The New York Giants and Green Bay Packers met in the postseason for the third time in the last decade, but this time the latter won.
Everyone had this circled as the game of the weekend and it certainly lived up to the hype. FOX had an amazing stat during the broadcast: Seven times have the Packers and Giants have met in the playoffs. Each time the winner has gone on to win the Super Bowl.
Will this be a foreshadowing of things to come?
We now know that Green Bay emerged victorious, 38-13, and will now travel to Jerry World for a rematch with the Cowboys. Meanwhile, New York will deal with such a disappointing loss that ended a promising year. This spoiled another sequel to the 2007 and 2011 seasons.
Aaron Rodgers, who should be the MVP of the NFL, was in the midst of playing the worst half of his career. Yes, it was worse than last year’s loss against Denver when he totaled just 77 yards. That had more to do with the issues of the offensive line, not having Jordy Nelson and the Broncos defense just imposing its will on all fronts.
Against the Giants, Rodgers looked uncomfortable and was visibly frustrated, muttering to himself during a stretch where GB punted on its first five possessions. He had great protection, but holding onto the ball too long led to sacks. He missed open receivers, something we’re not accustomed to. Also, Rodgers made two inexplicable mistakes in the red zone, costing his team at least six points in a game the Giants led 6-0.
He took a terrible sack that knocked the team out of field goal range on 1st-and-10 from the Giants 30. Then a few possessions later on 3rd and 4 from the Giants 34, he danced in the pocket before firing an incomplete pass with no receiver in the vicinity. Intentional grounding. Both led to punts by the Packers.
But did he ever turn things around. Last week, I mentioned that the cardinal sin of stopping the Packers’ high-octane offense is giving Rodgers all day long to throw. Regardless of how good your secondary is, it’s impossible to ask them to defend for this long.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) January 8, 2017
This is indefensible.
Rodgers is too good and his receivers are trained to be able to alter the play when they see him scrambling and buying this much time. And this is when the game changed. Rodgers figured out this Giants defense that had given him a bunch of trouble. He finished 25-of-40 with 362 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
This vaunted defense fell apart after a dominant start, but it wasn’t because we overrated that side of the ball for the Giants. The offense gave them nothing and as a result, the defense was worn down by long Packer drives. Much of the Packers’s offensive success came as a result of this development.
This was arguably the best defense in the league. They instilled a level of fear in opposing teams because they pressured the quarterback, made receivers pay with hard hits over the middle and turned mistakes into takeaways.
So the easy, but lazy, analysis would be to criticize them for not showing up in the biggest game of the season. Giving up 38 points isn’t something you want on the resume, especially when you finished No. 2 in the NFL in scoring defense and gave up the second-fewest amount of touchdowns.
That’s flat out remarkable, whereas the outcome in Green Bay was that of an embarrassment.
It’s also easy to to point to the loss of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Sure, this was a significant blow for a unit that found a way to effectively utilize him in the slot. This allowed for Janoris Jenkins to emerge as the clear No. 1 corner while paving the way for rookie Eli Apple to cause havoc against the lesser talented receivers.
But the fact of the matter is that the offense simply didn’t show up. This proved to be the overwhelming problem. Once Rodgers caught fire, this became a shootout between two sides with a bevy of talent on offense. Unfortunately for Ben McAdoo’s team, they weren’t up for the challenge.
And for probably the first time all year, you couldn’t point to Eli Manning as the main culprit. He was locked in for much of the first half, but his receivers kept dropping passes.
The expectation coming into the season was that this offense would hover around the top of the pack, putting up huge numbers. The reality is: that was nowhere close to being the case.
In, perhaps, the biggest moment of the game to that point, the Giants defense didn’t shy away amidst a boatload (see what I did there) of pressure.
— New York Giants (@Giants) January 8, 2017
And motivated by the ferocity of the G-Men’s defense, the offense finally cashed in. Manning fired a strike to Tavarres King to pull them to within one.
— New York Giants (@Giants) January 8, 2017
But Rodgers, with all the confidence in the world that he had solved that defense, marched his team down for another score on the ensuing possession and they never looked back.
It’ll be a long, arduous offseason for the Giants. So close, yet so far from the ultimate goal of bringing the Lombardi trophy back to the Big Apple. This was a game they could’ve legitimately won, though the final score isn’t indicative of that. And we know they’re capable of being Dallas, as they did twice during the regular season.
But now they’ll have to live vicariously through the Packers, who will get that shot against the ‘Boys. The prize on the line is a chance at the NFC title game. Green Bay will roll in riding the scorching hot wave of a seven-game winning streak that has seen Rodgers throw for 22 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Giants fans are in the unfortunate predicament of having to root for the team that just ended their season. No chance they want to see the Cowboys advance.
In this situation there is good news though. If Aaron Rodgers just torched one of the best defenses for 38 points, imagine what he’ll be able to do against Dallas.
This heartbreak might take a while to be mended. But Giants Nation, the chant this weekend has to be, “Go Pack Go, right?”