from the edge.

"When you've got Eli as the quarterback in a two-minute situation, I am confident all the way in and out," he said. "Eli has been a beast all season long – ever since I've been in the league – on two-minute drives. The offensive line blocked very well, they protected him, and they got in the end zone."

THE GIANTS' SPECIAL TEAMS USUALL DON'T get much attention unless there is a disaster, such as was the case when punt returner Aaron Ross fumbled away the ball to set up a Patriots scoring drive.

However, the unit not only won the field position battle against the Patriots, it also turned in an overall solid performance that included a major forced fumble caused by Mark Herzlich that was recovered by linebacker Jacquian Williams to set up a Giants scoring opportunity.

"It feels great," said long snapper and special teams captain Zak DeOssie. "Any turnover in any game is huge. That is how you win and lose games on turnovers."

--- QB Eli Manning's 250 yards increased his career total to 25,023. He is the second player in Giants history with 25,000 passing yards. Phil Simms holds the franchise record with 33,462.

--- LB Mathias Kiwanuka finished as the Giants' team leader against the Patriots with 12 total tackles.

--- DT Dwayne Hendricks, who was signed to the active roster on Oct. 15, made his NFL debut against New England.

--- P Steve Weatherford's eight punts were the most by a Giants punter since they punted nine times vs. New Orleans on Dec. 24, 2006.

Giants report card: New York 24, New England 20

PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- It wasn't pretty and certainly the numbers don't show it, but Eli Manning was once again elite despite not having receiver Hakeem Nicks (hamstring) available. Manning's only glitch was the interception he threw into the end zone that was picked off by Kyle Arrington; otherwise, he made the plays he needed to in order to move the chains, including finding his big tight end Jake Ballard for two key passes on the game-winning drive. While the pass blocking wasn't always there, which forced Manning to throw a lot off his back foot, the good news is that he wasn't sacked. Manning finished 20 of 39 (51.2 percent) for 250 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus -- While the numbers don't appear to be impressive – the Giants' rushing game averaged 3.8 yards per carry – it was how they ran the ball that made the difference. Minus their top running back, Ahmad Bradshaw, who was home nursing a broken foot, Brandon Jacobs came to work with a brand new attitude. He ran with a purpose and made every single one of his 72 yards on 18 carries count for something. Meanwhile DJ Ware, who moved into the third-down back role, did a nice job of picking up the blitzes while also managing a respectable 3.3 yards per carry on his seven opportunities. Finally, rookie Da'Rel Scott, active with Bradshaw sidelined, showed that intriguing burst of speed and quickness through the line on his lone carry that went for five yards.

PASS DEFENSE: C-plus -- While Patriots quarterback Tom Brady only completed 57 percent of his passes that included two touchdowns, he also threw two costly and uncharacteristic interceptions. The Giants did a nice job for the most part of mixing up zone and man-to-man coverage, and also did a decent job of disguising what they were looking to do. However, the fact remains that the Patriots managed to record not one, but two 100-yard receivers this week – Wes Welker, who had nine catches for 136 yards, and tight end Rob Gronkowski, who caught eight balls for 101 yards.

RUSH DEFENSE: A-minus -- Save for a couple of big runs of 18 yards by BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who broke free for 18 yards on the Patriots' first play from scrimmage, and receiver Wes Welker, who had a 13-yard scramble, the Giants run defense was much more stout this week as players did a better job of getting into their gaps and shedding blocks. Credit the Giants' linebacking corps, led by team leading tacklers Mathias Kiwanuka and Michael Boley, who did an exceptional job of keeping the Patriots' runners from getting to the defensive backfield.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- Take away the low, short snaps by Zak DeOssie (which were handled cleanly by holder Steve Weatherford), and the muffed punt by Aaron Ross that nearly changed the complexion of the game, and the Giants special teams had another solid outing. The star this week was Weatherford, who sent five of his six punts inside the 20 and of those five, three inside of the 10-yard line, forcing the Patriots to work with a longer field. Meanwhile the Giants' coverage units were, for the most part, solid, though the gunner coverage had its share of troubles with New England's gunners. The special teams also came up with a big play when linebacker Mark Herzlich forced a fumble that was recovered by fellow rookie linebacker Spencer Paysinger, a turnover that set up an ensuing scoring drive.

COACHING: A -- Head coach Tom Coughlin has his players believing they can stand toe-to-toe with any team, and it's showing in their on-field performance. What's more, when some critical mistakes were made that could have potentially affected the outcome of the game, Coughlin and Co. were right there, encouraging players to forget about it and move on to the next play. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride found a way to get tight end Jake Ballard involved in the game and it paid dividends as Ballard contributed on the game-winning drive. He also figured out a way to jump-start the running game despite not having his best runner, Ahmad Bradshaw, and his starting center, David Baas, in the lineup. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell brought his best plan to date to this game, a plan in which the Giants mixed up their coverages and disguised what they were doing just enough to keep the Patriots guessing.

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