These are the Giants we've been waiting to see.
After heading into the bye with two losses and a division race that had suddenly materialized after weeks out in front by themselves, the Giants made an emphatic statement that all they needed was a chance to recharge their batteries. They thrashed the Packers 38-10 at the Meadowlands on Sunday night to improve to 7-4 and take a two-game lead in the NFC East into next week's game with the Redskins.
The evening started out on a good note when Eli Manning hit Ahmad Bradshaw for a screen that turned into a 59-yard gain and set up a touchdown, hit a brief bump when the Packers tied the score and then it was all Giants on the way to the victory. Manning wound up with three touchdown passes (including a Giants franchise record 200th for his career), the Giants sacked Aaron Rodgers five times and the only concern was whether or not Vegas would be paying out over or under bets.
In other words, it was exactly the game that the Giants needed after a bad stretch before their bye week.
The passing offense still wasn't as crisp as it could be, but it wasn't a frightfest like it was before the bye and performed better as the game moved along. That might have had something to do with the Packers seeming to pack it in awfully early, but it will be nice to get away from the doom and gloom of the last few weeks all the same.
Even better, the running game was very strong with both Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown gaining yards thanks to hard running and good blocking. The Packers couldn't seem to figure out how to defend the Giants because of their success against the run and that's a good position for the offense to be in over the final five weeks of the season.
The offensive line looked the most refreshed of anyone on offense as the Packers could neither mount a stout defense on the ground nor pressure Manning much when he dropped back to pass. The rest of the issues with the timing and accuracy of the passing game look like they are on the road to recovery, something that will only accelerate with Manning having time to throw the ball.
More than anything on that side of the ball, though, it was the defense that makes you think that the Giants have put some of their problems to bed. It was a performance that looked a lot like last year's playoff game as Rodgers was swarmed by pass rushers on almost every drop and wound up playing a tentative, confused game.
Those familiar with last season will know that is exactly the kind of game that the Giants want opposing quarterbacks to play. The big difference this time was how the Giants did it.
While there was plenty of work done by the front four, including the obligatory Osi Umenyiora strip sack, the Giants also brought blitzes from unusual (for them) angles and kept Rodgers guessing by showing more looks than they showed prior to the bye. Beyond that, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell tweaked things during the game to keep what was working early -- a 61-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson -- from ever working again.
Getting Kenny Phillips back also helped because Antrel Rolle was able to play a more aggressive role closer to the line of scrimmage without having to be the last line of defense behind the cornerbacks. Rolle was active, so was Phillips, and the Giants faster looked noticeably faster than it did before they took their vacation.
That makes Phillips' departure with a knee injury the one real black mark on the night because we're not sure if the can play the same kind of game in the secondary without him in the lineup. It would be a severe and cruel loss so soon after getting a glimpse of what the Giants defense looks like at full strength.
Outside of that, though, there are nothing but smiles for the return of Giants football. Literally and figuratively.