Flashback to Divisional Round victories
With the playoffs continuing this weekend, it's time to look back at some of the Giants' best memories from the Divisional Round.
The Giants have played in the Divisional Round 11 times since their first appearance back in 1981, a 38-24 loss at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. The Giants would go on to play the 49ers again in their next Divisional Round game in 1984, which resulted in another loss at Candlestick Park, this time falling 21-10.
However, the Giants would get revenge on San Francisco just a few years later. The two teams faced off in the 1986 Divisional Round, where the Giants put up one of the most dominant playoff performances in NFL history. The Big Blue defense held the 49ers to 184 total yards while forcing four turnovers, including an interception that Lawrence Taylor returned 34 yards for a touchdown. On the other side of the ball, Phil Simms threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers while Joe Morris ran for 159 yards and two touchdowns in the 49-3 victory at Giants Stadium. A few weeks later, the Giants would hoist the Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI.
Big Blue's next appearance in the Divisional Round came during the team's run to a Super Bowl XXV title following the 1990 season. The Giants welcomed the Chicago Bears to East Rutherford for this matchup, one in which Bill Parcells' squad would lead for the entire game. Jeff Hostetler, filling in for the injured Phil Simms, completed 10 of 17 passes for two touchdowns while adding 43 rushing yards and an additional touchdown on the ground. Everson Walls and Mark Collins each recorded an interception of Bears QB Mike Tomczak as the Giants cruised to a 31-3 win.
Following their Super Bowl XXV title, the Giants would go 10 years before they won their next Divisional Round showdown. Jim Fassel and the Giants took on Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles at Giants Stadium with a trip to the NFC Championship Game on the line, and this game had fireworks right from the start. Ron Dixon would return the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown to give the Giants an early 7-0 lead. Towards the end of the first half, Jason Sehorn would add to the lead with an acrobatic interception which he was able to run back 32 yards for a touchdown. The Eagles were held to just 186 total yards of offense as the Giants went on to win, 20-10.
The Giants' next appearance in the Divisional Round was one of the franchise's more memorable ones, as the team flew to Dallas to take on the Cowboys at Texas Stadium during the 2007 playoffs. Amani Toomer got the scoring started with a 52-yard touchdown catch before the Cowboys put up 14 straight points. Toomer was able to get the Giants even right before halftime as he caught a four-yard pass from Eli Manning for his second touchdown of the game. Following a third quarter field goal by Nick Folk, the Giants entered the fourth quarter trailing by three points. Brandon Jacobs went on to punch in the game-winning touchdown from one yard out to give the Giants a 21-17 lead, and R.W. McQuarters would seal the victory with an interception of Tony Romo in the end zone with 16 seconds remaining. The Giants would beat the Packers the following week before taking down the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
The Giants' most recent Divisional Round matchup came exactly nine years ago today, as Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning and the Giants traveled to Wisconsin to take on the Packers at Lambeau Field. This showdown served as a rematch of the 2007 NFC Championship Game in which the Giants went on the road and defeated the Packers in overtime, 23-20.
The Giants and Packers would exchange scores throughout most of the first half of this game, as a 66-yard touchdown catch from Hakeem Nicks was answered by an eight-yard touchdown catch from Packers fullback John Kuhn. Up 13-10 with just 41 seconds remaining in the half, the Giants drove from their own 31-yard line to the Packers' 40-yard line with only six seconds left on the clock. Manning would then heave a Hail Mary into the end zone as the clock struck 0:00, where Nicks was somehow able to leap over Packers' defenders to make the grab for a touchdown to extend Big Blue's lead to 20-10. The Giants went on to add another two touchdowns, along with a Lawrence Tynes field goal, and would leave Lambeau with a 37-20 win. Following a win in San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game, the Giants would once again defeat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
Blake Martinez ready to build on strong campaign
Linebacker Blake Martinez was often called a "tackling machine" throughout his final three seasons in Green Bay. His 443 total tackles from 2017-2019 were the most in the NFL as he started all 48 regular season games during that span.
When the Giants signed Martinez to a multi-year deal last off-season, the team was hoping he would continue to serve as a consistent force in the middle. Fast forward nearly 10 months and the Giants couldn't be happier about the investment they made in the 27-year-old veteran.
Martinez started all 16 games this past season while barely leaving the field. He played on 97 percent of the team's defensive snaps, setting a career high with 1,062. The fifth-year pro finished the season with 151 total tackles (third in the NFL) to go with three sacks, nine tackles for losses, six quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one interception and five passes defensed. His 75.9 overall grade from Pro Football Focus was the seventh-highest among linebackers.
Despite his strong production, Martinez expressed his excitement about getting to work this off-season in order to improve his game.
"Overall season-wise, extremely happy with how I played," Martinez said after the season ended. "Always obviously wanting to get better. I'm going to focus on just improving on all aspects of my game this off-season. To make 152 tackles and 'XYZ' more plays for my team to help us win. Then overall, just excited for this group of guys and excited to get back to work for the 2021 season."
Martinez has good reason to look forward to the Fall, as the Giants' defense put up strong numbers in its first year under defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
The defense finished ninth in points allowed (22.3) and 12th in yards allowed (349.3), a significant improvement from its NFL rankings the previous season. The unit was most impressive in the red zone, surrendering a touchdown on just 50.8 percent of opponents' trips inside the 20, the second-best mark in the league.
Now that the defense has had a full season in Graham's system, Martinez believes it can play even better.
"I think with every team, especially with having a new defensive coordinator, you have those kinds of little bumps in the road and things like that," the linebacker said. "But I think overall throughout the year, he did a really good job of getting us to understand it, understand what he's looking for. But like you said, the jump from year one to year two, it's going to be awesome to kind of find finite details and just understand even more what he's looking for, and be able to play maybe one or two steps quicker across the board as a group."
View photos of linebacker Blake Martinez in his first season with the Giants.
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