What went wrong in the Green Bay Packers 38-10 loss to the New York Giants? Let’s recount.
Let me first say that easily the best part of watching the replay is Faith Hill’s introduction. It’s pretty much downhill from there.
12:40, 1st quarter — The Packers had not given up points on the first possession all season, but a record like that is made to be broken. The Giants go 74 yards in just six plays, never facing a 3rd down, to quickly go up 7-0.
The Packers start in their base defense, which they haven’t played since the Arizona game. The Giants pick up a 1st down quickly with a back-shoulder throw to Hakeem Nicks — who’s covered by Davon House — that was well-executed.
On the next play, the Giants use the San Francisco playbook on how to burn the Packers base defense. They line up with Nicks on the left and Victor Cruz on the right, but then send Travis Beckham in motion to the far right, leaving Cruz in the slot. The Packers shift Tramon Williams to the outside to cover Beckham, while linebacker Erik Walden moves over to cover Cruz. Cruz just runs a simple cross on Walden and is wide open for a big play, except he drops the ball.
On the following play, 2nd-and-10, the Packers believe a run is coming and send both middle linebackers up the middle on blitzes. This is the perfect time for a screen, which the Giants run to the right to Ahmad Bradshaw. Even though the Packers are caught in a bad position here, they still have both Walden and Morgan Burnett in the right flat to handle the screen. However, Walden cheats to the outside, even though Burnett has the edge already set and misses the tackle on Bradshaw when he cuts it up.
Tramon Williams is still in position to hold the Giants to a 10-yard gain, but he wants no part in taking on Bradshaw head-on. Williams almost comically runs out of Bradshaw’s path to take on a blocker who otherwise would not have been involved in the play. Bradshaw runs right by Williams and would have been gone except for great hustle by Davon House, who comes all the way across the field to make the tackle at the 5. The referees blow the spot and mark it at the 2.
The Giants score two plays later on a plunge to the left by Andre Brown. The play is essentially a rugby scrum that the Giants win. The play that wouldn’t have scored if the ball was properly marked at the 5, but I digress.
10:58, 1st quarter — The Packers actually one-up the Giants by going 77 yards in four plays to tie the game 7-7.
The Packers get their initial 1st down of the game on a 7-yard run by Alex Green over right guard. Josh Sitton effectively came off the double team to block the second level and open a lane for Green, who did well to drive forward for the 7 yards and the 1st down.
After a dump to John Kuhn gained 6 yards, the Giants were clearly expecting run and brought up safety Antrel Rolle to support their base defense. The Packers go play-action instead, keeping eight guys in to give Aaron Rodgers plenty of time. He steps up and finds Jordy Nelson wide open up the right sideline after burning Corey Webster on a stop and go. Nelson scores rather easily on the 61-yard TD reception.
9:50, 1st quarter — The Giants follow with a three and out, giving the Packers the chance to seize momentum.
On 1st down, Brown gets four yards running right at Dezman Moses. On 2nd down, Moses comes around the corner to pressure Eli Manning and he throws it too low for his fullback. On 3rd-and-6, Eli tries the square in to Cruz, but the Packers are in the dime and Casey Hayward is on Cruz. He cuts off the route and nearly intercepts the ball.
7:20, 1st quarter — In sharp contrast to last season, the Packers have been miserable when starting in good field position. Here they start with the ball at their 46 and once again get nothing.
The Packers first run an inventive end-around to Randall Cobb from the slot. He eludes Jason Pierre-Paul in the backfield and gets 12 yards. Then they run James Starks off the left side for five yards.
After a surprising give to Kuhn up the middle only gets two yards, the Packers faced 3rd-and-3 in typical four-down territory at the Giants’ 35. The Giants play a very unusual defense for this down and distance by rushing only three and dropping eight. Rodgers has plenty of time and appears to look at first Finley in the middle and then Cobb. Cobb is open on a dig route from the slot, but Rodgers tries to run for it instead and has a clear lane. Unfortunately, Chris Canty dives and gets just enough of Rodgers’ heal to trip him up.
Now facing 4th-and-5 from the 37, the reasonable play here would be to punt. After all, the Giants just went three and out and Tim Masthay has been good at pinning teams deep. By punting, the Packers retain the field position advantage. Instead, probably spurred by a desire to improve Mason Crosby’s confidence on a kick he really isn’t expected to make, Mike McCarthy chooses to try the field goal. Crosby, of course, misses and the Giants would take over at their 45 only five plays after the Packers took over at their 46.
2:38, 1st quarter — The Giants waste little time in going 55 yards in eight plays to go ahead 14-7.
Eli Manning only completes one pass during this drive — the 16-yard TD on the final play.
The rest of the drive, the Giants take turns running around the right and left ends. Even though it is only the 1st quarter, Frank Zombo is already in for Walden and he proves especially futile at holding the right end, getting single blocked by the Giants’ primary receiving tight end Martellus Bennett.
The fact that the Packers are choosing to replace Walden with Zombo, instead of Moses, who is never pulled, is curious. I would suggest that the Packers wanted to give Moses and Zombo as much playing time as possible in a game they didn’t consider as important as the divisional games down the stretch. Maybe they just believe Zombo is better at that end. Possibly, but that flies in the face of their philosophy to “put the best guys on the field.”
Regardless, in 2010 Zombo was known for his consistency at holding the edge. That would be the opposite of what we see in this game.
Facing a 3rd-and-5 from the Green Bay 16, the Packers rush just four and get a decent push up the middle by Mike Neal and Jerel Worthy, but not enough to stop Eli from finding Rueben Randle in the back of the end zone for the TD. Ironically, this is a rare time when House isn’t matched up with Nicks. He’s on Randle instead and fails to lay a hand on him when he runs the post. House perhaps believes he has deep middle help from M.D. Jennings, but Jennings overplays the tight end, who is covered well by Brad Jones and allows Randle to slip behind him.
2:28, 1st quarter — The game starts getting away from the Packers when their first play of the following drive is an interception by Corey Webster.
This is clearly a gamble that pays off. Even though Webster lines up on the outside across from James Jones he ignores Jones, even at the snap, and plays outside coverage on Cobb, who is now bracketed with inside-out coverage. Rodgers throws the out and throws it right to Webster. Meanwhile, Jones stands near the sideline, no one within 10 yards of him.
0:29, 1st quarter — The Giants only get three when Lawrence Tynes kicks a 43-yard field goal to put the Giants up 17-7.
On 3rd-and-1, the Giants tried Bradshaw up the middle, and B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Brad Jones combine to stuff it for a 1-yard loss.
13:50, 2nd quarter — The Packers go three and out when they really needed some offense.
The drive is essentially ruined by a sack on 1st down by Chase Blackburn. Rodgers intends on faking the screen to Cobb to the left and then throwing back to the right to either Jones or Green out of the backfield. In order to make sure Rodgers will have the ability to throw back right, the offensive line is sliding protection to his right.
Strangely, as they did on the first play of the Packers’ last drive, the Giants almost seem to know exactly what’s coming and have the perfect plan to attack it. Even before the snap, Blackburn blitzes towards the exact gap that will be opened by the line shift. Evan Dietrich-Smith can’t stop his momentum quick enough to block Blackburn, who gets a free shot at Rodgers, who had turned his back to deliver the ball to his right.
The Packers have a shovel pass called on 2nd down, but Mathias Kiwanuka beat Jeff Saturday and blew up the play, forcing Rodgers to alertly run for five yards. On 3rd-and-13, the Packers try a screen to Cobb, but Rolle jumps the play before Nelson can block him and stops it for a short gain. Punt.
9:45, 2nd quarter — The Giants go 61 yards in eight plays to push the lead out to 24-7.
On the Giants first play of this drive, Eli tried the deep post to Nicks. He underthrows it and both Burnett and House are in position for the INT. The ball goes right through Burnett’s hands, whose presence merely prevented House from making the play.
Facing 3rd-and-9 shortly after, the Giants show the Packers how to make plays against the two-deep zone while protecting your QB. The Giants leave seven guys in to block four and send only three guys into the route. Three Packers cover the short out by Cruz, leaving Nicks one-on-one with Burnett. Burnett has to honor the deep ball and Nicks easily has the deep out for 25 yards.
After a 10-yard run around the left end by Bradshaw, where Moses got pancaked by a tight end, the Packers defense would stiffen near the 10. However, on 3rd-and-6 from the 9, the Packers rush four, vacate the middle of the field and Manning has a clear lane to find Cruz in the middle for the TD. The Packers had Cruz bracketed on the play, but M.D. Jennings allowed Cruz to get inside of him for the TD.
3:44, 2nd quarter — The Packers get a drive they have to have, but settle for a field goal to make the score 24-10.
This drive was keyed by a dump to Kuhn on 3rd-and-short that caught the Giants by surprise and went for 32 yards, down to the Giants’ 36-yard line.
After Jermichael Finley dump-trucked Prince Amukamara to get to the Giants’ 11, the Packers had 3rd-and-1. The Packers give it to Green from the inverted wishbone instead of Starks. Green gets stopped inches short, a bad mark puts it a foot short and Mike McCarthy chooses to kick the field goal. Hard for me to argue since you trail by 17 and you don’t have a QB particularly good at the QB sneak. I am still trying to figure out why Alex Green got the ball instead of James Starks on 3rd-and-1 though.
1:12, 2nd quarter — The Packers’ fate is sealed at this mark when Osi Umenyiora gets around Marshall Newhouse and forces a fumble that the Giants recover deep in Packers’ territory.
To give themselves a shot at getting back into the game, the Packers defense had forced a three and out from the Giants, with House making a big-time tackle on Bradshaw on 3rd down.
The Packers offense got a quick pass to Cobb to move the ball to the Green Bay 39. From there, on 1st-and-10, Rodgers dropped back against a four-man rush with his regular five blockers. Umenyiora stuttered inside and then made a simple out move on Newhouse. Newhouse attempted to punch at Umenyiora but only managed to put himself even further out of position. Umenyiora approached Rodgers and knocked the ball loose when Rodgers conveniently raised it to prepare for a pass. The ball ricocheted off a blocker and bounced towards the left sideline where Jason Pierre-Paul recovered it at the Packers’ 23.
This actually was the first play that the Giants’ defensive line made this half. The Packers offensive line had done a good job against them until this play. At this point, the Packers offense had six possessions: a TD, a FG, a missed FG, an INT on the first play, a fumble on the third play and one punt. In other words, when the Packers offense wasn’t turning the ball over or making questionable calls on 4th down, it was doing fine.
0:40, 2nd quarter — Doing the opposite of rising to the challenge, the Packers defense gives up another TD just two plays after the fumble.
On the first play, Tramon Williams shows very poor tackling and the other 10 guys show zero hustle in allowing Randle to break free for 10 yards. On the very next play, Bradshaw goes up the middle, hurdles the diving A.J. Hawk, and is practically untouched for the TD.
The Packers have been soft up the middle when playing for the pass all season. The Giants double team both defensive tackles, push them out of the way, then release the double team to block both middle linebackers, creating the big lane for Bradshaw. The safeties react too late. Touchdown. This would essentially seal the game at 31-10.
12:50, 3rd quarter — The Packers need a scoring drive to give themselves a shot at a comeback. Instead, they were better off staying in the locker room.
On the first play of the second half, T.J. Lang allows Justin Tuck his first pressure of the game. Tuck hits Rodgers as he releases and the ball flutters right into the hands of Blackburn. Amazingly, the ball bounces off Blackburn’s hands and is caught by an alert Finley for a 1st down.
The Packers would not get another. On 2nd down, the Giants are not in the two deep. They only have a single safety and blitz from the slot. No one covers Donald Driver as he runs the seam route on the right side. No one is anywhere near Driver, but Rodgers sees the blitz coming and throws it away. On 3rd down, Rodgers has four seconds to throw, but holds on and gets sacked by Kiwanuka. With the Giants in the two deep with five guys covering underneath, a shot to Finley on the corner is the only chance Rodgers has, but he needs to take that shot and make a play instead of taking a sack.
6:20, 3rd quarter — Thanks to a defensive stop, the Packers get one more chance to make this some semblance of a contest. They fail.
On 3rd-and-5, we see the same old coverage — two deep, five guys underneath with four rushers. Rodgers has all day to throw it, can’t pull the trigger, and finally runs out of the pocket for the 1st down.
Two plays later, Green rumbles for 12 yards over the right side. However, Pierre-Paul talks the referee into a holding call that wasn’t there and the Packers get pinned with 2nd-and-20. Showing how much the Packers give a rip about this game, they proceed from there to go run over right tackle, screen to Cobb, punt.
3:40, 3rd quarter — The Giants finish the scoring with a 53-yard drive for a TD to make it 38-10.
The drive mostly is just two passes to Hakeem Nicks. The Packers are thinking the Giants are just going to run to milk the clock and are sitting in their base. This gives Manning plenty of time to find Nicks on a deep in. Burnett misses another tackle and Nicks takes it to the Green Bay 8 for 30 yards.
After a penalty pushed the Giants back, on 3rd-and-13, the Packers blitzed five and got immediate pressure on Manning, but Eli threw the ball just as the pressure arrived and found Nicks over the middle for the touchdown against very tight coverage by House. Good defense all around here. Sometimes the offense just makes a play.
Going on the road against Detroit and New York, I think most Packers fans would have been happy to go 1-1. The Giants were coming off the bye and hungry for a win and the Packers were still without Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson and Greg Jennings, who the Packers CHOSE to sit another week.
So, I believe most of the consternation here involves the magnitude of the loss. I would caution against making too much of the final score. The Giants quit in the second half of a 49-24 blowout against the Saints last year and that didn’t stop them from going on to win the Super Bowl.
It might also be reassuring to realize that when the Packers and Giants faced each other twice in 2007 and 2011, the team that won in the regular season lost in the playoffs. Of course, the Packers happened to be the team that won in the regular season both times.
On the other hand, there is a reasonable amount of concern with the fact that the Packers were beat easily by the two best NFC teams they have faced this year — the Giants and 49ers, both physical teams that pride themselves on defense.
And it is also reasonable to remain concerned about an offensive line that has struggled since losing Bryan Bulaga. However, in reviewing this game, I found that the offensive line actually struggled MORE against the Lions than it did against the Giants and the Packers managed to win that game, mostly because their defense made stops and scored themselves.
T.J. Lang held up for the most part at right tackle. In contrast to what Cris Collinsworth insisted all telecast, he was left alone against Justin Tuck for most the game. Marshall Newhouse, other than the one disastrous play, also fared better against Osi Umenyiora than he did last season against Pierre-Paul. Both won their battles the vast majority of the time. It just happened that the couple plays they lost turned out to be big plays. If the defense is making stops and forcing field goals, that wouldn’t have been the case.
Though the Packers struggled defensively, I believe they may have found something with Davon House on Hakeem Nicks. The Packers seemed completely willing to leave House alone on Nicks and it worked for the most part, even though Nicks did make some plays.
Having Clay Matthews back would make it more difficult for teams to run to his side. Without him, the Giants had the luxury of running to either side. It was also curious that the Packers didn’t play Walden that much, when he has done a decent job setting the edge for most of this season.
Offensively, people seem confused about what the two-deep zone does to the Packers. The key isn’t necessarily the two guys deep. It is the five guys playing short, which makes it very difficult to complete a pass within seven yards.
The weakness to the defense is the deep middle, but that requires a QB who is willing to throw it in there. With Greg Jennings returning, I would hope that confidence returns for Aaron Rodgers. It has to, or this offense will continue to struggle against that defense.
HUGE game next week against the Vikings in Lambeau. If the Packers can get that win, they put themselves back on track and in control of their own destiny. To do that, they will need to stop the run this time and handle the pass rush of another capable defensive line.