Green Bay became the first 15-1 team in league history to go one-and-done in the playoffs when they fell to the red hot New York Giants at Lambeau Field on Sunday. The Giants never trailed and ended the game going away from the Packers who only briefly threatened a comeback in a game they were unquestionably second best in.
Aaron Rodgers missed some uncharacteristic throws in the game and only his running kept the Packers from allowing the game to slip out of hand as their defense could never really derail the Giants. Rodgers’ job was made even tougher by drops from Green Bay receivers, something they have struggled with all season, but which really cost them in this game, one in which they needed every play that was there for the making.
The Giants are now as hot as any team in the league and are riding a win streak that has some remarkable similarities to their Super Bowl run of 2007 (which also ran through Lambeau Field), and also to the close of Green Bay’s season last year. The playoffs are all about getting hot at the right time, and right now the Giants are that team.
New York Giants – Three Things of Note
You can’t spell elite without Eli
The word elite causes more than its fair share of arguments when discussing NFL players, and Eli Manning (+6.3) finds his way into a few of them. Right now, there isn’t a quarterback playing better football than Manning, and doing it with less help from his offensive line. While Rodgers and Brees were smashing records and getting the media attention, Eli has caught fire in a way very similar to the five-game run in 2007 that ended with a Super Bowl MVP trophy. The Giants QB was 21-of-33 in this game for 330 yards and three touchdowns, but it was the crucial times he made big plays that really made his grade. While Rodgers was struggling to keep the Packers in the game, Manning was making crucial play after crucial play, eventually pulling the Giants clear and even running down the clock with a key conversion late on. Can history repeat itself for Manning as he attempts to be the first Manning with multiple Super Bowl rings? If he plays this way the answer is absolutely.
What makes Manning’s performance even more impressive is that he is doing it with some extremely poor play from his O-line. David Diehl (-3.1) surrendered a sack, a knockdown and two pressures in the game, but none of the five graded well, and each lineman allowed at least two pressures. The real negative standout in the game though was left guard Kevin Boothe (-6.0) who has been arguably the best player on the Giants’ line this season. Boothe had a torrid time in this game, being beaten for a knockdown and four more pressures, but also repeatedly finding his man disengaging to make tackles close to the line of scrimmage in the run game. Somehow the Giants are managing to play well above the quality of their blocking, which would be something to keep an eye on going forward in the playoffs, because there are not many sides that can sustain that.
Hakeem Nicks back on the radar
Between the spate of drops and the emergence of Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks was able to drop off the radar a little bit, but he has burst back onto the scene with his performances in the playoffs, earning a +3.2 grade for his work against the Packers. Nicks was thrown at eight times, hauling in seven balls for 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a Hail Mary to end the first half and give the Giants a 20-10 lead. Nicks picked up receptions in the coverage of five different players in this game and Eli Manning had a 118.8 QB rating when throwing towards his top target. Nicks brings a physical ability that none of the rest of the Giants receivers have, and the series of quick passes that the Giants gave him allowed him to make yards after the catch against soft cushions from the Green Bay corners.
Green Bay – Three Things of Note
A beast on defense
If you were to pick an outstanding player from the Packers defense it probably wouldn’t be Desmond Bishop, but he was a constant standout in the game, and in a telling problem for Green Bay, was their most effective pass-rusher in this game. On just nine pass-rushes Bishop was able to generate three pressures and two knockdowns of Eli Manning, but also made defensive stops on four of his five tackles. In a game in which none of the other Green Bay linebackers really stood out, Bishop was able to consistently make an impact, and deserved more help from the rest of the Packers defense. His +7.2 grade for the game was exactly three times the combined grade of all of the other Green Bay linebackers, and comfortably the best graded player on defense for the Packers.
Green Bay spent much of their time in this game in nickel formations but it was their starting pairing of Charles Woodson (-3.0) and Tramon Williams who (-3.5) couldn’t contain the Giants receivers and ultimately surrendered most of the catches that mattered. Williams was thrown at eight times, allowing seven receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns, and while Woodson allowed just four of five targets into his coverage, he was also at the center of a busted coverage from the Packers with 10:18 to go in the 4th quarter. On 3rd and five, Woodson was unable to get the correct coverage arranged with Sam Shields and Charlie Peprah, allowing the Giants to pick up an easy conversion on an uncovered route. The Packers’ secondary has been a problem all season but it was badly exposed in this game against a receiving corps that has been hitting its stride in recent weeks.
Turning the ball over
Green Bay was +24 in turnover margin this season, but in this game they turned the ball over four times and generally couldn’t keep a handle on the football in the tundra of Lambeau Field with Ryan Grant (-1.3), John Kuhn (-2.0) and Aaron Rodgers (+2.8) each losing a fumble. Rodgers lost the ball on a strip-sack that may have turned the game with 10.36 to go in the 3rd quarter. With the Packers trailing by ten, Greg Jennings killed Aaron Ross on a slant and go route down the left sideline, and as Rodgers was pulling the trigger on a certain touchdown, he had the ball knocked out of his hands by Osi Umenyiora. The Packers were also a horrible review decision away from yet another fumble as Jennings lost the ball before his knee hit earlier in the game. As much as people look for statistics to judge games, no number remains more important than turnovers, and the Packers gave the ball away too much in this game to win.
- The Giants were in their base defense for just four snaps in this game. Three more plays saw them in a heavy-personnel package, and everything else was some form of nickel sub-package
- Aaron Rodgers saw pressure on 16 drop-backs in this game, and on those snaps he had a 59.0 QB rating.
- These two sides combined to force three missed tackles in the run game. Willis McGahee forced six on his own against New England for the Broncos.
The throws Eli Manning is making off his back foot and under pressure behind a line hemorrhaging pressure are remarkable. He was comfortably the better quarterback on the day in a battle of Super Bowl MVPs, and outshone the player likely to be the league MVP this season.