In the week of preparations, Giants defenders like Deon Grant, Michael Boley and Jacquian Williams knew they would be going up against the most prolific tight end in the history of the game.
They knew he was still performing at a high level, and they also knew he was hungry.
Tony Gonzalez, in his 15th season, was still searching for not only a Super Bowl, but simply his first playoff victory. In four postseason appearances (three with the Kansas City Chiefs), Gonzalez hadn't walked off the field in victory.
His fifth (and second with the Falcons) was no different as the Giants essentially pitched a shutout, holding the Canton-bound tight end to four catches for 44 yards. Two of those receptions -- that went for a combined 27 yards -- came on the final drive for the Falcons when the game was out of reach.
"We just tried to mix it up on him knowing that he's a Hall of Famer and he's still got game in him," safety Deon Grant, a 12-year veteran himself, said. "So we just tried to make sure that we switched the looks up at him and just kept on putting pressure on Matt Ryan and keep him off his game."
Ryan, leading the No. 8 passing offense coming in, was definitely off his game, completing 24 of 41 passes for 199 yards and zero touchdowns.
"We never got into a rhythm," he said. "We never moved the ball consistently. We had some opportunities. We fell short on two fourth downs. We just came up short. In a playoff game against a very good football team, you have to make those plays and we didn't make them."
With the game sealed up on that final drive (the Giants were leading 24-2), the Falcons were threatening to put their first offensive points on the board with a first down inside the Giants 20.
Ryan threw three incomplete passes and Osi Umenyiora sacked him on the final play to maintain the defensive shutout, which was a source of pride later in the locker room.
"It was still huge to stop them at the end," Jacquian Williams said. "We've been working hard towards a performance like that. A lot of teams are home. We're one of the teams that are still here and grinding. So to go to the next level, it's always a blessing."
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