Giants hoping to regain their swagger against Packers

New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz reacts

New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz reacts after making a reception during the first the first half. (Jan. 15, 2012) (Credit: AP )

When the Giants look back on how they beat the Packers in last year's playoffs, essentially shutting down the league's best offense and neutralizing the NFL's Most Valuable Player, they don't talk about Xs and Os. They don't praise pressures and pick apart personnel. They don't dwell on specific downs.

They talk about that game in a much more ethereal sense than perhaps any other they have played in recent seasons. The biggest memory from that 37-20 victory at Lambeau Field is a vibe, a feeling.

"We were just in synch," Antrel Rolle said Wednesday, recalling that game. "It was incredible. Probably the best thing I've ever been a part of and we were just laying it on the line for each other. There were no doubts of who was going to be where or anything. We just did what we did as a team. Everyone was in synch."

"Our confidence last year, our chemistry last year, it was so crazy I couldn't believe it, especially going into that game," fellow safety Kenny Phillips said. "We're definitely trying to get back to that, and hopefully it will show this week."

The Giants think it will. But maybe that's the biggest difference between Sunday's game and last year's. When they were in the playoffs, the Giants knew it, believed it. This time there's more uncertainty, a hint of wait-and-see.

Call it a confident realism.

"It has that feel to it that we've kind of turned the page," Justin Tuck said of the team coming off the bye week and headlong into the Packers game and what they've called repeatedly a six-game season. "I hope that comes true on Sunday. A lot of guys are saying the right things. Practice was fast, it was crisp. It seems like guys got a little bit of a rebirth. But again, we'll find out on Sunday. We've had weeks where we've had great practices and guys are flying around and you come out there and lose a football game. [But] I feel like we've been renewed a little bit."

Naturally the Giants didn't just will themselves to a win the last time they played the Packers, throwing everything at them including the kitchen synch. Aaron Rodgers had torched the Giants in his two regular-season starts against the Giants in 2010 and 2011, throwing for a combined 773 yards and eight touchdowns against just one interception in those games. His passer rating for those two games, both Packers victories, was 121.2.

In the playoff game Rodgers was sacked four times and completed 26 of 46 passes for 241 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The Giants also recovered three fumbles.

"Obviously we played very, very well that day," Tom Coughlin said, noting the difference in turnovers as a key statistic. "We were plus-three in Green Bay [in the playoff game]. We were minus-one here and plus-three in Green Bay."

There are all kinds of numbers and focuses that the Giants will rely on Sunday, whether it be keeping Rodgers from scrambling or disrupting receiver routes. Turnovers, of course, are always a priority for the defense. But more than searching for those statistical harbingers, the Giants will be looking more to regain that feeling they had the last time they faced the Packers.

"We haven't played in synch throughout this season," Tuck said, "but if any team has the capabilities of turning around and turning it on and getting back on track, we have that."

The question is whether or not they will. Even the most uber-confident of all the Giants players isn't ready to say that with certainty.

"I think it is," Rolle said when asked if this game feels like the start of something for the Giants. "but we have to go there and play it come Sunday."

Notes & quotes: RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), WR Domenik Hixon (ankle) and DT Linval Joseph (knee) did not practice Wednesday for the Giants. LB Jacquian Williams (knee) and S Kenny Phillips (knee) were both limited . . . Tom Coughlin said he expects Packers LB Clay Matthews to play Sunday, but Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy called him "doubtful." Matthews did not practice Wednesday.

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