What looked like a comfortable potential Packer win in the first half unraveled in London on Sunday. The Packers took the opening kickoff and drove 49 yards in nine plays. The sweetest completion was a 35 yarder to Randall Cobb over the middle. But the drive would stall when Rodgers missed two passes, one incomplete towards backup tight end Tyler Davis and on third down missing Aaron Jones. Before the field goal there was an inexcusable delay of game penalty on the Packer field goal team. Luckily, Crosby still nailed the longer kick without any drama. The field goal unit is much improved from 2021. That play was the end of the good luck for the Green and Gold in London. Multiple times the Packers seemed to have good defensive plays erased by a penalty. You make your own luck, and the Packers failed to create opportunities into defensive stops and second half points.
After a quick punt on the offense’s second series, Rodgers and company seemed to find a groove as they reeled off three straight scoring drives, adding 17 points before halftime. The Packers led 17-3 during the second quarter, but it was a tale of two halves for Green Bay. The Packers ten point halftime lead eroded into a crushing loss. Aaron Rodgers had two passes batted away inside the ten yard line to douse any real hope of tying the game late. You have to give the Giants credit. Daniel Jones outplayed Aaron Rodgers. Let that sink in, Packer fans. With most of his receivers injured and his star runner out for a critical juncture of the second half, Jones delivered time and again. Jones made the big plays in the second half, both with his arm and with his feet. Rodgers deep throws in the second half, against a patchwork Giant secondary, were mostly short or off target.
The Packer defense spent what seemed like the entire second half on the field. When the defense made a play, they seemed to get called for a penalty that allowed the Giants to stay on the field. The inability to defend crossing patterns continues to plague this defense. Quay Walker had eight tackles to lead the team but a closer look at his stats expose the defensive problems. On Walkers eight tackles the Giants gained 91 yards. The longest was the 41 yard short toss to Saquon Barkley that he failed to diagnose. Barkley ran right past Walker who has not been able to anticipate crossing receivers into his zone. He contributed on one tackle for loss but the other tackles were gains if 10, 11, 6, 11, 8, and 5 yards. In the preseason the Packers boasted that having Walker on the field allowed the defense to play base on passing downs. It is time to rethink that strategy. Add on Darnell Savage’s repeated missed tackles and you have a defense that can be attacked in the run game and the pass game.
A critical drive for the Packers ended with a three and out on three straight incompletions. In the fourth quarter the Giants had just completed a long TD drive to tie the score and the Packer defense needed a rest. Rodgers called three straight passing plays. All incomplete. The defense had no rest. The Giants had the Packers on their heels and they executed. The Packers did not.
On the long plane ride home the Packers will need to assess their strengths and weaknesses. On offense, the o-line was hoping that the return of Bakhtiari and Jenkins would solve all their problems. So far, that dream has not materialized. Jenkins is struggling on the right side and Royce Newman is vulnerable on pass protections at right guard. The zone defense has been a weakness that every team they have faced has exploited. And for the first time, Aaron Rodgers looked old. There is no scheme to beat Father Time. His long pass accuracy evaporated in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The Packers face the Jets at home next week. The Jets have two gutty wins against Pittsburgh and Cleveland. They have faced tough opponents in Baltimore and Cincinnati. After this collapse, the Jets will be confident. It is up to Rodgers and company to figure out how to effectively score the ball for 4 quarters. The ship needs to be righted, starting on the long plane ride home.