Giants 24, Buccaneers 14 – The Giants came out flat early and had some awful play going. The problem for the Buccaneers is that they aren’t engineered to take advantage of slow starts by better teams (and let’s face it, on paper and in record, the Giants are a better team — considering just how awful the NFC South is.) Jeff Garcia and the Bucs were only able to get a 7-0 lead on the Giants, and then New York scored the next 24 points, assisted by a big interception in the second half when Garcia tried to hit Joey Galloway in the end zone and wound up throwing to Corey Webster (who had also made kick returner Michael Spurlock fumble to start the second half). Eli Manning showed the maddening flashes of brilliance in the second half, leading drives down the field and avoiding the crucial interception for his first playoff win — and he may have saved Tom Coughlin’s job as head coach too. The Giants will head to Dallas, ensuring that at least one NFC East team will make the championship game.
Chargers 17, Titans 6 – Blech. This was an NFC game in spirit. Sloppy play, bad play-calling, and red zone futility until the Chargers finally got into the end zone in the third via a Phil Rivers pass to Vincent Jackson (LaDainian Tomlinson added another score in the 4th quarter.) If there’s any particular stat on a playoff team that you must worry about, it is having a field goal kicker that leads the league in field goals made and long attempts. This masks a deficiency in the red zone offense that was on display for Tennessee today. The Chargers’ defense began to ramp up and get more intense as the game wore on, and Phil Rivers made just enough plays to win (but not enough to keep LT from stewing on the sidelines about how few times he was getting the ball.) This Bolts team is not beating the Colts next Sunday — not unless there is some radical re-invention of the team between now and then. Norv Turner cannot figure out that Tomlinson can be used more as a receiver, especially with Antonio Gates lost with a toe injury. When you have an offensive MVP on your team, the goal is to figure out how to get the ball to him as often as possible, especially when you need to make plays.
Photo: AP/Chris O’Meara