Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings fails to haul in the end zone during the third quarter of Sunday's game against the New York Giants at Lambeau Field. / William Glasheen/Gannett Wisconsin Media
The big picture
When it came time for the playoffs, 15-1 meant nothing. In Sunday’s 37-20 loss to the Giants in the NFC divisional playoff round, the Packers barely resembled the team that nearly pulled off a perfect regular season. Instead, they made the kind of errors that a 9-7 team, like the Giants were, would make. The 2011-12 Packers won’t be remembered for their remarkable regular-season run as much as it will be for this playoff clunker.
About the only thing that went right for the Packers were a couple of calls by referee Bill Leavy’s crew. In fact, an argument could be made that the officials helped the Packers to almost all of their scoring. The officials may have botched the first-quarter play in which Packers receiver Greg Jennings appeared to lose the ball before going down. However, Jennings was ruled down by contact after a 6-yard gain. Giants coach Tom Coughlin rightfully challenged the call, and he appeared to have a good case. At least one replay angle showed the ball came loose before any part of Jennings’ body touched down, making it a live ball. But the Giants were denied possession because Leavy upheld the ruling on the field. The Packers retained the ball at the Giants’ 32-yard line, and four plays later Aaron Rodgers threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to fullback John Kuhn that tied the gale at 10-10. Then in the fourth quarter, the Packers were the beneficiaries of a phantom personal foul penalty on Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who was called for roughing the passer with a blow to the head, a 15-yard infraction, on third-and-10 from the Giants’ 24. But Umenyiora didn’t hit Rodgers in the head. The first down by penalty kept alive a drive that ended with Rodgers’ 14-yard touchdown pass to Driver that cut the Giants’ lead to 30-20.
The Packers survived five dropped passes in the regular-season meeting against the Giants. They couldn’t get by with at least that many on Sunday. Tight end Jermichael Finley had at least one drop and possibly another, depending on how the third-quarter dart that Rodgers threw on third-and-5 from the Giants’ 39 is judged. Finley, who led the Packers with 11 regular-season drops (according to STATS), had a costly drop on the game’s first series. He mishandled a first-down pass from the Giants’ 31-yard line, and the Packers never got another first down on that drive. They were forced to settle for a field goal. Tight ends accounted for at least three drops with Tom Crabtree and Ryan Taylor also having one each. Running back James Starks and receiver Jordy Nelson had the other clear-cut drops. The drops by Starks and Crabtree came on consecutive second- and third-down plays that stalled a second-quarter drive. Crabtree’s would have been a first down. It might not be fair to call the third-and-5 pass from the Giants’ 17-yard line that Greg Jennings couldn’t haul in a drop, but Jennings appeared to be in good position to catch what would have been a touchdown. It would have been a tough catch but one that a Pro Bowl receiver probably should make. On a day when Rodgers wasn’t sharp, either, his receivers didn’t do a ton to help him out.
Play of the game
With 6 seconds left in the second quarter, Giants quarterback Eli Manning launched a Hail Mary pass toward the north end zone. Bat it down, and the Packers head into the locker room only down 13-10. Instead, they allowed Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks to make a leaping catch for an improbable 37-yard touchdown and a 20-10 halftime lead. In a crowd of at least a half-dozen players, Nicks outjumped cornerback Charles Woodson and safety Charlie Peprah.
One play before the Hail Mary, Peprah had a chance to tackle Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw at the Packers’ 45-yard line. Because the Giants had no timeouts remaining, the first-half clock almost certainly would have expired before Manning could have gotten the Giants lined up for one last play. Instead, Peprah missed the tackle, and Bradshaw ran out of bounds at the 37-yard line to stop the clock with 6 seconds left.
Did you notice?
• Defensive coordinator Dom Capers used two different nickel packages. On first- and second-downs, he used Jarrett Bush as the third cornerback. On third downs, he used Sam Shields. Previously, Shields had been the full-time nickel cornerback.
• The Packers had eight offensive linemen active after going with seven most of the season.
• B.J. Raji played more snaps at nose tackle than at end in the base defense.
By the numbers
• 4: Losses by the Packers in their last six postseason home games. Previously, they were 11-0 at Lambeau Field in the playoffs.
• 49: Career playoff receptions by Donald Driver, who had three catches on Sunday to give him the franchise record, surpassing Antonio Freeman’s mark of 47.
• 78.5: Passer rating for Rodgers, who was 26-of-46 for 264 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. It was his lowest rating of the season and his lowest since last year’s NFC championship game (55.4).