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Receivers spot chinks in the Packers’ armor


This news story was published on January 13, 2012.
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By Jeff Roberts, The Record (Hackensack N.J.) –

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — They see the vulnerabilities.

They see the holes, the gambles that the aggressive Packers secondary takes, creating opportunities down the field.

And the confident Giants receivers cannot wait to exploit them after watching Green Bay game film.

“You just see guys flat-out getting beat,” tight end Travis Beckum said. “I don’t know if it’s miscommunication in the secondary or what, but there’s been several times that you’ve seen guys just run past them.”

The Giants (10-7) may need to take advantage, likely facing a shootout Sunday when they face MVP front-runner Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (15-1) at Lambeau Field in their NFC divisional playoff game.

They lost that kind of game to Green Bay, 38-35, last month in their previous meeting.

Eli Manning’s targets are as healthy and complete as they have been all season. Mario Manningham’s knee is better. Jake Ballard is back after spraining his knee. And Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks formed the first 1,000-yard receiving duo in team history.

“We’re a dangerous corps,” Nicks said. “I think you can’t just double any one of us. I feel like all of us are No. 1 receivers within our offense.”

The Giants receivers and the Green Bay secondary could form a combustible combination.

The Giants produced 67 pass plays of 20 yards or more in the regular season, and a league-best 18 of 40 yards or longer.

They will face the Packers’ aggressive, winner-take-all defense.

That gambling style has yielded an NFL-best 31 interceptions and tied for the league best with 38 takeaways, yielding a plus-24 turnover ratio.

But that style of play also resulted in 71 pass plays of 20 yards or more and the league’s worst-ranked defense (411.6).

“I think the deep balls are there,” Beckum said. “Obviously they have a couple of standout players on defense, but we’ve got to capitalize on what they give us. You look at their numbers — they’re not very good at all.”

The Giants certainly will have to take advantage. The Packers led the NFL in scoring (35 points per game).

Rodgers (68.3 completion percentage, 4,643 yards, 45 TDs, six INTs, 122.5 passer rating) has a talented group of weapons, with Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley combining for 190 receptions, 2,979 yards and 32 touchdowns).

“They’re stacked at each and every position,” safety Antrel Rolle said.

Coughlin listed reasons why Rodgers, 28, is playing so well. It bordered on a love letter.

“He’s very accurate. He has great velocity on the ball. He has great accuracy and good vision,” he said. “He sees people from the corner of his eye. …

“He does have outstanding arm strength and a quick release.”

“When you think of what Aaron Rodgers does, especially getting the ball to 12 different guys in one game, that’s just kind of unheard of,” Beckum said.

But the Giants think they can keep up.

Manningham was injured Dec. 4 in the first meeting. But he watched the film and saw opportunity.

“I see a lot of people getting open when they play,” he said. “But that’s the type of scheme their defense is. I ain’t going to say they gamble, but they play different coverages and leave different spots open.”

Cruz — who caught seven passes for 119 yards, often covered one-on-one by Charles Woodson — also sees chances.

“They like to take a lot of chances and risk, which means they either win or they lose big,” he said.

And the Giants — who had the NFL’s fifth-ranked passing attack (295.9 yards per game) — expect to take advantage.

But they will have to avoid turnovers, something the Packers have fed on all season. One of the biggest plays in the Giants’ loss last month was Clay Matthews’ 38-yard interception return for a touchdown.

“You can’t give them extra opportunities,” Manning said. “You can’t give them a short field.”

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