All week long members of the Green Bay Packers offensive line heard about the mighty New York Giants and their ferocious defense.
The Giants were second in the league in sacks. The Giants had knocked five quarterbacks out of commission this season. The Giants were capable of dominating in the trenches. The Giants boasted defensive ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, who chewed up and spit out opponents for lunch.
It was all about the Giants, and the accolades about their defensive line never stopped.
Outwardly, the Packers’ offensive linemen said nothing. Inwardly, they were highly motivated.
“Those guys were ready to play,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. “They were sick and tired of hearing about how tough the Giants were all week, and they took it personally.”
The Packers not only played with a chip on their shoulder Sunday at Lambeau Field in an impressive 45-17 victory, they dominated the Giants. And it started with the line, which gave quarterback Aaron Rodgers time to throw, opened up holes for the running backs and was the catalyst for the Packers’ best offensive performance of the season.
“I don’t know if you can play much better on offense,” said McCarthy.
The Packers produced a stunning 515 total yards. Rodgers picked apart the Giants for a career-high 404 passing yards. He was sacked twice for 8 yards, but the Giants’ pass rush was never a factor.
“It’s a pride thing,” said rookie tackle Bryan Bulaga. “There’s a lot of talk about their D-line, and don’t get me wrong, they’re very good. … but we feel like we’ve got a lot of good players on this offensive line.”
In the Packers’ biggest game of the season, when they needed a victory to keep their playoff hopes alive, when they needed to keep Rodgers healthy and upright, the line turned in an outstanding performance.
“(Center) Scott Wells set the tempo in the pregame,” said McCarthy. “He was the captain that called up the team in the locker room beforehand.”
Whatever Wells said, the message got through loud and clear. After the game, Wells played it coy with reporters and declined to take any credit.
“It’s satisfying to get a win any day,” he said. “It feels good. To go out and be as productive as we were running and passing is huge for us.”
The Giants had the look and sound of a team that didn’t know what hit them.
“It is hard to explain,” said Giants defense tackle Barry Cofield of his team’s defensive struggles.
It was the Packers, and not the Giants, that displayed a winning brand of power football. It was the Packers that ran the ball more effectively and mixed things up offensively.
Now it’s the Packers that own the inside track to the playoffs. A victory next week against the Chicago Bears will guarantee them a ticket to the post-season party.
There’s no telling how much damage they can do if they reach the playoffs, based on how they performed against the Giants.
But some members of the team have a pretty good idea, particularly when the offense performs so efficiently. Success breeds success and spreads to the rest of the team.
“When you put four (quarters) together like that, we’re dangerous,” said linebacker Desmond Bishop.
“I mean, we can beat anybody.”
Mike Vandermause is sports editor of the Press-Gazette.