The Packers discovered they’d be without arguably their best cornerback, Sam Shields, shortly before the game-day inactives were announced on Sunday.
That decision came after Shields labored through a pre-game workout, according to Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who added: “Sam didn’t feel it was serious, but obviously as time approached the game it was not where he needed to be.”
The last-second scenario reminded defensive coordinator Dom Capers of the regular-season opener in San Francisco when Morgan Burnett was expected to play but wound up sidelined with his own hamstring ailment.
Like Burnett’s situation, it led to some last second shuffling, which included rookie Micah Hyde playing the slot in nickel and veteran Jarrett Bush seeing his most playing time of the season as the dime cornerback.
Capers said the plan going in was to have Hyde handle first- and second-down nickel snaps with veteran Tramon Williams rotating in on third downs. Without Shields on the outside, Williams put together his finest effort of the season – seven tackles and an interception – but wasn’t able to shift from his perimeter post, either.
“You have to be prepared. On any given play, you could lose any player,” Capers said. “They aren’t going to slow things down. You have to be ready to adjust and just like we have to adjust in-game when you lose a guy in-game. We’ve had to do that a number of times this year with Clay and other people.”
The secondary didn’t play terribly, but was burned on a few critical plays that came primarily as a result of switch routes where two receivers cross their routes in hopes of throwing off the defenders.
The first came on Rueben Randle’s 26-yard touchdown when Hyde turned the wrong way into a zone defense rather than staying with Randle in man.
In the third quarter following a Scott Tolzien interception, there was some miscommunication between Williams and Burnett that led to Hakeem Nicks’ 35-yard catch with both defensive backs staying with Cruz and leaving Nicks free over the top.
On another third-and-5 play off a switch route, safety M.D. Jennings simply failed to come down to cover tight end Brandon Myers, who caught an 8-yard pass from Eli Manning and led to a touchdown two plays later.
Giants receiver Victor Cruz also said afterward that New York had a good feel for the Packers’ schemes and calls in certain situations en route to picking up a 30-yard completion in the first quarter with outside linebacker Clay Matthews in coverage.
“They basically were very protection cautious on third down. It looked like they were almost expecting pressure every third down from us,” Capers said. “They basically were very protection cautious on third down. It looked like they were almost expecting pressure every third down from us. We adjusted and we didn’t pressure as much after that.
“But we brought a corner and when you’re bringing a corner and you have Clay coming off with a safety playing over the top of him, and Cruz ran a nod route where he went down and we were in pretty good coverage and he stuttered and took off on the thing. That was a good route no matter who he was running against.”