Dec 302010
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Green Bay Packers 45 (9-6) – New York Giants 17 (9-6)

by The Hack for

Game Summary: The New York Giants took Lambeau Field on Sunday with absolutely everything to play for.  Following a bewildering and humiliating loss to the Eagles a week earlier, the Giants had an opportunity to erase the bad taste of losing the NFC East by taking care of business in Green Bay and securing a playoff spot.

As always, prior to the game all the discussion out of the Giants camp was that the team was ready, there would be no hangover, and even S Anrel Rolle went so far as to guarantee a victory.

Despite these claims, the Giants came out as flat as a team could come out in a game that had everything on the line.  On neither side of the ball did the Giants come out with fire or enthusiasm, and that’s troubling.  It just doesn’t seem possible for a team to be that flat in a game of this magnitude.

A big case in point was the way that Green Bay, who has no running game to speak of, was able to establish the run for a total of 73 yards in the first half.  It may not seem like a big number, but the fact is that Green Bay did enough with the run in the first half to keep the Giants’ defense honest which opened up the passing game for QB Aaron Rogers.

Early on, the Giants were unable to get Green Bay off the field on 3rd down, as well.  The Packers converted 5 of 8 opportunities in the first half, including their second touchdown.  That was typical of the day, however, as the Packers also converted 5 of 6 Green Zone opportunities including a perfect 4-4 in goal to goal situations.

Frankly, I didn’t think the Giants had the psyche to bounce back from their devastating loss to the Eagles last week.  I fully expected a loss, and I expected it to be a bad one.  As Giants fans, we’ve become accustomed to late season collapses and the Giants have rarely had that gut check game where they come out and avenge a bad loss from the previous week.  It just seems that the Giants don’t have it in them to forget the past and stop the bleeding.

Just look at how the game started.  After a series each feeling each other out, the Giants allowed a 1 play 80 yard touchdown on a simple slant across the middle where Antrel Rolle lost Jordy Nelson and had no help from the deep safeties.  On the very next drive, Eli Manning inexplicably ignores a wide open Ahmad Bradshaw underneath for what would’ve been a first down and instead threw deep into the teeth of the Green Bay defense with no receiver in sight for an easy Packer interception.  Several plays later, Green Bay scored their second touchdown and was up by 14 points.

Even though the Giants did come back to tie the game at 14 late in the second quarter, one still had the sense that this game was going to be all Packers.  Both Giants’ touchdowns came from well outside the Green Zone.  On the day, New York produced 10 ‘drives’ of 5 plays or less.  No drive was over 7 plays.  As such, the Giants had no time of possession to speak of, losing that battle 37:01 – 22:59.

Then there were the turnovers.  Continuing a mantra repeated since week 1, there is no way on the face of the earth that a team can commit as many turnovers that the Giants routinely make and win football games against good teams.  This week, there were 6 more.  Eli Manning threw 4 interceptions (3 on 3 straight drives).  Not to be outdone, Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs each pitched in with fumbles on promising drives.  Green Bay turned those turnovers into 24 total points.  The 6 turnovers were the most by a Giants team since 2004 against Baltimore, Eli Manning’s rookie season and the game where he had a 0.0 QBR.

Finally, it’s hard to understand what went wrong with the Giants defense.  As mentioned, Green Bay was able to convert more than 45% of their 3rd downs.  They scored at will in the Green Zone.  The Packers rolled up 515 total yards of offense, with 119 coming on the ground.  The Giants allowed the Packers wide receivers to have a free release from the line of scrimmage all day long, and Aaron Rogers burned the Giants over and over with quick drops and slants over the middle that worked over, and over, and over again.

In the end, it all came down to Green Bay, in an absolute must win situation, coming out and playing the game they needed to play and the Giants didn’t.  We’ve seen this movie before, and many of us feel we know how it’s going to end.  New York has a very small opportunity to get into the playoffs.  They need to beat the Redskins on Sunday while having the Chicago Bears defeat these very same Green Bay Packers.

Frankly, I don’t see how the Giants will even beat the Redskins.  Green Bay has 15 players, including their #1 RB and #1 TE, on injured reserve.  Even so, they nearly beat the New England Patriots last week with a no name QB and this week they pounded the Giants.  What I’m saying is, injuries or not, teams need to overcome.  Green Bay has done so.  The Giants have not.  On Sunday, the Giants were missing their Pro Bowl caliber slot receiver and little else. No excuses.

Offense: The Giants offense was out of sync all day, primarily because for the second week in a row they could not muster any semblance of a rushing game.  On the day, the Giants ran just 21 times for 90 yards (4.3 ypc average), but those numbers are skewed because Manning had a 12 yard scramble in that number and the 21 yard run by Jacobs ended in a fumble.

Despite the comeback in the second quarter, there was never that moment when momentum had palpably changed.  Both touchdowns were off long passes, and one was a jump ball that wasn’t exactly a high percentage play.  At no time did the Giants take the ball and will it down the field the way the Packers did repeatedly on the day.

The Giants did have their share of good plays on the day.  One play in particular that was very interesting was on their second drive of the second half.  Kevin Gilbride added a new wrinkle where he faked a bubble screen on the outside to Ahmad Bradshaw.  When the corner closed to take on Bradshaw, WR Hakeem Nicks slipped down the sideline for a very easy reception and pick up of 27 yards.

Quarterback: Eli Manning is obviously out of sync with his wide receivers, and frankly it’s unbelievable that at this point in the season with the route trees obviously not being understood, that things haven’t been simplified or at least modified.  Manning was horrible on Sunday, throwing 4 more interceptions.  Granted, one was off the hands of HB Ahmad Bradshaw and one should’ve been over ruled as out of bounds, but none the less Manning made poor decision after poor decision all day long.

As Troy Aikman pointed out in the broadcast, it very well may have been that WR Hakeem Nicks was supposed to break off his route to the inside and if he had would’ve been in position to make the catch on Eli’s first interception.  Besides the fact, it’s baffling that Manning did not check down to an absolutely wide open Ahmad Bradshaw on the play.  To compound matters, the interception occurred just 3 plays after the Packers scored on a 1 play, 80 pass.  That’s a killer.  You just can’t be careless with the football in that situation.

On the day, Manning was just 17 – 33 for 301 yards, 2 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.  Manning’s QBR for the day was a paltry 63.6.  Nearly a third of Eli’s yardage, however, came on just 1 play.

Eli Manning became just the second QB in Giants history (Y.A. Tittle being the other) to throw for 30 touchdowns in a season.  Congratulations.  Unfortunately, he’s also thrown 24 interceptions and lost 6 fumbles.

What a year.

Running Backs: Neither Ahmad Bradshaw nor Brandon Jacobs were able to really get anything going all day, and both had killer fumbles that stopped promising drives.  On the day, Bradshaw managed just 31 yards on 12 carries.  The Giants attempted a lot of inside handoffs to Ahmad, but there simply wasn’t any room for the diminutive one to maneuver.

The Giants went to the well once too often when on a 3rd and 2 from the Green Bay 41 yard line, New York attempted a direct snap to Bradshaw.  On the play, WR Mario Manningham was unable to contain CB Charles Woodson who penetrated and made the strip behind the line of scrimmage.  The resulting fumble was recovered but Green Bay and that was the beginning of the end for the Giants on the day.

Bradshaw was used often in the passing game, including a couple very well executed screen passes.  On the day, Bradshaw was targeted 6 times making 5 catches for 41 yards.

HB Brandon Jacobs also found tough sledding on the day, rushing for 47 yards on 8 carries, but it was his fateful 21 yard carry that resulted in the most improbable fumble recovery by an opponent in recent memory.  Jacobs didn’t have a ball thrown his way all game.

As for FB Bear Pascoe, he had one of his worst days at his position, struggling while trying to get to the second level and also missing several blocks on the edge.

Wide Receivers: It makes no sense whatsoever that missing a slot receiver can send the rest of the receiving corps into utter chaos.  Time and time again, Hakeem Nicks, Derek Hagan, and Mario Manningham were in a position other than where the ball was thrown.  Granted, several good catches were made by group but it’s downright maddening that this group cannot seem to grasp the route trees and get on the same page with their QB.

Eli Manning attempted to lean on WR Hakeem Nicks, but was only able to complete 4 of 9 passes thrown his way for 93 yards and a touchdown.  Nicks also made two horrid penalties, one a needless pass interference penalty on an underthrown ball that negated a big gain and the second on a hold of the CB on an 8 yard run by Bradshaw.

Mario Manningham was also unable to get into a rhythm despite catching a jump ball and going the distance for an 85 yard touchdown.  Manningham caught 4 of 6 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown.  As mentioned, Manningham was ineffective in the running game as a blocker, as well.

Derek Hagan, who really looked as though he was coming along a few games ago, has obviously not gotten on the same page with Eli yet.  On a 3rd down play in the 3rd quarter, Hagan was expected to run a slant and Eli was looking to get him the ball.  On the play, Hagan stuttered, stopped, stuttered, and stopped again to the point where Eli had to throw the ball away over the middle of the field in the end zone.  After the play, a visibly upset Kevin Gilbride ripped Hagan as he left the field, presumably for not completing his route.

TE Kevin Boss dropped two catchable balls.  The second was huge as it would’ve converted a 3rd down just before the half inside Green Bay territory.  Had the Giants been able to pull off a field goal or a touchdown on that drive, the second half may have been a different story. (This is an example of what Eric from BBI means when he says that an 8-8 season could be a 12-4 season if a few plays go the other way.)

Travis Beckum continues to do absolutely nothing for this football team.

Offensive Line: Much debate has been made over the return of Shaun O’Hara to center and returning the other linemen to their original positions.  A case can certainly be made that this move has backfired.  In the two games prior to the move, the Giants ran for a combined 410 yards (197 vs Washington and 213 vs Minnesota) and in the two games since, they’ve rushed for a combined 190 yards (100 vs the Eagles and 90 vs Green Bay).

On Sunday, O’Hara simply could not handle Green Bay DT B.J. Raji.  Raji abused O’Hara in both the passing and running game.  One has to wonder if Rich Seubert could’ve managed to neutralize him more effectively.

RT Kareem McKenzie also had  very tough time negating OLB Clay Matthews who came off the edge at will and was a constant thorn in Eli’s side.  On the day, Eli was sacked once and hit 4 other times.

Defense: Granted, the Giants’ offense did the defense no favors by controlling just 22 minutes of clock on Sunday, but the New York Giants defense allowed 515 yards of total offense – the highest total allowed by a Giants’ defense since 1980.  Aaron Rogers, playing his first game since suffering a concussion, riddled the secondary for 404 yards and 4 touchdowns.  This was the same defensed that ranked #1 in the league against the pass just two short weeks ago.

To confound things, this was one game going in where the Giants had to feel they wouldn’t need to overload to stop the run.  Green Bay is one of the worst running teams in the NFL and they should have been able to be contained with a normal alignment.  Instead, using the fullback and straight into the teeth of the defense running, the Packers were able to keep the Giants off balance enough to open up the outside quick hitting passing game with crosses and drags.

Finally, it’s troublesome that the Giants continued to play a cover 3 shell while the Packers continuously hit their slants for 8-15 yards a pop.  It was maddening, as a fan, to sit and watch the corners playing consistently 10 yards off their receivers only to see the receiver slant in, catch the ball 5 yards down field and running for an additional 5-10 yards.

Front 7: On Sunday, there was Justin Tuck and everyone else in the front 7 for the Giants.  The entire defensive line besides Tuck were no shows.  Osi Umenyiora hardly even got onto the stat sheet.  Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard and Barry Cofield did next to nothing in the middle, as they were completely dominated at the point of attack.

There were no bones about what Green Bay wanted to do with their running game.  They lined up, handed the ball to their plodding full back, and watched him plow through the center of the Giants defensive line for solid yardage each time.   Twice, Kuhn powered in for impressive touchdowns that should have been stopped at the line of scrimmage.  It was by far the worst game of the year for the middle of the line.

Not to be outdone, the Giants’ linebacking corps was non-existent on Sunday.  MLB Jonathan Goff was in on 9 tackles, but was out of position in the passing game more often than not.  On the 3rd Green Bay touchdown, in which Rogers stepped up and to his right, away from pressure from Tuck, Goff went to his right to attack the line of scrimmage presumably to try and chase the QB down the line of scrimmage and ran RIGHT past TE Donald Lee who settled in the end zone for the easy pitch and catch for the touchdown.  Why Goff ignored him is beyond reason.

This game was once again a reminder that if the front 4 cannot get to the QB, the linebackers are exploitable across the middle and that’s exactly what happened.  Despite sending 4 or 5 max against Rogers and playing the soft shell over the top, the linebackers and third safety (Deon Grant) were unable to fill the zones and throw off the timing between Rogers and his receivers.

Secondary: It’s impossible to understand what the true game plan was and whether it was simply a bad plan or poor execution, but it’s safe to say that the Giants’ secondary had a horrible game, nearly from the get go.  The 80 yard touchdown on a simple slant to Jacoby Jones is inexcusable.  Granted, those plays happen, but the Giants never recovered and allowed that play to be hit several other times for good yardage, there were two other throws that would’ve resulted in touchdowns had the receiver caught the balls.

Both Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas were torched almost all day long.  Aaron Rogers was throwing impossibly accurate passes into impossibly tight spots, so the fault is not completely on the corners, but they never made a play.  Not one.

Kenny Phillips was a tackling machine, but he also lost contain on a receiver in the end zone that resulted in Green Bay’s second touchdown.  One thing that’s been missing this year in the middle is Phillips’ ability to change the game from his safety position.  He’s solid, but I fully expect him to step it up after having another full off season to recover from his serious knee injury.

Antrel Rolle talked a lot of talk last week but came up very small in this game.  It’s time for Rolle to be quiet and let his play on the field do his talking.  On the stat sheet he was given credit for the forced fumble on Nelson, but that was Aaron Ross who made the hit to jar the ball loose.

Special Teams: It’s hard to believe, but other than the absolutely ludicrous decision to allow Hakeem Nicks return a kickoff, there’s no special teams gaff to speak of this week.  Coverage teams were good, return teams were better, and other than a couple questionable snaps that were handled expertly by holder Sage Rosenfels nothing bad happened.  P Matt Dodge’s first punt, a shank that went out of bounds at the Green Bay 20, was putrid but would’ve been welcome last week.  After that, however, Dodge was fine.

Coaching: As Star-Ledger beat writer Mike Garafolo said in his piece the other day, it’s very difficult to fault the coaches for this loss.  While I have some serious questions I’d like to ask Perry Fewell about why he deployed his defense the way he did, I think the answer is that he thought there was no way Green Bay would have any success running the ball.

This one’s on the players.  The coaches don’t fumble, they don’t throw stupid interception after stupid interception.  They aren’t the ones who seemingly can’t execute a simple in or out route based on pre-snap reads.

The only two questions I have of HC Tom Coughlin were his insane decision to allow Hakeem Nicks return a kickoff, especially when D.J. Ward was doing a fine job on his own.  The other was the decision to challenge the Jacobs fumble going out of bounds.  It’s obvious now that he didn’t have the looks we had on TV, but still you have to understand that it’s your last challenge and losing it means no more the rest of the way regardless of what happens.

Offensive Player of the Game: I’m stumped here.  I guess I’ll go with Manningham for coming down with that 85 yard touchdown pass.  Frankly, no one on offense deserves this honor.

Defensive Player of the Game: Justin Tuck had a terrific game, but he’s not superman and can’t do it alone along the line of scrimmage

Final Word: First I hope everyone has a very Happy New Year and I’m with all of you as we hope against the odds for the chips to fall the right way on Sunday and we get into the tournament, where we all know anything can happen.

Secondly, I want to apologize to those that were expecting a more comprehensive review of the Eagles game.  You guys were right, you expect a review each week and you deserve one each week.  There are a lot of people, including Eric and I, who thought that no one really cared for a review after a crushing loss such as that one.  We were wrong, and I promise that I’ll never forgo a review for an article like last weeks again.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Green Bay Packers, December 26, 2010)
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