Packers next for defensive 'monsters'
But no one in the Giants' locker room doubted that the echoes reached a certain interested observer presumably watching on television somewhere in Wisconsin.
Hello, Aaron Rodgers! Reintroductions probably are in order.
"We're not any slouches,'' said defensive end Osi Umenyiora, already looking forward to the Giants' next task Sunday in Green Bay, mostly because reporters wouldn't stop asking him about it. "We're going to go out there and we're going to try to hit them in the mouth and we'll see what happens.''
But after a 24-2 rout in which only the Giants' own quarterback cost the defense a shutout, they also were confident that the unit the Packers saw Dec. 4 in a 38-35 Green Bay win has come a long, long way.
"I think we're just playing better as a unit; it seems like we're just synchronized,'' defensive end Justin Tuck said, alluding to the many occasions in which the defense had seemed confused, especially in pass coverage.
Tuck said there were times when "individuals started to show up, me included. Now it doesn't really matter who gets the credit. We just go out there 11 guys playing as one.''
Exhibit A: two game-turning fourth-and-1 stops on which the middle of the Giants' line -- overshadowed amid the hubbub about their speedy ends -- stuffed Matt Ryan on sneaks.
"There are no secrets on fourth-and-1,'' defensive tackle Chris Canty said. "There's nothing fancy about it. It's just line up and want it more.''
During the week leading up to the game, any time anyone asked about the Falcons' passing attack, Giants defensive players insisted the outcome hinged on controlling running back Michael Turner. Sure enough, he was held to 41 yards on 15 rushes, including a third-and-1 stop by Chase Blackburn in the third quarter when the game still was in doubt. When someone asked lineman Dave Tollefson about the defensive key after the fact, he said simply: "Stop Turner. Stop Turner. Period.''
Said Umenyiora: "They're going to have to find something else to do. We have too many monsters, man. I think it just took us a while to finally get everything going, but now I think we're in sync as far as the rushing game."
Stopping the Packers requires much more than stopping their running game, of course. Rodgers will test the secondary in a way Ryan could not, especially if cornerback Aaron Ross is sidelined by the concussion he suffered against Atlanta.
The Packers have scored a total of 83 points in two games against the Giants in the past 13 months. That's more than 41 Falcons safeties worth!
Umenyiora acknowledged the defense's failings on those occasions but added: "This is a different day, a different game plan."
Anything approximating what happened Sunday would be a start. The two points were the fewest allowed by the Giants in a playoff game since their last home playoff win, a 41-0 rout of the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game in January 2001.
It was a fitting, old-school Giants way to christen the new stadium on the occasion of its first playoff game, and surely got the attention of everyone in the NFL -- one person most of all.