02/03/12 — Stevens: Giants get hot at right time behind Manning, defense

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Stevens: Giants get hot at right time behind Manning, defense

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on February 3, 2012 1:48 PM

At 7-7 in mid-December, their playoff hopes on life support and with a coach on the hot seat, the New York Giants hardly seemed destined for the Super Bowl.

Five straight wins later, the Giants are making their second Super Bowl appearance in the last five years, and are living proof that great teams aren't great all the time, only when they have to be.

Much like its run to the Super Bowl during the 2007-08 season, New York has gotten hot at the right time. That year, the Giants won four consecutive playoff games on the road, including a win against Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in the NFC Championship game.

New York's current five-game winning streak has featured three road wins, including a victory at top-seeded Green Bay. The Giants' improbable Super Bowl run five years ago ended with an upset of the undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. In its quest for another championship, New York would no doubt have it any other way but to once again face a slightly favored New England team in the Super Bowl.

New York's dominating defensive line has pressured opposing quarterbacks this season, and its success has played a major role in the team's latest postseason run. The Giants' "NASCAR package" allows defensive ends Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Mathias Kiwanuka and Osi Umenyiora to utilize their speed up front.

The move has paid significant dividends.

Over their last five games, the Giants have recorded 20 sacks and held opponents to fewer than 14 points a contest. New York sacked New England quarterback Tom Brady five times in Super Bowl XLII. Making Brady uncomfortable in the pocket will be critical on Sunday.

The Giants have limited three postseason opponents to just 11 third-down conversions in 39 tries. That will be important against Brady and the Patriots.

New York quarterback Eli Manning, a guy who seemingly has to reprove himself every season, has already set career highs in passing yards (5,856) and touchdown passes (37) this season. With one Super Bowl MVP already on his resume, Eli is another championship away from unseating older brother Peyton as the best quarterback in the family -- in Peyton's house in Indianapolis no less.

Conventional wisdom tells us the Giants don't have the mystique the Patriots have created in recent years. They don't have either a Brady or a Bill Belichick. And the odds-makers tab the Patriots a 3-point favorite.

That same wisdom says New York wouldn't have it any other way.