Against my better judgment, I tuned into one of those blowtorch sports-blab radio stations last month on the way to the Meadowlands.
Being a New York radio station, it wanted everyone fired, yesterday.
Since the Giants had lost three consecutive games, the listeners had already fired Tom Coughlin. Since Justin Tuck hadn’t made a play since Tom Landry was the defensive coordinator, they wanted the next coach to fire the rush end, too.
Generally, such was the public mood on a lovely Sunday morning on both sides of the Lincoln Tunnel during Week 13 of the NFL season.
A few hours later, the Packers went down the field inside the last couple of minutes to win, 38-35.
At 6-6, the Giants had failed to change the outside perception of their team. But for anyone who was hanging around afterward in the long tunnels that crisscross the bowels of MetLife Stadium, there was a different vibe coming from the Giants themselves.
They had just finished a five-week stretch during which they had played the Patriots, 49ers, Saints and Packers. They played well against all but the Saints.
They had come close to taking the undefeated and defending Super Bowl champs into overtime. No matter what others were thinking about them, the Giants were feeling pretty good about themselves.
So now they come into Lambeau Field for the second round of the playoffs with that confidence magnified.
Since losing to the Packers, the Giants have won four of five. They throttled Dallas, 31-14, for the NFC East title. They manhandled the Atlanta Falcons, 24-2, Sunday in the wild-card round.
In the momentum department, which means just about everything in the NFL playoffs, they have it all going on. It might as well be a different team than the one its fans wanted dumped into the Hudson River the last time the Giants played the Packers.
I’m not going to declare the Giants too confident and too dangerous for the Packers to handle at home, but this is not the optimum matchup for Green Bay against those big 1,000-yard receivers.
I’m not going to make a big deal about recent Giants-Packers playoff history at Lambeau, where, during the 2007 season, it certainly looked as if the Packers had a free pass into the Super Bowl before the NFC Championship Game.
That’s old news, different teams and all that.
However, the same New York quarterback who upset the Packers on that bitterly cold late afternoon in January of 2008 is going to come into Lambeau knowing he’s done it before. Eli Manning also remembers how he threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns against the Packers on Dec. 4.
After having his way Sunday against the confused an overmatched Falcons, Manning was smiling when he was asked on television about the Packers.
“We’ve played them tough. . . . We’ll see what happens,” he said.
He spoke with the confidence of one of the few visiting quarterbacks to have ever come into Lambeau and beaten the Packers in the playoffs.
Like that late ‘07 run that carried into a 2008 Super Bowl victory against the undefeated Patriots, the Giants seem to have it going at the right time.
They ran the ball for 172 yards against the Falcons. They made short-yardage stops on defense. Manning is on a roll in a game that is all about the quarterback. He knows he can win at Lambeau.
It should not be this hard in the first playoff game for the No. 1-seeded team, but it is. Suddenly, projections of San Francisco’s defense against Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees against the Packers’ leaky defense have been obscured by something a little larger than a speed bump.
Against the odds, the Giants are certain they can win. They are the only team the Packers could have drawn for this round that will bring that attitude to Lambeau. The Falcons would not have packed that mind-set. Neither would’ve the Lions. Only the Giants.
Just as on that early December day when an entire metropolis had written them off, the Giants around going to be dangerous for reasons beyond they have a hot quarterback, a resurgent defense and, kind of like the 2010 Packers, momentum at the right time.
After what they’ve experienced, they have absolutely nothing to lose.