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NFL Playoffs 2012: 5 Reasons the New York Giants Upset the Green Bay Packers

Thomas J. Harrigan Jr.Correspondent IJanuary 15, 2012

NFL Playoffs 2012: 5 Reasons the New York Giants Upset the Green Bay Packers

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    With a performance reminiscent of 2008, the New York Giants showed the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers just how difficult it is to repeat in the NFL.

    The Giants simply outplayed 15-1 Green Bay on their own field, just as they did in the 2008 NFC title game.

    With the victory, the Giants will move on to this year's NFC championship game, which will be a regular-season rematch against San Francisco; the 49ers won, 27-20, in Week 10. 

    Here are five reasons why the Giants were able to pull off the upset at Lambeau on Sunday: 

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    Green Bay's Missed Opportunities

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      Perhaps a little rusty coming off their bye, the Packers looked sloppy and out of sync throughout the game. 

      Aaron Rodgers, who usually finds his receivers with robotic precision, missed some of his guys who had managed to find open space against an otherwise solid Giants secondary. 

      Rodgers also wasn't helped out by his receivers, who dropped eight passes. 

      Back in October, a story came out about how Green Bay's receiving corps was exchanging $100 gift cards to Best Buy for each dropped pass. 

      A lot of gift cards will be exchanged after Sunday, but since everyone on the Packers seemed to get in on the dropped-ball act, nobody will end up with any more money than they had before. 

    Eli Manning's Third-Down Precision

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      The Giants struggled to run the ball on first and second down, so they faced many 3rd-and-long situations throughout the game.

      Problem? No, because the Giants had Eli Manning

      New York went 8-for-16 on third downs, as Manning found plenty of time to hit his receivers outside the numbers and over the middle. 

      On the Giants' first two scoring drives, Manning converted three third downs, hitting Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz on the first, and Hakeem Nicks on the second. After Manning found Nicks for a first, he hit him again for a 66-yard touchdown. 

      In the fourth, Manning hit Manningham and Cruz again on third downs before Lawrence Tynes kicked a 35-yard field goal to make it 23-13. 

      Finally, after an iffy roughing the passer call on Osi Umenyiora gave the Packers late life by allowing them to cut the lead to 10, Manning found Cruz on 3rd-and-11 for a first down over the middle to put the nail in the Packers' coffin. Three plays later, Brandon Jacobs galloped to the end zone for a touchdown. 

    Giants' Much-Maligned Secondary Played Big

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      While the defensive line has received all of the credit for the Giants' resurgence, the secondary came up huge against the Packers.

      Aaron Rodgers had a lot of time to throw, but many times he couldn't find an open man and had to take off.

      On a Green Bay team that had three players with over 700 yards receiving and 51 total passing touchdowns, nobody had more than 45 yards receiving on Sunday, and Rodgers went just 26-for-46 with 264 yards, an average of 5.7 yards per attempt. 

      The Giants prevented the Packers from making big plays, as the longest pass play was a 21-yard gain. 

      The big play was made by Kenny Phillips. With the Giants leading 23-13 in the fourth, the safety stripped Ryan Grant to set up a Giants touchdown. 

    The Giants Made Big Plays at Opportune Times

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      Hakeem Nicks came up with the two biggest plays of the game for the Giants offense, including a 37-yard stunner right as time expired in the first half.

      Ahmad Bradshaw set up the Giants, who had no timeouts, with a 23-yard run. Bradshaw started left, then cut back to the right and somehow got out of bounds with six seconds left. 

      Eli Manning then lofted the ball to the end zone, where Nicks out-leapt everyone and came down with the ball. The touchdown put the Giants up by 10 points instead of three. 

      Nicks had previously caught a 66-yard touchdown in the first quarter. He took a big hit and stayed on his feet before turning on the jets like he did last week against Atlanta

      Nicks had 165 yards receiving on seven catches, and he now has four touchdowns and two 100-yard games in the first two playoff games of his career. 

      Manning threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns. It was his first career 300-yard passing game in the postseason. 

      Immediately after a field goal put New York up 10, Kenny Phillips stripped Ryan Grant to set up the Giants with a touchdown, extending their lead to 17 in the fourth. 

    Tom Coughlin Keeps Things Even-Keeled

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      Besides Eli Manning, not many of the Giants' other playmakers from Sunday were there in 2008, when the Giants knocked Green Bay out to advance to the Super Bowl. 

      Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz weren't. Jason Pierre-Paul wasn't, and neither was Kenny Phillips.

      One man was there, however. That man is the one who stood on the sidelines on that freezing night in 2008, red-faced and all. That man is Tom Coughlin, who seems to have nine lives.

      Every time you think he's dead as the Giants coach, he proves himself again as his team rises to the occasion. 

      Coughlin is doing it again despite an up-and-down 2011 season. He has his Giants one win away from another Super Bowl appearance.They'll have to go on the road to do it, but with Coughlin and Manning at the helm, the Giants are in good hands to pull off another upset as road warriors. 

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