This year’s first NFC playoff game featured an offensive explosion. This year’s second NFC playoff game is on pace to be slightly lower scoring.
On Sunday in New Jersey, the key plays early on were offensive failures: An intentional grounding penalty in the end zone on Giants quarterback Eli Manning gave the Falcons the first two points of the game, and the key offensive play for the Falcons was a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1 that got stuffed for no gain.
Falcons coach Mike Smith, who was ripped during the regular season for going for it on fourth-and-1 and getting stuffed against the Saints, may have finally decided that going for it on fourth-and-1 isn’t worth it: The Falcons faced another fourth-and-1 after that Matt Ryan sneak came up empty, and on that occasion they punted.
Speaking of punts, there were six of them in the first 20 minutes of the game. Saturday’s Lions-Saints game featured only three punts in 60 minutes.
Only late in the second half did we finally see a sustained offensive drive, with the Giants marching 85 yards on 13 plays (helped by a successful fourth-and-inches conversion) and culminating with a four-yard pass from Manning to Hakeem Nicks to give New York a 7-2 lead. On that drive the Giants ran the ball effectively, with Brandon Jacobs rumbling for 34 yards for the biggest offensive play of the game, and Manning adding a 14-yard run of his own.
It says something about the kind of game this has been that Manning’s run gained more yards than any of the passes he’s thrown today. Fans clamoring for a return to old-school playoff football, this is the game for you.