It was the Cover-2 shell, a stagnant run game and an overpowering New York Giants’ defensive line that made this one possible.
By the time the Green Bay Packers left New York following their 38-10 walloping on Sunday night, they’d seen their five-game winning streak whittle away to nothing at the hands of the same team who booted them from the playoffs a year ago in similar fashion.
The offense that doesn’t turn over the ball did. Twice. The team's leading receiver, James Jones, went 56 plays without a target and a defense that had appeared to solve its issues with missed tackles from a year ago succumbed to bad habits.
The Packers’ pass-protection left Aaron Rodgers scrambling all night and the running game again struggled to take advantage of another defense playing its safeties and linebackers back throughout.
It all culminated in a wake-up call, a 28-point defeat that ranked among the Packers’ worst in the seven seasons under head coach Mike McCarthy.
“It was surprising and embarrassing,” Packers tight end Jermichael Finley said. “It was a combination of both. With a team like that, they’re a great team. It was two great teams against each other and one of them didn’t show up and that was us. We have to go back (today) and see can we fix it.”
Defensively, the Packers showcased play-making rookie Casey Hayward on only 21 defensive plays with the taller and more physical Davon House getting the call to shade Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. The Packers kept the explosive Victor Cruz quiet, but gave up too many big plays to the rest of the Giants’ cast.
Without Clay Matthews, the Packers sacked Eli Manning only one time on rookie linebacker Dezman Moses’ second-quarter effort starting in place of the injured Matthews. Moses played all 65 defensive snaps for the Packers while Frank Zombo (31 plays) replaced starting linebacker Erik Walden (34) in the second half.
A Giants’ offense that entered the game hitting on only 37 percent of its third-down attempts made good on four of their first six against the Packers, enough to kick start a 31-point first half showing that practically shelved the Packers’ chances only 30 minutes in.
“The biggest thing is we have to come out and play with some emotion,” said Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb, who led the team with four catches for 39 yards. “I feel like our care-level just wasn’t there tonight. I don’t know how else to put it.”
So where do the Packers go from here? Now sitting with a playoff-caliber 7-4 record, they have a quick divisional turnaround against Minnesota next Sunday, but should have wide receiver Greg Jennings back.
With one win already over NFC North-leading Chicago, Green Bay still controls its own destiny despite falling one-game behind the Bears for first place in the NFC North standings as the two teams will meet again in three weeks.
“Scoreboard says that we weren’t even in the game,” Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said. “That that’s a playoff team we just faced and when we face a team like that we want to be in the games. You want to play guys tougher than that and be physical. We’re going to go back and look at the film and see what went wrong.”