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Palladino: Giants Must Grab Early Lead On Packers -- And Keep It

'From the Pressbox'
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

Ernie is the author of "Lombardi and Landry." He'll be covering football throughout the season.

Start fast. Stay ahead.

If the Giants have any credo they need to live by in Sunday's NFC semifinal in Green Bay, it is that.

Let's face it. As well as the Giants played in the second half Sunday, as well as the defense did in shutting down Matt Ryan and the Falcons, a seven-point first half simply won't do it against the Packers.

Why? Because unless the defense steps up another five notches above their outstanding wild card performance, they're not going to hold Aaron Rodgers scoreless. It's simply not going to happen to an offense that has weapons all over the place, starting with Rodgers' golden arm.

And once the Packers get the lead, they hang onto it like a pit bull fighting Ben Benson over a steak. Benson has a stellar steakhouse. But pit bull wins every time.

The Packers are the NFL's best when fighting from the front. Besides, they haven't quite forgiven Tom Coughlin's guys for that conference championship overtime loss at Lambeau in the 2007 postseason that deprived them of a Super Bowl berth. Certainly Greg Jennings remembered in his non-congratulatory tweet moments after the Giants advanced.

"The team that kept us from our potential Super Bowl in '08 is back on OUR turf now," Jennings tweeted. "Trust me, we haven't forgotten."

Nor has the Pack forgotten this regular season. In a 15-1 season, they relinquished a lead only twice did they ever relinquish a lead once they took hold of one -- against the Giants and the Lions.

They beat both teams, by the way, the Lions with backup quarterback Matt Flynn to boot. They never led against Kansas City, their only loss.

The seven times they actually had to fight from behind weren't great fights at all. Five were small, early-game deficits the Packers easily made up.

As Kansas City proved, the only real way to beat the Packers is to start off in the lead and do enough good things defensively to stay there. Let the Packers come back, and it's pretty much over.

Sunday thus becomes a two-fold job for the Giants. First, the offense needs to get out ahead and keep producing, probably more than the 24 points they put up against the Falcons. And then the defense has to do a stellar job against an offense that features the deepest receiving corps in the league next to New Orleans in Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley, and a come-backing Jennings.

No wonder Coughlin cringed when hearing that Jason Pierre-Paul basically guaranteed a win Monday.

"Let's not get too carried away," he said.

Coughlin was hopeful of getting CB Aaron Ross and RB DJ Ware back from head injuries incurred against Atlanta, and that should help on both offense and defense. Ross will keep game but inexperienced rookie Prince Amukamara in a supporting role, while Ware has become a good screen target on offense. Both underwent tests Monday, but Coughlin's optimism about a potential return Sunday indicated the squad's renewed health could hold.

After that, it's a matter of grit and execution, two things the Giants showed plenty of the past three games.

They'll need a lot more of that now.

Will the Giants be able to fend off Rodgers and the Packers? Sound off below...

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