But the Giants accomplished the improbable and marched through the NFC playoffs, including a 23-20 overtime win over Green Bay, before edging the Patriots Sunday night, 17-14, in Glendale, Ariz. Wow! Good for the Giants, the underdog that the nation suddenly was pulling for throughout the game.
Maybe Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson will look back on this game and take a few notes from the Giants. The Packers coach said that he did not plan to watch the Super Bowl because he was en route Sunday to Hawaii to coach the NFC in the annual Pro Bowl game on Saturday. When McCarthy returns from the islands and begins planning for the season ahead, here are a few things that he, his staff, and Thompson no doubt will take from the Giants that probably will help the Packers reach Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa next season:
More punch in the offensive backfield
Watching Brandon Jacobs and rookie Ahmad Bradshaw pound away at the Patriots defense was awfully familiar to how the Giants attacked the Packers in the Championship Game. Jacobs only gained 42 yards in 14 carries, virtually sharing rushing honors with rookie Bradshaw (nine for 45). But the Giants established a rushing attack early on, which helped keep keep the game close because of the time-consuming drives. That eventually allowed Eli Manning to connect frequent and often with his receivers in the fourth quarter.
Jacobs' bulk combined with Bradshaw's quickness makes for an impressive combo that is tough on defeneses. The Packers, who gave up 130 yards rushing to Jacobs and Bradshaw in the Championship Game, know all about the two.
The Packers have a No. 1 back in Ryan Grant, but obtaining a big, bruising back, like the 265-pound Jacobs, who can somehow adapt to the zone blocking scheme might help the Packers rushing attack even more. That may be a tall order, but playing in Green Bay requires an above average offensive backfield due to the nasty elements late in the season.
While Brandon Jackson showed some improvement late last year, the jury is still out on if he is anything more than a third-down back. Spelling Grant with big guy like Jacobs and mixing in Jackson would be a good thing for the Packers'offense.
Is DeShawn Wynn that guy? Perhaps. He's got the size (232 pounds) and quickness, but he needs to be a heckuva lot more consistent and durable. That remains to be seen.
Pressure is king
The headline of Sports Illustrated's Super Bowl preview issue last week hit the nail on the head: "Can the Giants get to Brady?"
Did they ever.
The Giants blitzed on about a third of the plays, mostly on the inside instead of the outside to get pressure on Brady quicker. For most of the night, Brady appeared uncomfortable and out of sync. He was knocked down a dozen or more times after throwing and sacked a season-high five times (he had been sacked 24 times in 18 previous games). Bottom line: Brady looked nothing like the quarterback who set an NFL record by throwing 50 touchdown passes during the season.
Even the best of quarterbacks on the best of teams will succumb to pressure, which is why it will be imperitive for Thompson to re-inforce Green Bay's front seven this off-season.
It appears as if the Packers are willing to let defensive tackle Corey Williams (7 sacks) slip away as an unrestricted free agent. If they do, that could come back to haunt them because Justin Harrell is nowhere close to Williams as a bonafide defensive tackle, and that's who the Packers seem to be hoping will step up to take over for Williams.
The thought here and by many Packers fans is the Packers should do all they can to retain Williams, then use the draft to get more talent at linebacker and on the D-line, especially at end.
The Packers were so-so at dropping opposing quarterbacks this season (13th overall in sacks per pass play). To reach the Super Bowl, they need to be much better at creating pressure.
Good quarterback a must
Eli Manning was impressive throughout the playoffs, and even moreso late in the game against the Patriots. The 83-yard drive that he orchestrated late in the game after Brady led the Patriots on a go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter will be talked about for a long time. But that's nothing that Brett Favre hasn't ever done before for the Packers, right?
Here's to Favre making a decision on returning to play for the Packers in the upcoming season. There is no reason to believe that he will retire from football, not after coming off one of his best seasons.
However, if Favre does decide to call it quits, the Packers are still in good hands with Aaron Rodgers. As long as Green Bay has a quarterback that is comfortable in McCarthy's scheme, which Favre and Rodgers are, they have all the ability to lead the Packers to a Super Bowl, like Manning did for the Giants.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at email@example.com.