The Giants spent the regular season (9-7) riding the waves of the most explosive offense in franchise history. But the first round of the playoffs it was the defense that made the biggest splash.

They turned back the clock with a dominating performance as they smothered the Atlanta Falcons, 24-2, in a wild-card playoff game at the Meadowlands on Sunday afternoon. The Giants’ defense pitched a shutout – the only Falcons scoring was a second-quarter safety – as they won a a Post Season game at home for the first time in nearly 11 years.

The Giants’ defense yielded only 247 yards and turned Falcons running back Michael Turner almost completely irrelevant (41 yards on 15 carries). They even saved the game with two huge stops when the Falcons tried quarterback sneaks on 4th-and-inches deep in Giants territory, once in each half.

That cleared the way for the Giants’ offense, which rode its best rushing attack of the season (172 yards) and got three touchdown passes from Eli Manning, including a 72-yarder to Hakeem Nicks late in the third quarter that essentially put the game away.

The Giants (10-7), who had lost their only other two home playoff games under Tom Coughlin (2005 and 2008), now move on to the divisional round of the playoffs in Green Bay next Sunday at 4:30 p.m. They had been hoping for a rematch with the top-seeded Packers (15-1), ever since they narrowly lost to them, 38-35 at the Meadowlands on Dec. 4.

Back then the Giants’ defense was still a bit of a mess – nothing like the juggernaut that has flashed a dangerous pass rush the last three weeks. On Sunday, Perry Fewell’s unit was equally masterful against the run and never let the Falcons’ array of receivers and tight ends find much room down the field.

Actually, neither offense got off to a flying start – a bit surprising since they were both ranked in the Top 10 in the NFL. It was a defensive standoff for the first two quarters, with the pass rushes of both teams dominating the action.

In fact, right after the Giants’ defense stopped the Falcons (10-7) on a huge 4th-and-1 way down at the Giants’ 24, the Falcons’ defense struck right back. With the Giants facing a 2nd and 19 from their own 13, Atlanta safety James Sanders came blitzing by Giants right tackle Kareem McKenzie and forced Manning to throw the ball away in the hopes of avoiding the sack.

Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t out of the pocket so he was flagged for intentional grounding, and since he was in the end zone at the time it was a safety that gave the Falcons an early, 2-0 lead.

Posted By: @BrookLynnDiva

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