The coaches, players and fans were all saying it, but it took the words of Adam Merchant -- a 15-year-old Barre, Vt. native who has been battling non-Hodgkin's Burkitt's lymphoma -- to get the message across.
“I told them to play like world champions,” the lifelong Giants fans said of the inspirational speech he gave to the team on Friday.
The Giants definitely looked more like world champions during Sunday’s 38-10 win over the visiting Green Bay Packers than a team that was coming off of two consecutive defeats.
And whether it was Merchant’s words that sparked the change or not, the Giants were effective in “all three phases,” coach Tom Coughlin said, and that’s something they “needed to do.”
The 7-4 Packers, meanwhile, looked more like the team that lost to the Giants in last year’s NFC Divisional Round than the one that had won five consecutive games coming into Week 12.
The Packers committed seven penalties and two turnovers, QB Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times and outside of WR Jordy Nelson’s 61-yard TD reception, there wasn’t much offense to speak of.
The Giants’ enjoyed a completely different Sunday night. QB Eli Manning became the franchise’s all-time leader in touchdown passes (200), passing Phil Simms, and the pass rush finally got back on track. Even the running game (147 yards on 31 rushes) looked to be championship-caliber.
Merchant, who attended practice and the game as a part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, left MetLife Stadium with DE Justin Tuck’s jersey and more new friends than he can count.
When the game turned: Green Bay could have cut New York’s lead to seven when RB Ahmad Bradshaw was stopped three yards shy of a first down late in the second quarter. After a Steve Weatherford punt, the Packers had two minutes to score from their own 24-yard line and they had the added bonus of receiving the ball to begin the second half.
But after a 15-yard completion to WR Randall Cobb on second down, Rodgers was stripped by Giants DE Osi Umenyiora on third, and DE Jason Pierre-Paul recovered the ball on the 23-yard line.
Exacerbating Green Bay’s situation, Bradshaw sprung free for a 13-yard touchdown to give the Giants’ a 31-10 lead going into the half.
Highlight moments: Bradshaw turned a short pass into a 58-yard gain on the first drive, which brought the Giants to the 2-yard line. FB Henry Hynoski provided solid downfield blocking and Bradshaw was nearly able to outrun the Packers defense for the touchdown. RB Andre Brown followed two plays later with a 2-yard touchdown run. The play set the tone for the Giants, who only punted three times in the game. … CB Corey Webster’s first-quarter interception of a pass intended for Cobb was also a major turning point, particularly because Webster had yielded Nelson’s touchdown catch on the previous defensive possession. ... Trailing 7-0, the Packers got back into the game when Nelson’s stop-and-go route left Webster in his dust and allowed for an easy 61-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers. The play was reviewed, but the score was upheld.
- Giants WR Hakeem Nicks -- Five catches for 77 yards and his second touchdown of the season.
- Giants DE/DT/SLB Mathias Kiwanuka -- Five tackles, two sacks
- Packers LB A.J. Hawk -- Eight tackles
What they said about Andrew Merchant’s pep talk:
- Coughlin -- “The message was loud and clear, so we had Adam in the locker room after the game as well and had him in the middle here. Guys were very appreciative that he was here and really what he said was most meaningful and we picked up on that and that’s basically the challenge that we kept throughout the weekend and our Saturday night meetings: Play like world champions.”
- Manning -- “It can be kind of nerve-racking to come talk to your favorite team and have a little pep talk, but he did a great job and he said to go show everybody you’re the world champions and why you’re the world champions and play that way. I think it got everybody fired up and obviously we came out and played the way that we know we can.”
What they said about rookie WR Rueben Randle’s first NFL touchdown:
- Randle -- “A lot of pressure to finally get into the end zone. It took longer than I expected. It’s a blessing. I’ll just continue to work hard and hopefully it will be the first of many.”
What they said about the Packers poor pass protection:
Packers coach Mike McCarthy -- “The New York Giants have an outstanding defensive line. We knew that coming in. We’ve really known it for the last couple of years. We had a plan and we didn’t execute it very well. We got away from it, went to some spread things, that wasn’t the answer. That was quite poor play selection on my part. But they did a hell of a job tonight. They were dynamic, very talented, very productive.”
Numbers you should know: As impressive as the win was, Nelson’s touchdown marked the 40th play of 20 yards or more the Giants have given up on defense this season. … In addition to setting the franchise record for touchdown passes, Manning also registered his first touchdown in 107 passing attempts. … The Packers have now yielded 37 sacks this season.
Injury update: Giants -- Brown broke his fibula, which means his season is likely over. Brown finished the game with 64 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries. RT David Diehl left the game with a “burner,” and S Kenny Phillips left the game with an injury to his right knee, which is the one that kept him out seven weeks so far this season. However, Phillips insisted after the game that his exit was purely precautionary and he’s not concerned. Packers -- LB Jamari Lattimore suffered a calf injury, RB Johnny White left the game with a concussion and DE C.J. Wilson was knocked out with a knee injury.
Going forward: Giants -- New York moves on to Washington next Sunday where it will take on the Redskins before three brutal games against the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens. Packers -- Green Bay will stay in the division for the next three weeks with a home game against the Vikings and Lions followed by a visit to Chicago to face the Bears.