THE BIG PICTURE
Lucky No. 7 turned out to be as strange as a victory can be, but given it was a wild-card playoff game and the loser is done for the year, the Green Bay Packers were more than happy to endure the bumpy ride inside Lambeau Field. First, the Packers couldn’t do anything on offense, then they were unstoppable. First, the special teams couldn’t get the right number of guys on the field for a punt return, then they produced 27 yards per kickoff return and 10.0 per punt return. First, the defense let Eli Manning dink and dunk them for a couple of field goal drives, then they held him to 10 of 23 passing for 129 yards and a touchdown with one interception in the second half. Along the way, the offense lost receiver Jordy Nelson (ribs) and Ty Montgomery (ankle) to injury (although Montgomery did return). Despite it all, the Packers, by virtue of their 38-13 victory, live to play another week. It’s on to Dallas to face the NFC’s No. 1 seed Sunday at 3:40 p.m., and go for their eighth in a row.
McGINN: Rodgers, Packers slay the Giants
DOUGHERTY: Pack potent even without Nelson
PLAYOFFS: Schedule, times
Those who are familiar with the Packers-Giants playoff rivalry couldn’t help but see how this game was going to turn out when receiver Randall Cobb caught quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ 42-yard Hail Mary heave with no time left on the clock. After all, it was the same end zone that Hakeem Nicks hauled in Manning’s 37-yard Hail Mary at the end of the half in the Giants’ 37-20 divisional round playoff game at Lambeau Field on Jan. 15, 2012. The Packers had used up all their timeouts before the series started with 1:38 to go and so after tight end Jared Cook couldn’t hang onto a pass on third and 2 at the Giants 42, coach Mike McCarthy called a Hail Mary with six seconds left. The ball sailed high and to everyone’s amazement dropped into Cobb’s hands in the back of the end zone. “I guess everyone (misjudged it) but me,” Cobb said. The touchdown gave the Packers a 14-6 lead going into the second half and all the momentum.
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Cobb and Rodgers were the statistical stars of the game, but the guy who really got the Packers' offense going in the first half was receiver Davante Adams. The Packers punted five straight times, but with 3:45 left and the Packer at the Giants 38, Adams read that the Giants were going to shift coverage from two-deep to one-high and gave cornerback Eli Apple an ankle-breaking move off the line of scrimmage that allowed him to run free down the right sideline. Rodgers hit him for a 31-yard gain. A play later, Rodgers scrambled for eight seconds and then fired a rocket that Adams snared with two hands for a 5-yard touchdown. Adams, who led the Packers with eight catches for 125 yards and a touchdown, stepped in for an injured Nelson and gave the offense the spark it badly needed.
GAME BLOG: Review Silverstein's live coverage
REPLAY: Nagler talks Packers victory
MONDAY MORNING HEADLINES: Write the Packers-Giants headline
OK, the Packers wound up winning by 25 points, but what in the world was McCarthy thinking when he went for it on fourth and 1 at the Packers’ 42 with 6:08 left in the third quarter and the Giants down just eight points? His punter was having a fine game and the defense was playing well enough given the poor field position the Giants had been getting. The Giants had just stuffed you on third and 1. Punt the ball. McCarthy calls an inside zone play and Montgomery gets stuffed for minus-1. One play later, Manning hit Tavarres King for a 41-yard touchdown over cornerback Damarious Randall, and the Giants were within one point with just over 5 minutes left in the third quarter. Had the Packers lost, McCarthy would have been burned at the stake. Luckily for him, his offense can make up for such blunders and bailed him out. “As a play caller, as a head coach, you’re sick to yourself,” McCarthy said.
RANTS & RAVES
RAVE: It wasn’t until late in the week that Cobb thought he would have a chance to play against the Giants. Having missed the previous two weeks with an ankle sprain, he still wasn’t 100 percent and was concerned McCarthy would not let him suit up Sunday. But McCarthy called his number and eased him into the game. Then, when Nelson got hurt, Cobb started playing more. He finished with five catches for 116 yards and three touchdowns, including the 42-yarder on the Hail Mary. His other two touchdowns were on similar routes in which Rodgers waited for him to clear coverage and hit him on the run. It was as timely a performance as the Packers could get.
RAVE: Punter Jake Schum beat his competition, Brad Wing, by 8.4 yards per punt net and forced the Giants to start inside their 12-yard line three times in the first half. He was a major reason the Giants managed just six points at a time when the Packers’ offense couldn’t move the ball. Schum averaged 41.8 yards gross and 41.2 net and landed three of his six punts inside the 20-yard line. Along with great coverage from Jeff Janis, Schum was a big part of why the Giants only scored 13 points.
RAVE: Week after week, the Packers face outstanding pass rushers and time after time, their offensive line is up for the challenge. Rodgers got sacked five times, but probably four of those were his fault for holding the ball too long. Giants star defensive end Olivier Vernon was held to one tackle, no sacks and no quarterback hits. On Adams’ 5-yard touchdown, the line held off the Giants for more than 8 seconds. The rushing numbers weren’t great, but this game was about giving Rodgers time to do his thing. That’s what the line did.
RANT: The Packers have to get more out of linebackers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. If they’re going to have any chance against the Cowboys, those two are going to have to play their best games of the season. Against the Giants, Matthews had a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery, but his rush was not consistent enough. Perry had one quarterback hit and no other stats. If it weren’t for Julius Peppers, the Packers wouldn’t have had any rush at all. They’ll be facing the best offensive line in the league next week and can’t afford to not show up.
DID YOU NOTICE?
» Because cornerback Quinten Rollins (neck/concussion) was out, rookie cornerbacks Josh Hawkins and Herb Waters were both active. Neither played from scrimmage but contributed on special teams.
» In the last meeting with the Giants, the corners stayed on their respective sides, but this week coordinator Dom Capers put LaDarius Gunter on wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. wherever he went. Beckham had four catches for 28 yards.
» Perhaps worried about how Matthews and Peppers would handle their injuries in the cold, outside linebackers Kyler Fackrell and Datone Jones played a significant amount of snaps.
» Fullback Aaron Ripkowski (shoulder) was added to the injury report Saturday and wasn’t used nearly as much as he had been against Detroit. Ripkowski was used sparingly until late in the game when Montgomery injured his ankle.
» Linebacker Joe Thomas and Peppers stood around after Matthews stripped the ball from Manning because they thought it was an incomplete pass. Only Matthews went after the ball, running more than 10 yards from where he had forced the fumble to recover it.