Eli Manning helped the New York Giants to victory over the Green Bay Packers. Photograph: Darron Cummings/AP
The New York Giants eliminated last year's Super Bowl champions, the Green Bay Packers, from the NFL playoffs with a 37-20 road win on Sunday to reach next week's NFC title game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Eli Manning had three touchdown passes, including two long strikes to Hakeem Nicks, and the Giants defence contained explosive Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to end Green Bay's shot at becoming the first team in seven years to retain the Super Bowl. The Giants, who won the Super Bowl four years ago with an improbable run to the title as a wild card, are now one win away from returning to the title game on 5 February in Indianapolis.
The Packers had the NFL's top-scoring offence during the regular season, averaging 35 points a game as they recorded a 15-1 record, but were unable to consistently beat a suffocating Giants defence that forced four turnovers in the game.
"Our defence has done well for us the last few weeks and that's made a huge difference for us, to be able to count on that," said the Giants head coach, Tom Coughlin. "Today, not only the outstanding play, but the turnovers [were crucial]."
The Giants forced three fumbles and a late interception to thwart the Green Bay attack. New York also had four sacks, two coming late in the game, and Rodgers was hampered by eight drops from his receivers as Green Bay, who had a first-round playoff bye due to their NFL-best record, looked out of synch for much of the game.
The teams battled evenly in the first half until a late surge by the Giants gave them the upper hand. A 37-yard desperation heave by Manning was hauled in by Nicks as time expired in the first half to give New York a 20-10 lead.
Rodgers believed the the play was crucial to the outcome of the game. "Going into the half 13-10 and getting the ball [to start the second half] is a different feeling than going in 20-10," he said. "That's one of those crazy, flukey plays. It gave them a lot of momentum and made it a two-score game. It was disappointing. Personally I didn't play as well as I wanted to."