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(Sunday, January 8th)
Final Score: NY Giants 24, Atlanta 2
East Rutherford, NJ (Sports Network) - Elite quarterbacks win playoff games on the road and at home.
Until Sunday, Eli Manning had done plenty of the former, but none of the latter.
Manning threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns to win a postseason game at home for the first time, leading the New York Giants to a 24-2 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
Manning hit eight receivers and completed 23-of-32 passes, pulling the NFC East champions out of an early-game funk. The Giants defense took care of the rest, stopping Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan on two key 4th-and-inches plays.
"Both in the shadow of the goal line," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said of the stops. "Those plays really inspired everybody."
After the second one, Hakeem Nicks slashed through Atlanta's secondary for a 72-yard touchdown catch to give the Giants a 17-2 lead late in the third quarter.
Nicks had two touchdown catches, including a leaping four-yarder in the second quarter that gave New York the lead for good, and Mario Manningham scored on a 27-yard catch in the fourth.
The Giants, who went 9-7 in the regular season and beat Dallas last week for the No. 4 seed, moved on to face the top-seeded Packers next Sunday in Green Bay.
"Our defense played outstanding. Good job stopping the run, and some fourth- and third-down stops," said Manning. "And those were huge ... that's a situation in a playoff game, if you don't convert on fourth down, third down, third and short, it's tough to overcome so our defense did a great job getting those stops and huge plays in the game."
Atlanta, the No. 5 seed after going 10-6, scored its only points on a safety when Manning was whistled for intentional grounding in the end zone in the second quarter.
The wild card Falcons made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time ever, but remained winless in the postseason since 2004.
Head coach Mike Smith said they lost because they couldn't control the line of scrimmage and let the Giants to harass Ryan, keeping him out of a rhythm.
Ryan was 24-of-41 for 199 yards, rarely finding enough time to set himself on passing plays, while Michael Turner rushed for 41 yards on 15 carries and rookie Julio Jones caught seven passes for 64 yards.
"We didn't make enough plays offensively, defensively or in special teams to get the outcome that we wanted," said Smith. "We struggled in several areas of the ball game today. They won the battle of the line of scrimmage and I think that was one of the musts that we had to accomplish and we didn't accomplish that today."
In the preseason, Manning said he considered himself in the same class among the NFL's elite quarterbacks -- not a limb-climbing statement for a former Super Bowl MVP, but it still made headlines for Peyton's little brother.
He had lots of help Sunday. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw split carries, running 14 times apiece for a combined 155 yards, while Nicks caught six passes for 115 yards and Manningham grabbed four for 68.
"It's great when you have all your weapons in place," said Manning.
The Giants returned to the playoffs after a two-year absence and captured their first postseason win since beating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, when they won four game away from home.
They stuffed Ryan on a sneak through the middle of the line on 4th-and-inches on the first play of the second quarter. It came after the Falcons ran 14 plays on the first drive of the game for either team that didn't end in a punt.
Atlanta picked up two points moments later when James Sanders chased Manning down in the end zone, forcing an intentional grounding safety.
Later, Jacobs carried New York deep into Atlanta territory on a 34-yard run and the Giants turned to him again on a 4th-and-inches play for a pickup of two yards.
Nicks then made a leaping four-yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone on first down to give the Giants a 7-2 lead. They had four first downs on the 85-yard drive after picking up just one in their first four possessions.
"A lot of guys contributed," said Coughlin.
Manning converted two third downs on long passes to Nicks and Victor Cruz, and Bradshaw broke off a 30-yard run down to the Atlanta five, but the Giants settled for a 22-yard Lawrence Tynes field goal for a 10-2 lead midway through the third quarter.
The Falcons called a quarterback sneak on another short fourth down play on the ensuing drive, and once again Ryan was stuffed in a familiar scene.
"In a playoff game, you have to make those plays," said Ryan. "And we didn't make them."
Three plays later, Hicks flashed open in the slot and Manning went to him. Hicks did the rest, cutting a seam through at least four Atlanta defenders as he sprinted to the left side of the end zone for a 17-2 lead.
"It was zone coverage so I was actually about to sit, but when I saw the linebackers in the zone drop out of there I just tried to get in some Eli vision," said Hicks, "and once I caught it was just make the play."
Jacobs ran for 92 yards and Bradshaw 63...Giants cornerback Aaron Ross and running back D.J. Ware left the game with concussions. Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes (knee) missed the game...The Falcons were the No. 1 seed last year but lost to the Packers in the divisional round.
01/08 17:31:09 ET