Last year's NFC Championship was one for the ages, but why go through that again?
The Giants laid a different blueprint in Sunday's rematch. Yes, it was less dramatic, but it led to the same result – a win in San Francisco.
Hit 12 times, including six sacks, in January, Eli Manning's jersey was kept relatively clean with no sacks and just one hit this time. Having to throw 58 passes in the title game, 28 sufficed on Sunday.
"We could just be patient," Manning said. "Offensively, we didn't have to force things. We didn't have to try to make big plays. We could just bide our time, dink and dunk, when we had some shots, go after it. But we could be a little more conservative, run the ball and we were able to do that."
That was aided by three takeaways by the Giants' defense, while Manning and the offense didn't turn the ball over. Manning finished the game 15 of 28 passing for 193 yards and one touchdown.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game, but I think we played smart football," he continued. "Offensively, we had some good drives, which is what we needed to do. We had some opportunities to get more points and had to settle for field goals a few [too] many times. But the defense played outstanding and got the turnovers."
Sparked by Prince Amukamara's interception early in the second quarter, the offense kicked it into gear on the ensuing possession. Manning hooked up on a deep pass down the right sideline to Domenik Hixon, who made a spectacular catch for a 39-yard gain. Four plays later, Manning found Victor Cruz in the end zone for a six-yard touchdown, the first of the day.
"That was a big play," Manning said of Hixon's catch. "The first couple drives we hadn't really gotten much going, and that third down got the ball down the field, changing the field position a little bit and you go down to score a touchdown to Victor on a great catch in the end zone. So after that, we kind of got a good mix of the run and pass. Our offensive line was firing off and they played outstanding."
Manning was also happy to see one of his best weapons back in the lineup. After missing the past three games, Hakeem Nicks returned from injury and caught three passes for 44 yards.
"It's great to get Hakeem back today," Manning said. "[He] had a couple nice catches – one down the sideline in the two-minute [drill] where he goes up and gets it in the center. I missed him on the first one, which I hate. We don't miss those very often. So we'll get back to making sure we hit those ones when he's open down the sideline."