Nicks, Giants step up to NFC title game

Getty Images/Jamie Squire

Hakeem Nicks came through with a near-record setting performance.

The run of struggles for the top-seeded team in the NFC continued, with the 15-1 Green Bay Packers succumbing to the New York Giants on Sunday.

A 15-win team had never lost its first game in a postseason, until the Packers did. Here’s a snapshot look at the postseason’s biggest upset so far.

How the Giants won

The Giants got the same kind of performance from wide receiver Hakeem Nicks that they got from Plaxico Burress in their win in Green Bay in the 2007 NFC Championship Game.

Nicks went one better than Burress’s 11-catch, 151-yard game. He finished with 165 receiving yards, second-most in Giants postseason history. He finished 10 yards shy of the Giants postseason record for receiving yards in a game. The mark was set by Bob Schnelker at the Colts in the 1959 NFL Championship.

Most Career Postseason TD
Giants History

Nicks’ 66-yard touchdown reception was the third-longest postseason touchdown catch in Giants history. He tied the mark last week with a 72-yard touchdown catch against the Falcons.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Nicks joined Isaac Bruce as the only receivers to have a pair of touchdown catches of at least 66 yards in the same postseason.

Nicks is the third receiver in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to have multiple games of at least 100 receiving yards AND two touchdown catches in the same postseason, joining Jerry Rice of the 1989 49ers and Larry Fitzgerald of the 2008 Cardinals.

The man who got Nicks the ball, quarterback Eli Manning, surpassed Phil Simms as the Giants all-time passing yardage leader in postseason play. His 330 passing yards were the third-most in Giants postseason history, trailing a pair of games by Kerry Collins.

Manning's speciality was putting the right touch on the long throw. He completed 8-of-10 passes that traveled 15 or more yards downfield for 206 yards and two touchdowns

Ahmad Bradshaw was held to 63 yards rushing, but he had a pair of runs of over 20 yards in this contest. The Giants had only had four rushes of at least 20 yards in the regular season, the fewest in the NFL.

How the Packers lost

This game was a significant struggle for Aaron Rodgers and his receivers compared to the first meeting between the two teams in Week 13.

Rodgers was 21-for-25 for 265 yards and three touchdowns throwing outside the painted numbers on the field in that Week 13 win, but was just 11-for-23 for 115 yards on such throws in this game.

No. 1 Seed
In NFC Divisional Playoffs

Rodgers was 2-for-8 throwing 15 air yards or more downfield, his second-worst completion percentage of the season on such throws. The only game in which he was worse was when he was 2-for-12 in the Week 15 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Giants duplicated the approach of the Chiefs defensively in one regard. They sent four or fewer pass rushers on 81 percent of Rodgers' dropbacks. The Chiefs did so on 80 percent of Rodgers' dropbacks

Packers receivers finished the game with six dropped passes, tied for the most by any team in a game this season, with six different receivers dropping a pass. The Packers previous high was four drops, done twice, including Week 13 against the Giants.

The Packers lost only six fumbles in the regular season, but they lost three in this game, the most they’d lost in any game since the 2007 season.

Stats of the Game

Tom Coughlin’s six postseason road wins as a head coach are one shy of the NFL record, set by Tom Landry.

Eli Manning’s four postseason road wins are tied for the most in NFL history with Len Dawson, Roger Staubach, Jake Delhomme, Mark Sanchez, and Joe Flacco.

Both Manning and Flacco will be on the road next week, with a chance to extend those marks in conference championship games.

What’s Next?

The Giants are 3-4 all-time against the 49ers in postseason play, 1-4 in San Francisco. The win was a 15-13 triumph in the 1990 NFC Championship Game, won on Matt Bahr’s walk-off field goal.

The Giants are 4-0 all-time in conference championship games, the best record for any team that has played in at least three conference title games.