The New York Giants used a ferocious defense and a second-half scoring surge to rout the Atlanta Falcons 24-2 in the NFL wild-card playoffs on Sunday.
The Giants, who went into the intermission with a 7-2 lead, used a surprisingly strong running attack to control the ball and broke open a tight battle with two second-half touchdown strikes by quarterback Eli Manning.
“That’s a big win today,” Manning said during an on-field interview. “Defense played awesome. Second half, the offense finally got going. We ran the ball and started hitting some big plays, so a great win today.”
Manning connected with Hakeem Nicks for a 72-yard touchdown in the third quarter and then dropped a perfect toss to Mario Manningham as he sprinted into the end zone to pull away from the Falcons in the fourth quarter.
The Giants, who ranked last in the NFL in rushing during the regular season, rediscovered their running game as Brandon Jacobs (92 yards) and Ahmad Bradshaw (63 yards) gouged the Falcons on the ground. New York gained 172 yards rushing, nearly twice their regular-season average.
New York’s defense, which ranked 25th in the NFL in giving up an average of 25 points a game, continued their late-season rally. The Giants limited Atlanta to just 64 yards rushing on 21 carries and they did not give up a single point.
Atlanta put their only points on the board when Manning was called for intentional grounding in the end zone while in the grasp of blitzing safety James Sanders in the second quarter.
New York went on to score 24 unanswered points.
The victory lifted the Giants to a divisional-round clash on the road against the defending Super Bowl champions the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
The Giants lost to the Green Bay Packers 38-35 last month in their only regular-season meeting of the campaign.