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Giants need to stop Aaron Rodgers to beat Packers

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Giants need to stop Aaron Rodgers to beat Packers

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Justin Tuck knows there is a way to neutralize Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Thinking about rattling him is probably not the way to go for the slumping New York Giants.

``I don't know,'' Tuck said of Sunday's game between the two most recent Super Bowl champions. ``We haven't rattled him yet. We've had success against him, slowed him down in his progressions because of some different looks. As far as being rattled? No, I haven't seen that yet.

``I hope I'm wrong. I hope we get an opportunity to rattle him on Sunday.''

For a primer on how, exactly, to unnerve the NFL's top-rated passer, Tuck might want to go back to last year's playoff game in Green Bay, where Osi Umenyiora and Michael Boley split four sacks and applied enough pressure on Rodgers to induce him to throw a game-sealing interception to safety Deon Grant.

That 37-20 Giants win was a far different affair than the teams' regular-season matchup, in which Rodgers threw for four touchdowns to go along with 369 yards passing in a 38-35 victory. Included in that one was a two-minute drill in which he maneuvered through the Giants' defense to position Mason Crosby for a game-winning, 31-yard field goal as time expired.

He looked then like he could not be shaken. In fact, he has taken on that same persona in both his regular season wins against the Giants, averaging 386.5 yards passing. He's thrown for eight touchdowns in those games.

The Giants' goal, then, is to interrupt that run of dominance by duplicating their playoff performance. To wit: hit him, cover his receivers, and make him throw the ball early.

But that could be easier said than done. After a slow start, Rodgers has led the Packers (7-3) on a 6-1 roll, including a five-game winning streak. He's thrown 24 touchdown passes and four interceptions over that span.

He has thrown multiple touchdown passes in four of those seven games, looking cool and calm the whole time, even as he scrambles for yardage and extend plays to allow standout receivers Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley to maneuver into open spaces.

If the Giants learned anything about handling Rodgers in 2011, it came from that playoff game.

``I don't think we did anything too different,'' safety Antrel Rolle said. ``We had a couple of personnel changes. We disrupted and took away his primary targets. And the defensive line and linebackers did a good job getting after him.

``I'm not saying not everyone did their job in that first game, but it comes down to whoever is hot on that particular day. It's a matter of last man standing.''

The easiest way to become that man would be to put Rodgers on the seat of his pants, as Umenyiora and Boley did last season. That, the Giants hope, would make him a bit antsy.

``Any quarterback can be rattled,'' safety Kenny Phillips, who could end his six-game absence because of a sprained right knee Sunday. ``It starts up front.''

Having Phillips back could allow the Giants to go back to the three-safety combination that was so successful against the Packers in the playoffs. Grant is no longer with the team, but Stevie Brown has proved a valuable replacement for him. With Rolle and Brown starting, and Phillips coming in as the deep safety, the Giants would have an extra option in the secondary that could increase the pass rush pressure on Rodgers.

That doesn't translate to rattling for Tuck. But it would be the next best thing.

``Rattle? He's played in a lot of big-time games. He's gotten hit a lot, and we want to hit him hard,'' Tuck said. ``That Seattle game (a 14-12 loss in Week 3), they hit him left and right every play, but that second half he came out and he was still as good as he always was.''

The Giants are looking to end a two-game losing streak.

``We just have to handle our game plan and approach it as a playoff atmosphere,'' Rolle said.

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE

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3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.