The New York Giants steamrolled Matt Ryan and the Atlanta
Falcons in the playoffs last season on the way to a fourth Lombardi
They’re not expecting this meeting to go quite as smoothly,
despite the Falcons’ latest performance.
In the hopes of moving closer to joining Atlanta in the playoffs
again, the NFC East-leading Giants may need another strong
performance from rookie running back David Wilson and the defense
Sunday in the Georgia Dome.
New York went on to win last season’s Super Bowl, a run that
started with a 24-2 rout of Atlanta. The Giants blanked the potent
Falcons, holding them to 247 yards – 64 rushing – while stopping
Atlanta on 10 of 14 tries on third down and all three on
New York (8-5) is certainly not expecting Atlanta, tied with
Houston for the best record in the NFL at 11-2, to fall as easily
“They have two new coordinators in (defensive coordinator) Mike
Nolan and (offensive coordinator) Dirk Koetter,” coach Tom Coughlin
said. “They do bring their own personality and style to the way
that they’re playing, so there is a difference.”
Koetter’s offense relies heavily on Ryan, who is 68 passing
yards shy of becoming the first Falcon to top 4,000 in back-to-back
seasons. He’s also thrown 24 touchdown passes, five behind his
career high from last year.
Ryan was limited to 199 yards by New York in January, getting
The Falcons rank fourth in the NFL with an average of 289.2
yards passing, while the running game is 28th with 86.9 per game –
68.4 over the past five contests.
New York, though, feels NFC South champion Atlanta is capable of
mixing things up with running backs Michael Turner and Jacquizz
Rodgers. However, they combined for a season-low 35 yards on 11
attempts in last week’s 30-20 loss at Carolina.
“They’re a little bit mixed up,” defensive end Justin Tuck said.
“I thought at the end of last year, they were a little bit more
leaning on the pass.
“They want to keep the chains moving, and they’re kind of a
check-with-me offense. It’s going to be a chess match a little more
than it was last year.”
If so, the Giants may feel at ease with a defense that is second
in the NFL in forcing turnovers (34) and interceptions (20). New
York made New Orleans cough up the ball four times in last week’s
Ryan feels solving the Giants pass rush is important. Jason
Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, Chris Canty and Tuck have accounted for
17 of the team’s 31 sacks.
“The Giants are probably the best in the league,” Ryan said.
“They’ve got three top-tier pass rushers, and we know that from
playing them last year. They’ll present us with a difficult
challenge. Their front four is very solid. For four quarters, they
rush the passer as well as anybody in the league.”
Wilson gives the offense another threat after his breakout
performance against the Saints. He ran 13 times for 100 yards and
two touchdowns and returned a kickoff 97 yards for another
The first-round pick should get his first start Sunday with
leading rusher Ahmad Bradshaw ruled out due to knee and foot
problems, and backup Andre Brown (broken leg) out for the
“Maybe there’s a little more anticipation and a little more
excitement now,” Wilson said Friday after learning of Bradshaw’s
While recent free agent signees Ryan Torain and Kregg Lumpkin
could get some carries, Coughlin feels Wilson can handle most of
the workload and could be a 20-carry back.
“There’s no reason why he couldn’t be,” Coughlin said. “Whether
he will be or not is a different thing. We have a couple other guys
who are going to help us in different ways.”
The Giants are averaging 132.0 yards on the ground in the last
four games, and the Falcons are surrendering 127.0 per game for the
season after allowing 195 to the Panthers – 116 by quarterback Cam
Eli Manning isn’t likely to be the same threat, but he picked
apart Atlanta in the playoffs to the tune of 277 yards and three
touchdowns while completing 23 of 32 passes. He has eight TDs, two
interceptions and a 103.6 passer rating in the last three
The Giants, who lead Washington and Dallas by one game in the
division, have won four in a row against Atlanta. New York is the
only NFC team Ryan has yet to beat.
“We just have to make sure Ryan doesn’t get too comfortable back
there,” Tuck said. “Otherwise, it’s going to be a long day for