Notebook: Offensive line struggles against Giants' pass rush

Nov. 25, 2012

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Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is helped to his feet by tackle T.J. Lang (70) after being knocked down during Sunday night's game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — There’s no worse feeling for a receiver than when he looks back for a ball and sees his quarterback on the ground.

Yet in Sunday night’s 38-10 loss to the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium, that was the case far too often for the Green Bay Packers.

Facing near constant pressure from the Giants’ fearsome defensive front, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times. Even when the Giants didn’t get him to the ground, they regularly flushed him out of the pocket and had him scrambling just to buy time to throw.

“I’m running down the field, and I look back and see him on his back,” Packers tight end Jermichael Finley said. “So I don’t know what happened.”

What happened was the Giants’ pass rush all but completely disrupted the Packers’ passing game. Rodgers matched his season-low with just 14 completions in 25 attempts. He threw for 219 yards but 61 came on a first-quarter touchdown to Jordy Nelson.

“That makes it hard for Aaron to get the ball out,” said Packers receiver Randall Cobb, who had a team-high four catches but totaled just 39 yards. “By the time we look back for the ball, he’s scrambling.”

Whatever Packers coach Mike McCarthy had planned to combat perhaps the best defensive front in the NFL didn’t work.

“It sucks,” Packers right guard Josh Sitton said. “I don’t like to be embarrassed like that.”

Perhaps the two most damaging plays were a sack by Giants defensive end Chris Canty, who got Rodgers from behind as he tried to escape a collapsing pocket on third-and-3 from the Giants’ 35-yard line in the first quarter, and defensive end Osi Umenyiora’s strip-sack in the second quarter.

Canty’s sack forced the Packers to try a 55-yard field goal that Mason Crosby missed wide left. Umenyiora beat left tackle Marshall Newhouse to the outside, and Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul recovered Rodgers’ fumble.

“I think I overcommitted on my punch,” said Newhouse, who also struggled in the Packers’ regular-season game here last December. “He gave me a swipe outside, and that was that. It was took poor technique on my part.”

Rodgers was a sacked a third time in the first half when linebacker Chase Blackburn had a free shot on Rodgers after left guard Evan Dietrich-Smith blew the assignment. Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka had the other two sacks.

Maybe next week?

Receiver Greg Jennings looks to be on track to make his return next week against the Minnesota Vikings.

The Packers didn’t want to push Jennings back into action too soon, especially with four NFC North games still on the schedule, so they didn’t activate him for Sunday night’s game. He was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report.

Jennings made it through a full week of practice last week, his first action since he underwent surgery on Nov. 1 to repair a torn abdominal muscle. His workload increased each day, from individual drills on Wednesday to team periods on Thursday and Friday.

McCarthy said Jennings’ conditioning was the major concern.

Jennings did not go through any pregame workouts because he knew he wasn’t going to play. He said he expected to play against the Vikings.

Jennings has played in only 2½ games this season. He has missed the last seven games and hasn’t played since Sept. 30 against New Orleans, when he aggravated the injury he first sustained in the season opener against San Francisco. Jennings was then inactive in Week 2 against Chicago only to return the following week against Seattle. He had his best game of the season, with six catches, against the Seahawks. In Week 4 against the Saints, he caught a 9-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter before he dropped out of the game.

The other inactives against the Giants were safety Charles Woodson, cornerback Sam Shields, linebacker Clay Matthews, tight end Andrew Quarless and linebacker Vic So’oto.

Injury report

The Packers lost defensive end C.J. Wilson to a knee injury late in the first quarter. He did not return.

Neither did backup running back Johnny White, who sustained a concussion on special teams.

Backup linebacker Jamari Lattimore had a calf injury but returned in the second quarter.

Safety M.D. Jennings sustained a rib injury in the second half.

Crosby's kicks

Say this much about Crosby, he still had the confidence of his head coach.

McCarthy sent in his struggling kicker to try a 55-yard field goal in the first quarter, and Crosby missed it wide left.

“That was kind of my max distance warming up in pregame,” Crosby said. “I put a good strike on it. That was a tough kick with how the wind was. I expect to make that kick. I can take that and move on. That one was, I think, easier to move on from because it was a well-struck ball. I feel like those types of things are behind me.”

It was Crosby’s eighth miss in a 14-kick stretch. He made his only other field goal, a 28-yarder in the second quarter.

House call

After not playing any base defense last week against the Lions, defensive coordinator Dom Capers opened the game in that package and used it extensively.

There also was a new wrinkle to it. Capers used Davon House at right cornerback.

That meant rookie Casey Hayward, the team’s interception leader with five coming into the game, didn’t play at all in that package. Instead, Hayward played only the sub packages.

Hayward dropped a potential interception in the first quarter.

Odds and ends

♦ With the game out of reach, McCarthy sent in backup quarterback Graham Harrell for the final 4:53. Harrell completed one of two passes for 11 yards.

♦ Alex Green got the majority of the rushing attempts in the early going, carrying 10 times for 30 yards while James Starks got most of his carries — eight for 35 yards — late in the game. and follow him on Twitter @RobDemovsky.

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