Bob Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets
No sense trying to dance around the importance of Giants-Packers, at least not in Osi Umenyiora's mind. No trying to rationalize away the magnitude of a game that either would tighten the Giants' grip on first place in the NFC East or lead to more questions about yet another second-half meltdown.
Big game? Bigger than that, according to the veteran defensive end.
"Huge game," he said in the run-up to Sunday night's contest. "A lot at stake, and I'm anxious to see how we come out and play, because I feel like we need to respond to the key games that we've lost, and we also need to prove that we are still world champions and play like it at some point."
The Giants looked every bit the defending Super Bowl champions they are in drubbing a Packers team that had won its previous five games. The Giants broke a two-game losing streak with a 38-10 victory that tightened their grip on first place in the NFC East in decisive fashion.
Faced with the possibility of seeing their lead over the Cowboys and Redskins dwindle to one game after yet another 6-2 start, the Giants instead rose up and maintained a two-game lead over their NFC East foes with five games to play.
"We played well in all three phases," Tom Coughlin said. "It was a very solid performance."
There still is work to be done to secure a second straight divisional title, but the path looks far less treacherous after the Giants' dominating performance. They have games remaining against the Saints, Falcons and Ravens, but if they play the way they did against the Packers, there might not be a team in the league capable of beating them. And if the Giants beat the Redskins next Monday night on the road, this race might be as good as over.
Eli Manning was back in a groove with touchdown passes to Rueben Randle, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Ahmad Bradshaw scored a touchdown and set up another with a 59-yard gain off a screen pass. And the Giants' defense shut down reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers with one of its most complete games of the season.
Manning clearly understood the importance of the matchup, especially in the context of the Giants' late-season mission.
"This is the game that's most important, and we just have to treat it one game at a time," he said. "We know these last six games are important. They're going to dictate what our future is and whether our season ends up in the playoffs or not. You can't start looking to a game down the road when we have a big one right in front of us."
Bradshaw could hardly contain his anticipation. "We can't wait," he said. "I was just talking to the linemen about just getting back to football. G-Men football is what we call it, and if we can get that started, get going offensively, we can give the team a spark and be ready."
The Giants' offense was wildly inconsistent through the first 10 games. They looked Super Bowl-good in a 41-34 comeback win over Tampa Bay and another 41-point explosion against the Browns. But there have been struggles, too, including major problems in the red zone and third-down efficiency issues in last month's win over the Cowboys, a problem that continued in losses to the Steelers and Bengals.
The defense had been streaky, too, looking dominant against the 49ers in a big road win but then looking brutal against the Bengals.
It all worked seamlessly against the Packers, giving Coughlin another crucial victory at a point in the season when his teams have experienced mixed results. But rather than dwell on missed opportunities from the past, Coughlin remained resolute in his focus.
"Here we go. Take care of your own business," he said. "That's what I learned a long, long time ago. Take care of your own business."
It is another in a long line of simple phrases Coughlin likes to live by, joining mantras such as "Finish," "Talk is cheap, play the game" and "Build the bridge."
The players got the message loud and clear. Any more second-half-of-the-season misfortune would further imperil their chances of becoming the first team in franchise history to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
Keep playing like this, those chances look awfully good.