Insider: Thumbs up to pass defense

Stu Courtney
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Green Bay Packers strong safety Micah Hyde (33) breaks up a pass to wide receiver Sterling Shepard (87) against the New York Giants at Lambeau Field.


The Packers improved to 3-1 and stayed within reach of the impressive Vikings (5-0) in the NFC North race. Against an injured-depleted Giants defense, the Packers’ offense occasionally flashed the potential that it displayed in a 31-point first half against Detroit, but was inconsistent overall on the night. The pass defense held its own against Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. despite the absence of starting cornerbacks Sam Shields (concussion) and Damarious Randall (groin). Next up are two more home games, next Sunday against the surprising Cowboys (4-1) and then a quick turnaround Thursday night game against the Bears, before Green Bay again hits the road to play Atlanta on Oct. 30.


The Packers were struggling offensively after opening the game with an impressive 16-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. The Giants pulled to within 7-3 midway through the second quarter and momentum seemed to be shifting. But on the first play of the Packers' ensuing drive, Eddie Lacy bounced off tacklers and broke free for a rambling 31-yard gain, his longest of the season. He gained six more on the next play and chants of "Eddie! Eddie!" rained down from the Lambeau Field crowd. Three plays later, Aaron Rodgers connected with wide receiver Davante Adams on a 29-yard touchdown pass that gave Green Bay a 14-3 lead and halted New York's momentum.

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Green Bay’s struggling pass defense got another jolt when Randall was declared inactive with a groin injury, joining Shields (concussion) on the sidelines. But Manning and a gifted group of receivers failed to take advantage against fill-ins Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter, with the Giants quarterback completing only six of 16 attempts in the first half for 87 yards and no touchdowns. Manning (18-for-35 on the night for 199 yards, 78.2 passer rating) finally found Beckham in the end zone for a late touchdown, but the Packers were able to run out the clock for the win.


Rodgers was fresh off a 100-plus passer rating vs. Detroit, his first since Week 6 of last season. And early on, the Packers took advantage of fill-in Giants cornerback Michael Hunter, who was promoted from the practice squad two weeks ago and pressed into service when regular corners Eli Apple and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were forced from the game by injuries. Adams beat Hunter for the Packers’ second TD, a 29-yard toss down the right sideline. But Janoris Jenkins picked off Rodgers twice in the first half to limit the damage. It marked Rodgers’ first multi-interception game since he threw two against the Rams on Oct. 11, 2015. For the game, Rodgers was a pedestrian 23-for-45 for 259 yards, two TDs and a passer rating of 65.0. Clearly, there's still work to be done with the passing game.


The Packers’ top-ranked run defense faced a Giants offense missing injured running backs Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen and forced to start undrafted free agent Orleans Darkwa. The result was predictable: New York rushed for only 14 yards on seven attempts in the first half and things didn’t get much better from there, finishing with 43 yards on 15 carries. That helped turn loose the Packers' pass rush and put a big burden on Manning, who was sacked four times.


Lacy rambled for more than 100 yards against the Lions and expectations were that he’d get plenty of carries Sunday night. That was the case early, as Lacy bulled his way to 77 first-half yards on nine carries, including a season-best 31-yard run in which he broke several tackles. But Lacy carried only once more in the half. In the third quarter, Lacy left the game for good with a left-ankle injury and ended up with 81 yards on 11 carries. The Packers didn't get much from backup James Starks (12 carries for 33 yards), but it was enough to get the job done.

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Jordy Nelson caught two touchdown passes in the Packers’ previous game against Detroit and looked to take advantage of an injury-ravaged Giants secondary. That he did early, scoring the game’s first touchdown on a 2-yard toss from Rodgers. Randall Cobb had six first-half catches for 57 yards and Adams had three catches, including a 29-yard TD reception. In the second half, Adams had a key 20-yard catch that kept a field-goal drive alive, while Cobb had a clutch 17-yard reception on a third-and-9 and ended up with nine receptions for 108 yards.


The Packers’ offensive linemen were tasked with protecting Rodgers from a Giants pass rush featuring defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon and tackle Damon Harrison. They did an excellent job, with Rodgers frequently having what seemed like all night to scan the field searching for an open target. The Giants failed to sack Rodgers. The line also opened holes for the Packers’ productive ground game.

BOX SCOREPackers 23, Giants 16

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» When Rodgers hit Nelson for the game’s first touchdown, it marked the 50th time the pair had combined for a TD. That trails only Brett Favre and Antonio Freeman, who teamed for 57 touchdowns, for most in team history.

» Packers second-year fullback Aaron Ripkowski received his first career carry on the first drive of the game, a four-yard gain that produced a first down on third and 1. Then, in the fourth quarter, he evoked memories of John Kuhn in his prime when he bulled his way for 10 yards on a crucial third-and-1, on a drive that produced a field goal.

» Clay Matthews’ third-quarter sack was his third in less than four games (he sat out with a hamstring injury vs. Detroit).

» Packers safety Micah Hyde belatedly was credited with a sack when he tackled Beckham on an end-around run in the third quarter (because Beckham was looking to pass). Hyde now has at least one sack in each of his four seasons.

» The Packers extended their winning streak in October home games to 11. The last October home loss for the Packers came Oct. 17, 2010, a 23-20 overtime defeat against Miami.

» The Packers now have won eight of their last nine Sunday Night Football home games.

» For the second time in the last four years, the Packers were victorious after having a Week 4 bye. In 2013, Green Bay beat visiting Detroit 22-9 after having an early bye.

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