Adam Merchant had a wish and a command for the New York Giants.
The 15-year-old fan from Barre, Vt., attended practice and then Sunday’s game with the Packers thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He wanted the Giants to snap their two-game slide and get out of their offensive funk.
So he ordered the Giants to “play like world champions,” and they delivered a 38-10 rout of the Green Bay Packers.
“That was the theme of our meetings,” coach Tom Coughlin said.
Eli Manning came back from the bye week with a rested arm, and that offensive slump was tossed aside. The Giants (7-4) said they turned things around for themselves, and for Merchant, who has cancer.
“They have one wish,” Manning said after throwing for three scores to set a team record with 200 TD passes for his career. “It is sad when you think about it — they have one wish, what you want to do, and he wanted to come to Giants practice ... and to a game.
“He said, ‘Go show everybody you are the world champions and why you are the world champions and play that way.’ Everybody got fired up and played the way we know we can.”
The Packers (7-4) certainly did not. The showcase game was decided early as the Giants outscored the Packers 31-10 in the opening half to end Green Bay’s five-game winning streak. While New York took a two-game lead in the NFC East, Green Bay fell out of a tie with Chicago atop the NFC North.
The Packers were missing such key starters as linebacker Clay Matthews, defensive back Charles Woodson and receiver Greg Jennings, and it showed. After being manhandled in last season’s playoffs by the Giants, who went on to win the Super Bowl, the Packers weren’t much more competitive this time. Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times, including twice by Mathias Kiwanuka, who spent much of the game at defensive tackle rather than in his usual linebacker spot.
“When your quarterback is under pressure like that, it affected me tonight,” coach Mike McCarthy said of his play-calling. “I probably didn’t call the best game I’ve called. You have to protect your quarterback. It’s your No. 1 responsibility. That’s not what we’re looking for.”
New York’s balanced attack was guided by Manning, who had his first strong game in a month with 249 yards passing.
“I never thought my arm was tired, never felt like it,” Manning said. “After a week off, you come back to practice, it felt good, alive, balls coming out with a little pop on it.
“After 10 weeks, it definitely needed a little rest.”
Coughlin knew Manning would return with some extra verve.
“There was no doubt he was going to come back and play well,” Coughlin said. “I think the rest really helped him. ... Eli said he felt as if he was coming back for the start of the season. I was very confident he would come back and be Eli.”
Ahmad Bradshaw gained a combined 119 yards and scored a touchdown. He had the first big play of the night to begin the offensive onslaught.
New York struck early with a brilliantly conceived screen pass to Bradshaw off a fake reverse to Victor Cruz. Bradshaw sped down the field before being caught at the Green Bay 2, a 59-yard pickup that led to Andre Brown’s scoring run.
Brown later broke his leg; Coughlin did not say which leg after the game.
“It will be a tough loss, he is an important player,” Manning said.
Green Bay didn’t flinch, with Jordy Nelson getting behind Corey Webster in single coverage down the right sideline for a 61-yard TD reception from Rodgers.
The scoring flurry went back in the Giants’ favor — and pretty much stayed there — when Manning hit Rueben Randle in the back of the end zone for a 16-yard TD. It was the first score for the rookie and Manning’s first touchdown throw in four games, and he set it up with, of all things, a scramble in which he laid his shoulder into Packers cornerback Tramon Williams for a 13-yard gain.
“It sparked our sideline,” Coughlin said. “It would not be the recommended way. To see him do that kind of sent the message to the rest of our team: Whatever you have to do to succeed, do it.”
Webster’s interception led to Lawrence Tynes’ 43-yard field goal late in the first quarter for a 17-7 lead, and the Giants weren’t nearly done. Manning’s 9-yard connection with Cruz tied him for the club record with 199 TD passes, and after Osi Umenyiora’s strip-sack of Rodgers was recovered by Jason Pierre-Paul at the Green Bay 23, Bradshaw scored from the 13.
The 31 points were the most New York scored in a half all season and nearly equaled the 33 it scored in its two losses before the bye.
And the Giants had more offense in them. Manning threw his 200th TD pass to move ahead of Phil Simms, a 13-yarder over the middle to Hakeem Nicks, who stretched the ball over the goal line as he was tackled.
“There was a different enthusiasm in practices,” Manning said, “and I think that paid off in the game.”
It paid off for the Giants, and for their young fan.
“It kind of hit home,” Justin Tuck said. “You got this kid that don’t know us from James and watches us on TV every Sunday and it’s so profound.”
NOTES; The Giants lost safety Kenny Phillips with a knee injury in the third quarter. He was making his first appearance since Week 4, when he was sidelined with a knee problem. ... Giants right tackle David Diehl sustained a stinger in the first half. ... Green Bay lost safety M.D. Jennings (rib), DE C.J. Wilson (knee), and RB Johnny White (concussion). ... Rodgers was 14 of 25 for 219 yards, one TD, one interception and one lost fumble.