Okay, so it's not mixed martial arts, but if there's one thing MMA Maniacs love to discuss as much as their beloved sport, it's definitely the NFL playoffs.
Today (Sun., Jan. 15, 2012) features the final two games from the AFC and NFC Divisional Round. The fun kicked off earlier today with the Baltimore Ravens narrowly eeking out a 20-13 victory over the Houston Texans to advance to the AFC Championship Game and a match-up against the New England Patriots.
It continues tonight with the New York Giants heading to the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field to take on the best team in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers hasn't seen in-game action for three weeks and his top receiver Greg Jennings. The G-Men, meanwhile, are healthy and guaranteeing victory.
This one is going to be a whole lot of fun. The winner advances to the NFC Championship Game and a match-up against the San Francisco 49ers.
So here it is, Maniacs; an open thread and discussion to keep your fellow gridiron guys and gals abreast of the Giants vs. Packers score, as well as a sounding board for any and all football trash talk. Pics, videos, links -- it's all fair game today.
Score updates as they happen after the jump.
NEW YORK GIANTS VS.GREEN BAY PACKERS
Giants-3, Packers-0: The Giants kick off the scoring after putting together an incredible opening drive, marching 67-yards in 13 plays and eating up 6:27 of the clock. Unfortunately, they were only able to come away with a field goal, as the Packers buckled down inside the 20-yard line. Field goals instead of touchdowns is usually what kills teams who play Green Bay but New York's defense is stout.
Giants-3, Packers-3: Green Bay marched right down the field with ease in response to the Giants big drive on its opening possession but, just like New York, stalled once they were threatening a touchdown and ended up kicking a field goal to tie the game. The good news for the Cheeseheads is that it was their own fault they didn't score as opposed to the Giants doing anything to take it from them. Rodgers missed a wide open Jennings on third down leading to the 47-yard boot from Mason Crosby. Looks like this game will be a shootout.
Giants-10, Packers-3: Green Bay has the worst pass defense in football and they can't tackle to boot. After converting a third and 11 against eight guys in coverage with a pass to Hakeem Nicks from Eli Manning, the two hooked up on the very next play and Nicks broke a tackle before sprinting 66 yards for the go ahead touchdown. The Packers have been in the hole much this year and the hush that came over the crowd at Lambaeu was deafening.
The first quarter came to a close with a controversial sequence that will forever be debated by NFL fans, especially if the Packers go on to win this game. Greg Jennings caught a pass, was tackled and appeared to fumble on the way down. It was ruled a fumble by one referee and then overturned by the head referee, who said he was down by contact. The Giants, having clearly recovered the fumble, if it ultimately got ruled as one, quickly challenged the play. Replays clearly showed (at least in my eyes and those of the commentators and everyone I see on Twitter) that Jennings had fumbled the ball before his knee was down. However, the referee ruled that Jennings was, in fact, down by contact before the ball came out and the Packers drive continues. They're now set up with second and eight inside the Giants 15-yard line.
END OF FIRST QUARTER
Giants-10, Packers-10: On the very first play of the second quarter, Rodgers ran play-action and found fullback John Kuhn in the flat, who flipped his way past a Giants defender to get into the end zone. The ensuing extra point tied the game at 10. Mike Pereira, the former head of NFL officiating, was interviewed by FOX shortly after the touchdown and even he said it should have been ruled a fumble, though it was a judgement call, made only by the head referee. No matter what happens in this game, it will feel tainted for NFL fans everywhere. And that's just not right. Karma, perhaps, struck quickly, though, as the Packers attempted an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff and failed to recover. New York is set up at the Packers 40-yard line now.
Giants-13, Packers-10: Both teams traded turnovers, with Manning throwing a really bad interception after he sailed a pass too deep and Kuhn fumbling for the first time in his NFL career for Green Bay. The Giants used Hakeem Nicks and his beastly skills to get down inside the five yard line but failed to punch it in. Lawrence Tynes put New York back on top with a field goal with just under two minutes to play in the half.
Giants-20, Packers-10: An unbelievable sequence led to New York scoring a touchdown as time ran out in the first half. Green Bay attempted to drive down to tie it before the half ended but had to punt with under one minute to go. The G-Men proceeded to move the ball down the field, which included a 22-yard scamper from Ahmad Bradshaw on a pitch that saw him run all the way across the field to get out of bounds to give the Giants one more play. They used it to throw a Hail Mary that was ultimately caught by Hakeem Nicks for the touchdown to give them a 10 point lead heading into the locker room. New York said they weren't scared to come in here and shock the Packers on their home turf and they weren't lying. They're attacking with a super aggressive game plan that Green Bay simply has no answer for on defense. Green Bay will get the ball to start the third quarter and they'll need to do so with a sense of urgency.
END OF SECOND QUARTER
Giants-20, Packers-13: A 35-yard field goal that went just inside the upright brought the defending champs back to within seven after a solid drive that featured a big James Starks run and a Donald Driver sighting on third and long. It's unusual to see this Packers team struggle to get in the end zone but the Giants defense has been spectacular when the chips are down. The fact that it's this deep into the game and Green Bay has just one touchdown is incredible.
The third quarter came to a close with the Packers driving and picking up first downs on the legs of Aaron Rodgers instead of his arm. New York is staying disciplined in coverage but the pass rush just isn't what it needs to be to contain Rodgers and even when it gets there, he simply scampers out of the backfield and has the speed to get where he needs to go. Five of his six runs have gone for first downs and he's up to 50 yards rushing on the game. The Giants managed to gain a measly 18 yards in the quarter and the momentum is clearly on the Packers side.
END OF THIRD QUARTER
Giants-23, Packers-13: Once again, the Giants went all the way down the field only to stall in the red zone before Lawrence Tynes booted in another field goal. That's not to understate the importance of said field goal, though, as it pushed the lead to two scores with just 7:48 to go in the game. We know Aaron Rodgers and company have the ability to eat up large chunks of yardage in short amounts of time but the way they've struggled today doesn't lend much confidence to the idea that they'll be able to do that today.
Giants-30, Packers-13: On Green Bay's next drive, Ryan Grant fumbled the ball that was returned all the way to the Packers four yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Eli Manning found Mario Manningham in the back of the end zone for the touchdown that might as well have been a dagger in the hearts of every fan at Lambeau Field. The Packers will not be repeating as Super Bowl champions and they will become the first team to lose at home in the playoffs this year.
Giants-30, Packers-20: Green Bay finally kicked it into gear and drove down to score a touchdown in a hurry. Rodgers hit Donald Driver for the score but even this score is tainted because the Packers were gifted with a roughing the passer call that wasn't actually a roughing the passer call. What's worse, it happened on third down and allowed the Pack to continue the drive that eventually ended in a touchdown. This is no different than the fumble earlier that was ruled down by contact in their favor that also resulted in points. Still, just 4:46 remains and it's still a two score game. Green Bay has all three timeouts and the two minute warning to work with.
Giants-37, Packers-20: To remove any doubt that Green Bay would be pulling off a miracle, the Giants recovered the onside kick and proceeded to run it straight down the Packers throats. They converted a third and long with a 17-yard pass to Victor Cruz -- who was inexplicably wide open -- and Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs teamed up to put the ball in the end zone to put this one out of reach with 2:35 to play.
FINAL SCORE -- Giants-37, Packers-20: Aaron Rodgers threw an interception on a tipped ball and the Giants ran the clock out to win the game. After a 15-1 regular season, including a streak that included 19 straight victories, the Green Bay Packers have been bounced from the playoffs at home by a team they beat in their house earlier this season. The Giants will now head to San Francisco, where they lost earlier this year, for the right to play in the Super Bowl. See you next week, folks.