Packers vs. Giants: Just in Time for December, New York Has Its Swagger Back

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistNovember 26, 2012

Nov 25, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) celebrates during the second half of a game against the Green Bay Packers at MetLife Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE

The New York Giants are back. 

A team that appeared to be physically and mentally exhausted for the first three weeks of November took a 180-degree turn Sunday night, clearly benefiting from a week off by smashing the talented Green Bay Packers in prime time, 38-10.

It was the kind of performance that can change a team's path permanently, and it's a sign that the G-men were merely rundown and suffering from a resultant slump rather than hitting a wall that they couldn't recover from. 

Eli Manning took a week off of throwing, and his arm no longer looked anything close to tired. Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck had 14 days to rest, and that duo suddenly reemerged as the fearsome one-two punch the Giants relied on so heavily in recent Super Bowl seasons.

As a result, Manning posted a 114.4 passer rating while the pass rush picked up five sacks and had its most effective game of the season. And that's what should scare everyone in the NFC.

While the Giants were winning frequently in September and October, they weren't doing it with their bread and butter. This team can't win another Lombardi Trophy without the passing game and the pass rush dominating. Sunday night against Green Bay, those two units were at their best. 

This was close to being a flawless performance for Tom Coughlin's team. It avoided turnovers, registered takeaways, got steady pressure, protected Eli Manning, controlled the clock, got great production from the running game and shut down the league's reigning MVP on defense.

Sure, the Packers didn't have Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson and Bryan Bulaga, but if not for a single blown coverage from Corey Webster in the first quarter, this would have been pretty much perfect.

This was a performance reminiscent of what the Giants were able to do last December, January and February. And with a two-game lead again in the NFC East and only five games to play, there's little reason to believe such a re-energized team can't build the kind of momentum that landed it in the Super Bowl in 2007 and 2011. 

We've heard time and again about the Giants' tough schedule, but three of New York's final five opponents actually have losing records. It's almost impossible to imagine them coughing up their division lead now.

This is the league's most mentally tough team, and in a wide open race for the title, it's becoming a lot easier to consider the possibility that another late-season run will land Manning and Co. back in the Super Bowl picture.