By Kyle McMorrow
Giants fans start sending your thank you letters to the address of Derrick Ward. The man nicknamed “Wind”, breezed past the Carolina Panthers defense for 215 yards, and could have quite possibly saved the New York Giants season.
While the Giants may have clinched the number one seed in the NFC, the win over Carolina reaches further than just home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The defending super bowl champions got their swagger back, rediscovered how to win games, and finally remembered that until they are eliminated from a possible repeat, they are the team to beat in the NFL.
In previous weeks, the Giants struggled to find their identity, scoring only one offensive touchdown combined in back to back games against Dallas and Philadelphia.
Sunday night went a little differently.
The Giants got back to what they do best, running the football. Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward combined for 302 yards and three touchdowns, en route to New York’s highest rushing performance since 1959. While the men known as “Earth” and “Wind” imposed their will on the Carolina defense, Eli Manning showed he didn’t need Plaxico Burress to prove the Giants still had an aerial attack.
Manning found seven different receivers for 181 yards, and completed 63 percent of his passes, his highest completion percentage since week twelve. While no one man will make up for the void left by Burress, the combination of Steve Smith, Dominic Hixon, and Amani Toomer seem to be a short term solution for what will be a long-term problem.
The road to the super bowl in the NFC runs through New Jersey, where the Giants are 7-1 this season. With the coldest months of the year in New York and New Jersey still to come, passing the ball will only become more difficult in the future. Manning attempted 27 passes against Carolina Sunday night, a sharp contrast to the 39 rushing attempts by Jacobs and Ward. Expect a run heavy Giant offense throughout the post season to shoulder the load during the winter months.
The only question that remains now is simple, does anybody have what it takes to defeat the defending super bowl champions at home?
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