Green Bay Packers 31 – New York Giants 13
Two teams with new looks. Two teams with historical significance. Two teams that come from cold weather cities meeting in December with snow coming down hard. This had the look of a classic “Winter is Coming” NFL game that should have been as entertaining as any game on the NFL schedule. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers came to town to take on the hapless Giants trying to find their way as the last quarter of the season was in sight. After a 7-1 start, GB lost 2 of 3 as their defense started to falter and the lack of depth at receiver behind the injured Devante Adams finally caught up. They needed a game to right the ship, what better place to do it than New York? As Aaron Rodgers said in regard to NYG, “…they’ve been struggling”…if he only knew.
The Giants’ first possession ended with a 3 yard loss by Saquon Barkley on a 3rd-and-1 rushing attempt up the middle where he was hit by a defender within a half second of getting the ball. For those keeping score at home, we have now seen that exact play 1,000 times this season. GB responded with a 7-play, 72-yard touchdown scoring drive that ended with a Rodgers-to-Adams completion in the end zone at the hands of safety Antoine Bethea.
With the snow coming down hard and kicker Aldrick Rosas sitting on the struggle bus in addition to a new long snapper in place of the injured Zak DeOssie, Pat Shurmur opted to go for it on 4th-and-5 from the GB 33-yard line and they converted. Three plays later, on 3rd-and-3 from the GB 18, Jones hit Sterling Shepard downfield for a touchdown. It was a big-time, elite-level throw with pressure bearing down on him and a lot of traffic left and right. The game was tied up 7-7.
That tie lasted just a few plays, as Rodgers knew it would be an easy day with the terrible NYG secondary trying to gain their footing on a slippery surface. He hit Allen Lazard for a 37-yard score on a double route that left absolutely no hope for Antoine Bethea to recover from. It was 14-7 and it just seemed that GB would score when they wanted to.
Daniel Jones threw an interception on the next drive and it set up GB kicker Mason Crosby for an impressive, easy-looking 47-yard field goal in the snow that was still coming down hard. With the score at 17-7 GB, the Giants put together the most time-consuming drive of the game and their most time-consuming drive of the season. An 18-play, 66-yard drive ended in a successful 27-yard field goal by Rosas. NYG converted 2-of-4 3rd downs and both 4th down attempts as the old Saquon Barkley started to re-appear and Jones showed his toughness and ability to hit the tight window throws with an unstable base. They brought a 17-10 deficit into halftime.
After forcing a GB punt on the opening possession of the second half, the Giants were able to put another 3 points on the board via a 45-yard field goal by Rosas. Momentum was on their side and the defense needed to step on the throat of Rodgers and company. This is where the lack of pass rush and lack of cover-ability combined just absolutely kills the Giants defense. Rodgers, quite easily and simply, marched downfield on a 14-play drive to put another touchdown on the board. This score was a 17 yard pass to Adams even with multiple NYG defenders in the area; it seemed nobody had a shot at breaking it up. It looked like a couple dads playing against a bunch of 5-year olds.
The next two NYG possessions ended with Jones second and third interceptions, respectively. In between, Rodgers threw his 4th touchdown of the day to blocking tight end Marcedes Lewis. The score was 31-13 and even though NYG put together a couple of nice plays in their final possession against the GB prevent defense, it wasn’t even worth watching. The stadium agreed, as it was maybe 10% full at the end with most of them being the faithful Packers fans.
Giants lose, 31-13.
-Daniel Jones: 20/37 – 240 yards – 1 TD / 3 INT / 49.4 QBR. Jones also added 6 yards on 5 carries. He converted two 4th down rushing attempts that required some grit and power. This was the lowest QB rating we have seen out of Jones other than the Thursday night game in NE. His 3 interceptions were all very poor throws and while one can blame the weather, let’s not use that as a crutch. Good quarterbacks play very well in the snow and this was not a full on blizzard. The foot traction wasn’t that bad and there wasn’t much wind. While Jones did deal with pressure all afternoon and he was limping around a bit, this was a poor performance. The positive side of things revolve around two big time throws. His touchdown pass to Shepard was on the money with pressure bearing down on him from all angles. He also threw a great seam pass on 3rd-and-12 to Cody Latimer. It was one of those Sundays that can be labeled a “Rookie Sunday” for Jones.
-Saquon Barkley: 19 att / 83 yards – 3 rec / 32 yards. I was desperately hoping to see at least some improvement come from Barkley and I’m not just talking about the production. I wanted to see him run harder, push some piles, break some tackles, fall forward. He did all of those things and we saw a couple flashes of the big play ability we know he has. It wasn’t enough to call him and running game “back”, but I took his play as a positive. He had several blocking assignments and he did well for the most part. He got away with a blatant hold and did allow a pressure. Hopefully this is one of many steps in the right direction.
-Sterling Shepard: 3 rec / 40 yards / 1 TD. In his second game back, Shepard caught three passes including the lone Giants’ touchdown. He looked quick and crisp as a route runner and I wish they could have gotten him the ball more often. His style of play usually produces well in conditions like what they played in.
-Darius Slayton: 6 rec / 44 yards. Slayton is proving more and more to be a guy who can pose as a threat both underneath and deep. I did notice that the GB corners were really physical with him at certain points and it impacted how he came off of the ball later in the game. The third interception where Slayton was targeted down the left sideline was a direct result of his hesitation and slowness off of the line. Still a lot to be happy about with the speedster.
-Kaden Smith: 6 rec / 70 yards. Pretty busy day for the in-season pick up. Smith is making the best of a bad situation in New York but I wouldn’t get overly excited here in terms of being a long-term, every-down guy. He is a quality blocker with a significant lack of foot speed. I do like him as the underneath check-down or short-area target as his size and soft hands can make him reliable.
-Scott Simonson played about a third of the snaps Smith did and struggled as a blocker. He allowed a pressure and a TFL.
–Nate Solder continues to be a turnstile and I just can’t see any reason for hope that he is going to turn it around. He allowed 5 pressures (the GB offensive line had a total of 2) and it looks like we are now seeing this really impact Jones as he drops back. There is a natural sense of over-urgency from Jones at times and he has a natural gravitation to the right side almost as if he is anticipating having to escape from the pass rusher behind him. This is what ruins young QBs.
-Mike Remmers and Will Hernandez were better, but not by much. Remmers allowed 2 pressures and was responsible for a TFL. He did make a couple things happen on two of Barkley’s bigger gains though and at least we see grit from him. Hernandez allowed the big TFL on the first drive and a pressure a couple drives later. His play leveled out from there on and he ended up with an average grade. Kevin Zeitler was solid but lacked movement at the point-of-attack.
-Jon Halapio, like Solder, continues to show he just can’t get the job done. I watch a lot of NFL football throughout the week and I can’t give you 3 names that are worse than him at center. He allowed 3 pressures and was pushed around all day. He just doesn’t move his feet, can’t stay in front of his man, and the amount of times he gets driven back off the ball multiple yards on running plays is completely embarrassing. This guy needs to be as far away from NYG in 2020 as possible.
-Just an awful day from the pass rush department and that starts with the edge guys. Markus Golden and Lorenzo Carter each had a pressure but were awfully quiet otherwise. Golden did get in on 8 tackles, which sounds like a lot, but he was the beneficiary of the defensive line doing their job and action being funneled his way. Carter looks like he just can’t get the job done unless he beats a blocker off the edge. With the somewhat slow track, it was imperative for the pass rushers to win in small windows with their quickness, hand-work, and power. Carter didn’t have any of those weapons working for him.
-One of the better rushing attacks in the NFL when Aaron Jones runs the ball was shut down for the most part. Jones averaged a season low 1.8 yards per carry and Dexter Lawrence was the main reason. He finished with 3 tackles but did an outstanding job funneling runs to other NYG defenders. Leonard Williams also finished with 3 tackles, one of which was for a loss, and a pressure.
-Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill were solid as well. They combined for 5 tackles and we saw an uptick in playing time for Hill. Both are very solid and reliable against the run but neither have a prayer when it comes to the pass rush on a play-to-play basis.
-Alec Ogletree led the team in tackles once again, this week with 9. These next few weeks are important for him in my eyes. We have seen how much better he is than the back-ups when he was out with his lower body injuries, but his limitations in space, most notably in coverage, are well documented. More of the same with him in this game. He is limited as an every-down player, but pretty effective on action between the tackles. David Mayo added 5 tackles and 1 TFL.
-Janoris Jenkins. It is funny that my game notes from the past two weeks both included question marks next to him regarding how he doesn’t shadow the opposite team’s top target. Last week we saw Allen Robinson, CHI’s top WR by far, roast Corey Ballentine snap after snap. This week, we saw GB’s number one by far, Devante Adams, roast Grant Haley. In key moments, I don’t understand why James Bettcher has Jenkins away from where GB obviously wants to throw. Just an odd way to approach it and I side with Jenkins on his frustration. He finished with a tackle and a PD and put his head into oncoming traffic a few times.
-It appears we have a split-snap situation going on at the other corner spot between Deandre Baker and Sam Beal. I wouldn’t freak out about it regarding the first rounder Baker because this team needs to see what Beal has now that he is healthy. Baker had an opportunity to make a play on the ball early but he simply didn’t track it and looked lost. The result was a big gain as the ball nearly hit him in the head. Beal didn’t fare much better as neither seemed overly disciplined with their reads and techniques.
-Grant Haley was back on the field and Aaron Rodgers viewed it as an early Christmas present. In the second half especially, when they needed a 3rd/4th down conversion, they went directly at him and were almost always successful. Haley got beat up badly and also was flagged for a pass interference that brought GB to the 1-yard line on a drive they later scored on.
-The one positive I am taking away from this game, if I had to choose one, was the performance of Julian Love. With Jabrill Peppers out, Love got the start and was on the field for 97% of the snaps. He finished with 7 tackles and a forced fumble. I’m not used to seeing #24 out there and there were a couple plays where a NYG defender made a nice open-field tackle and my reaction was, “Who was that?!”…it was Love. Easy to see the difference between fast, twitchy, and effective when they are standing next to each other in relation to Bethea.
-Speaking of Bethea, he allowed two of the GB touchdowns, one short and one long. He was also flagged for a defensive hold in the end zone. I sure hope he is a major help behind the scenes because from what we have seen on film, he is no better than what we had in Curtis Riley last year, who I labeled one of the 5 worst starting safeties in the NFL.
-K Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 (Made 27,45). Nice bounce-back performance for Rosas in tough conditions. He is going to need to shine the rest of the way if he wants to keep his job.
-P Riley Dixon: 1 Punt / 47 avg / 47 net.
-DT Dexter Lawrence, S Julian Love, OG Kevin Zeitler
-OC Jon Halapio, OT Nate Solder, EDGE Lorenzo Carter
3 THOUGHTS ON GB
- GB really revamped their defense this past offseason. They cut ties with long-time fan-favorite Clay Matthews and brought in two veteran pass rushers, Preston Smith And Za’Darius Smith, for a combined $118 million over 4 years. That is a ton of cap space wrapped up into two players for a team that is also paying big-time money to a QB. Take notes, NYG. You may have a couple of big name pass rushers available in free agency this upcoming offseason and I think it is near-mandatory they get at least one.
- Just how good is this GB team? Can they really contend with teams like NO and SF? It comes down to Aaron Rodgers and his ability to stay at an elite level. His best days are behind him but he still can play at his highest level ever any given Sunday. The consistency isn’t there from week to week like it used to be but I know this: I would NOT want to see him in the playoffs.
- GB went with a never-been-head coach when they hired Matt LaFleur. There were reports early on that he and Aaron Rodgers were not seeing eye-to-eye and that he was in over his head. But it has worked out well. LaFleur hasn’t been in the league a super long time and I have to think that may play to his advantage more than anything. He is innovative and modern, especially so when you compare him to Shurmur. The league doesn’t know his tendencies, they can’t look back on decades of material. If NYG wants to go the assistant route with their next coaching search, this is a situation and result to keep in mind.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
- What else is there to talk about? We are seeing the same process and result week after week. The offensive line stinks and it is holding back multiple individuals The pass rush is near non-existent and that makes life so easy for the opposing offense. The head coach looks overmatched on a weekly basis. Now that we see teams like CIN and MIA pulling off upset wins, I hope this only exemplifies just how broken this franchise is right now and Mara needs to wake up and make wholesale changes.
- The media and fans (including several here) have talked about the lack of innovation Shurmur has shown with play designs and calls. He usually shrugs it off, replying that the team simply needs to execute better. I understand his response and don’t disagree but everybody will get innovative at times, even the most old-school teams in the league. Shurmur opted to change the identity by trying to get cute twice in this game. A flea flicker (that had TWO guys running routes) and a timed snap-handoff to D’Mari Scott who just got added to the roster. He did this in a poor weather game where foot traction was limited at best. Come on, NOW is the time you choose to get past your stubborn ways and play with tricks? His thought process is just so puzzling and lacks sense.
- The closing weeks of the season will very much be about the young guys in the defensive backfield. Is Julian Love an answer at safety? Is the combination of Baker, Beal, Ballentine at corner enough to avoid putting resources into the position this offseason?