Green Bay Packers defense makes unforced mistakes and gets steamrolled by New York Giants in London
LONDON – Before he had New York Giants receiver Darius Slayton in his crosshairs, Rasul Douglas’ trip to London already was miserable.
There’s the continental travel, for one. Before the Green Bay Packers left North America, Douglas made clear he had no desire to play in Europe. He’d done it once before in his second NFL season. For Douglas, once was enough.
After kickoff arrived, the way Douglas played was unrecognizable. By the fourth quarter, the cornerback whose football intelligence Aaron Rodgers compared to Charles Woodson in training camp already had two defensive holding penalties. One flag erased a Jarran Reed strip sack in the second quarter. Reed recovered the fumble at the Giants' 7-yard line.
Up two touchdowns, it could have been game over. The Giants, given new life, finished that drive with their first touchdown in what became a 27-22 comeback win.
The Packers might have salvaged their trip with less than 7 minutes left. Douglas wrapped his arms around Slayton’s legs 4 yards short of the goal line, setting up what would have been a critical third-and-goal.
The whistle blew. The play was over.
Douglas didn’t stop.
He finished the tackle, drawing a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. Instead of potentially getting a chance to hold the Giants to a go-ahead field goal, the Packers defense faced another first-and-goal. Douglas still couldn’t understand the call sitting at his locker after the game.
“I don’t even know the last one,” Douglas said, “what did he call?”
Told it was an unnecessary roughness, Douglas was more confused. To him, it was just a regular tackle. No different than he’s made throughout his career.
Of course, the whistle had already blown.
Douglas didn’t shirk responsibility for his mistakes. He stopped teammates inside the Packers locker room, taking blame. Even if Douglas couldn’t hear the whistle before tackling Slayton to the ground, his first two penalties did damage. Douglas’ second defensive holding was declined because Giants quarterback Daniel Jones scrambled for 14 yards on the play.
That drive finished with a game-tying touchdown with 10:14 left in the fourth quarter.
Say what you want about the Packers' offense abandoning their run game. It was inexplicable to watch Aaron Rodgers drop back pass after pass — some of them good, many of them not — as Aaron Jones gained 63 yards on 13 carries. It was like the Packers were allergic to moving the chains with 5-yard gains.
That criticism was fair, and continually passing the ball was maddening, if not illogical. But the Packers had a 17-3 lead midway through the second quarter. With this defense, vaunted as it is, a two-touchdown lead is supposed to be game over.
“I’m pretty sure we feel bad,” Douglas said, lifting his head to peek behind the throng of reporters surrounding him, checking out the rest of the locker room. “Looking around, we all look bad. I just told everybody it was my fault. I had three uncharacteristic (expletive) penalties that I don’t usually get, but I had them. That (expletive) the whole defense up.”
Douglas had plenty of help. On the first play of the third quarter, Rashan Gary got what would have been his sixth sack this season. One problem: safety Darnell Savage was penalized for defensive holding. In the second quarter, two plays after the strip sack that wasn’t, Savage failed to fill a running lane against Saquon Barkley, the NFL's leading rusher.
The Giants running back took off for 40 yards, the big play in a touchdown drive that pulled his team back in the game.
“They broke on a couple explosive plays,” Gary said. “It’s a break in our technique. It’s plays that we knew were coming, and we owned it. We’ve just got to get back to next week and understand offenses are going to try to attack us on things that we got beat on today.”
That would require the Packers defense to adjust, something it has resisted doing this season. For the third time in five games, the Packers were unable to stop something they knew was coming. Daniel Jones picked apart the Packers secondary with rollouts all afternoon, taking advantage of his mobility to limit the Packers pass rush.
The Packers knew Jones’ legs were dangerous. Same as they knew Giants coach Brian Daboll liked using Barkley as a wildcat — where the running back takes the shotgun snap — in the backfield. Both plays hurt the Packers on Sunday, but Jones’ bootlegs were especially significant, lifting a Giants offense depleted at receiver. Jones finished 21-of-27 passing for 217 yards and, despite throwing no touchdowns, a 100.2 rating.
After the Giants realized the Packers couldn’t defend Jones’ bootleg passes, they kept coming. Defensive lineman T.J. Slaton said the Giants called many more bootlegs than expected.
“I think we were a little too dialed in at times with the plan and what we practiced,” Slaton said. “We knew what we were going to see, and I think we were just getting a little lost. We were getting a little lost when we didn’t see what we were practicing.
“I don’t think it was too bad. It just came down to the end. It came down to football.”
It came down to a Packers defense with the talent to dominate realizing no amount of talent can compensate for unforced errors. This defense is too good, too stacked at every level, to play like it did against a Giants offense dealing with injuries. The Giants were without four receivers Sunday, including top receiver Sterling Shepard, who tore his ACL two weeks ago.
Daniel Jones finished with a higher passer rating than Aaron Rodgers anyway.
They have to be better than this. Safety Adrian Amos said they will be.
“It’s a long season,” Amos said. “We’re going to be great. We’re going to get better, and we’re going to do what we need to do to get better.”