Stat worth noting: The Giants gained an average of 6.1 yards per offensive play; the Pats 5.7.
Stat worth noting II: The Giants were a perfect three-for-three in goal-to-go opportunities. Unfortunately so was New England.
Turning point: Only a little more than five minutes after Plaxico Burress' big third-quarter TD catch, the Pats were back in the end zone. While New England wouldn't take its final lead until the fourth quarter, Laurence Maroney's six-yard touchdown run swiped away much of the momentum New York had built through most of the first three periods.
Play to remember: Midway through the third period, the Giants were shocking the world with a 21-16 lead on New England. New York faced a third-and-nine from the Pats 19-yard line. Out of the shotgun formation, Eli Manning dropped back and fired a beautiful strike to Plaxico Burress in the back right corner of the end zone. Burress did a great job of dragging his feet in bounds and New York jumped on top 28-16 with 9:12 to play in third quarter.
Play to forget: After a late second-quarter play, Pats DT Vince Wilfork stuck his right pointer finger right through Brandon Jacobs' facemask and into Jacobs' left eye. While the cheap shot wasn't penalized, you can bet Wilfork will be fined a nice chunk of money for his bush league act.
By the Numbers
0 – Number of teams able to beat New England during their record-breaking regular season.
3 – Consecutive seasons Big Blue has reached the postseason.
50 – Receiving yards for rookie Kevin Boss, starting in place of the injured Jeremy Shockey.
"Everyone's going to enjoy this one. This happens once every 35 years. We'll celebrate for a couple of days then get ready to go back to work." – Patriots QB Tom Brady
"I take my hat off to our team and I don't know any other way of being better prepared for the playoffs than to go against a team that is 15-0." – Giants coach Tom Coughlin
What went right
Eli Manning's entering the playoffs coming off one of his best games of the season. With the exception of one foolish interception, Manning played stellar football against the mighty Pats defense. All told, Manning completed 22-of-32 passes for 251 yards and four touchdowns. Believe it or not, but Manning's 118.6 QB rating was actually higher than Brady's 116.8.
With regular kickoff return man Ahmad Bradshaw inactive due to injury, Domenik Hixon stepped in and did a tremendous job. Hixon returned a second-quarter kickoff 74 yards for a touchdown. He showed great speed and instincts on his TD return.
Manning was masterful in leading the Giants downfield to a touchdown right before halftime. He moved the offense 85 yards in eight plays and capped the drive with a three-yard TD pass to rookie Kevin Boss with only 13 seconds to play before the half.
It might not seem like much, but the Giants defense did a really good job of keeping the Pats ground game in check. Laurence Maroney averaged only 2.4 yards a carry (19, carries, 46 yards) while the entire team's per run average was a mere 1.7 yards.
What went wrong
They were playing the Patriots. The Giants' effort was superb and against any other team in the league, Big Blue's 12-point lead midway through the third quarter would most likely have held up.
Despite keying on Tom Brady and Randy Moss, the Giants were helpless to stop the Hall-of-Fame duo. Brady topped Peyton Manning's all-time single-season TD mark while throwing for 356 yards and Moss topped Jerry Rice's all-time single-season TD mark via his six catches for 100 yards.
The worst-case scenario unfolded as the Giants lost three starters to injury during the game. At press-time there was no definitive word whether or not any of the trio of LB Kawika Mitchell, C Shaun O'Hara or CB Sam Madison would be able to play in Tampa.
The Giants were at a major disadvantage in the time-of-possession department. New York only had the ball for 23:42 against the Pats' total of 36:18.
Amani Toomer, he of the most dependable hands, dropped an easy third-down pass in the opening quarter.
Game Story: Giants 35, Patriots 38
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