GREEN BAY—The New York Giants ended the Green Bay Packers’ season at Lambeau Field last January, and the way the Giants did it is the way defensive lineman Justin Tuck is planning to end the Packers’ five-game winning streak this Sunday.
“Any time you get a championship team, most of the time they have a pretty good quarterback. You gotta get to that guy,” Tuck said of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. “You gotta make life difficult for him. If you do that, you stand a better chance. If you allow him to sit back there and pick you apart, you don’t really have a shot. That’s going to be our focal point.”
In a 37-20 loss to the Giants in the divisional round of the playoffs last winter, the Giants sacked Rodgers four times and consistently hurried him. It was a sack-strip by Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora in the third quarter of that game that was the big blow.
“You just gotta keep him in the pocket, keep him uncomfortable, keep people around him. The quarterback hits, the pressures, that’s going to be a difference maker in this football game,” Tuck said during a conference call on Wednesday.
The Giants have become the Packers’ postseason tormentor, having beaten the Packers in the postseason at Lambeau Field twice in the last five years. The Packers have dominated the Giants in the regular season, having won three in a row during Mike McCarthy’s time as Packers head coach.
“Not really,” Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin said. “We’re extremely respectful of the way the Packers have played. Each time we’ve played them, it’s a huge game for us. There’s an awful lot of competition between the two teams.”
Mason Crosby kicked a walk-off field goal to beat the Giants at MetLife Stadium late last season. It was a game in which the Giants drove 69 yards to score and convert a two-point try to tie the game with 58 seconds left on the clock.
“We left too much time on the clock,” Coughlin said on Wednesday.
The Giants would lose only once more before they began their march to the Super Bowl XLVI title.
Right now, they’re a 6-4 team on a puzzling two-game losing streak and coming off a bye week. Following a loss to the Steelers two weeks ago, Coughlin criticized his defense for being soft.
“I try to use that as a little motivation. I disagreed with him. I didn’t think we were soft. I thought we were hesitant, not in sync. Soft is a different term for me,” Tuck said.
“As bad as we played the last couple of weeks, we’re still first in our division. It’s going to be a hard road, but we still own our own destiny.”
Remaining in control of their own destiny might depend on beating the Packers. That’s what makes this a big game for the Giants. They don’t want to have to go on a desperate run in December just to make it into the playoffs.
“You have to be playing your best (at end of the season). From Thanksgiving on, at some point you have to get it right and capitalize on it,” Coughlin said.
“Stop making excuses; continuing to work each day with a different focus,” Tuck said of the ingredients for getting hot late in the season. “You can become complacent without even knowing you’re complacent. You start doing the same thing over and over again. You think you’re working hard, you think you’re doing everything you need to do, but doing the same thing over and over again means you’re getting pretty good at that. You’re not growing. The last couple of weeks we haven’t been growing. The championship teams get better throughout the year. The last couple of weeks we’ve been stagnant.”
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