American Football: Giants cut Rodgers and Green Bay down to size


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The Independent Online

The shadow of 2008 hovers over the NFL play-offs.

On Saturday, the New England Patriots put the Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow to the sword. Then the New York Giants, in the biggest upset of last weekend's divisional round, went to Green Bay and defeated the champion Packers. Four years ago, Giants and Patriots met in the Super Bowl. Come 5 February, they could again.

First, however, there's the small matter of the Sunday's championship games. But the Giants, after their impressive win on Sunday, will fancy their chances against San Francisco in the final battle for the NFC title.

The 49ers may have edged the New Orleans Saints 36-32 after one of the most compelling play-off games in recent history, in which the lead changed hands four times in the last four minutes. But the Giants, a bare 9-7 in the regular season, are getting hot at just the right time. The Packers boasted the the most lethal offense in the game, led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers who took them to a record 15-1 regular season.

Green Bay might have been the most popular pick for a Super Bowl repeat, but New York made Rodgers and his receivers look ordinary. Four times they sacked him, and also forced him into a fumble and an interception. Four years ago as well, the Giants won in Green Bay on their road to beating New England in Super Bowl XLII.

In the AFC championship match-up, the Patriots will face the Baltimore Ravens, who overcame the Houston Texans in their divisional play-off. "It wasn't pretty, but we're not a pretty team," conceded Ravens' linebacker Terrell Suggs. The only score after the interval was a Ravens field goal with three minutes to go, wrapping up a 20-13 win.