Green Bay Packers defenders trail New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw as he breaks off a long run in the first quarter Sunday night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Jim Matthews/Press-Gazette Media
The Insider's take on Sunday night's game between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The Packers lost 38-10.
The big picture
It wasn’t just that the Green Bay Packers’ five-game winning streak ended Sunday night at MetLife Stadium; it was how it ended — in near total destruction. There’s no shame in losing to the NFC-East leading New York Giants on their home turf, but to be blown out 38-10 will force to the Packers to reassess where they’re at and where they can go in the final month of the season. They fell out of the first-place tie in the NFC North and now sit one game behind the division-leading Bears.
One third of the Packers’ offensive production in the first half came on one play — Aaron Rodgers’ 61-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson on their fourth play from scrimmage in the game. Rodgers got Giants safety Kenny Phillips to bite on the play-action fake, and Nelson used a stop-and-go move to beat cornerback Corey Webster down the right sideline. That tied the game at 7-7 less than five minutes in, and it looked like the Packers might be able to match the Giants in a shootout. But the Packers couldn’t keep up. They turned it over twice in the first half — once on a Rodgers interception and once when he was strip sacked — and Mason Crosby missed a 55-yard field goal. Their only other sustained drive in the first half was a 10-play, 62-yard possession that ended with Crosby’s 28-yard field goal with 3:37 left in the second quarter. The Packers finished with 182 first-half yards with 33.5 percent of that coming on Nelson’s touchdown.
What happened to the Packers’ run defense? The unit that came into the game ranked 11th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (99.5 per game) gave up nearly that many in the first half. By the break, the Giants had 96 yards rushing on just 16 attempts. The Packers had been ranked 13th in the league in rushing average, allowing just 4.1 yards per carry. In the first half, the Giants averaged 6.0 yards per carry. Expecting a heavy dose of running from the Giants, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers made liberal use of his base defense — something he didn’t call once the previous week against the Detroit Lions. It didn’t work. The Giants combination of Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown proved to be nearly unstoppable. Their second scoring drive was the perfect example. Bradshaw ran four times in the first five plays of the drive and gained 5, 7 and 6 yards before finally being held to just 2. Enter Brown, who took a toss and gained 5 yards of his own to help set up Eli Manning’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Rueben Randle that put the Giants ahead 14-7. Before Sunday, the Packers hadn’t allowed more than 110 yards rushing in any of their last five games. The Giants rushed for 147 yards.
Play of the game
Webster sure seems to make big plays against the Packers. The same guy who intercepted Brett Favre’s overtime pass in the 2007 NFC championship game picked off Rodgers late in the first quarter. He read the play all the way. He abandoned James Jones, the man he was covering, stepped in front of the stop route by Randall Cobb and picked it off at the Packers’ 33-yard line.
Any chance the Packers had of getting back into the game was wiped out when Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora smoked left tackle Marshall Newhouse and strip-sacked Rodgers. Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul recovered the fumble with 1:03 remaining and two plays later, Bradshaw scored on a 13-yard touchdown run to push the lead to 31-10.
Did you notice?
• Linebacker Erik Walden missed a tackle that would’ve snuffed out the Giants’ 59-yard screen pass to Bradshaw in the first quarter. On the same play, cornerback Tramon Williams apparently didn’t realize Bradshaw had the ball because he ran away from him.
• Tight end Jermichael Finley dropped the first ball thrown his way with 4:49 left in the second quarter. Rodgers went back to him on the next play, and Finley caught a short pass, ran over cornerback Prince Amukamara and picked up 9 yards to set up Crosby’s 28-yard field goal.
• Perhaps the Packers’ best defensive play was a third-and-1 stop late in the first quarter. Bradshaw tried running up the middle, but Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji got a good push, allowing linebacker Brad Jones and safety Morgan Burnett to fill and stop Bradshaw for a 1-yard loss.
By the numbers
• 0: Catches by Packers receiver James Jones, the first time has been shut out since Dec. 4, 2011, also against the Giants.
• 14: Completions, on 25 attempts, by Rodgers. That’s the second time in the last three games he has completed just 14 passes, his lowest total since Dec. 12, 2010 at Detroit, where he got knocked out because of a concussion.
• 200: Career touchdown passes by Manning, surpassing Phil Simms’ previous Giants record of 199.
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @RobDemovsky.