ReFo: Packers @ Giants, Week 11
The hurt goes on for the Green Bay Packers, dropping their third straight without starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers as the New York Giants did enough to take a fourth straight victory that, from an 0-6 start, keeps them just one loss behind the lead in the NFC East.
This victory was about the Giants being good enough to see off a weakened Green Bay team more so than them showing that they have turned the corner. In the .500 scrap that the NFC East has become, the Giants are still alive but they will need to keep producing the form they showed in fits and starts on both sides of the ball in this game if they are to extend this winning streak against teams that aren’t significantly hampered. That takes nothing away from this victory, they were plenty value for this win but more will be needed.
The Packers, meanwhile, are still counting down the days and weeks until they can get Rodgers back under center to right the ship. Scott Tolzien put in a much improved display this week, but the Packers never got their ground game going to give him the support he needed to come out of MetLife Stadium with what would have been a morale-boosting victory for the entire team. For the time being, the Packers still do not have the validation of what they will believe; that they can still compete and win without their leader under center. The good news for Green Bay was that Detroit’s defeat in Pittsburgh keeps them within one game of the division lead with Rodgers one week closer to his return.
Green Bay – Three Performances of Note
Tolzien Pays the Price
Sometimes at the quarterback position it isn’t how many mistakes you make it’s how badly you’re made to pay for them and Scott Tolzien certainly suffered for those he made in his first career start against the Giants. A stat line that includes three interceptions could be marked out as an extremely poor performance by the young quarterback, but, realistically, this was a veteran defense making him pay severely.
His three interceptions were poor throws (an overthrow under pressure and getting caught out by excellent defensive plays by Jason Pierre-Paul and Jon Beason), but the rest of his performance should offer some hope that he can lead a viable offense until Rodgers is ready to return. Tolzien was not only efficient but accurate on the deep ball going 4-for-4 for 151 yards, finding Jordy Nelson twice, Jarrett Boykin once and James Jones for the other. Post routes brought Tolzien particular success with three first downs throughout the game.
This one was a tough learning curve for him, but there were plenty of positives for Tolzien to draw from during whatever time he has left as Green Bay’s starter.
Lacy Kept Under Wraps
What would have helped the Packers’ inexperienced signal-caller would have been a big game from their rookie running back, but no such performance was forthcoming. Carrying the ball only 14 times, Eddie Lacy had pretty much nowhere to run all night, collecting only two of 27 rushing yards before first contact. The Giants didn’t let him build up a head of steam once, getting first contact no more than 2 yards downfield on any of his 14 carries and getting first contact at the line of scrimmage or in the backfield on eight of them.
Lacy’s display in defeat to Chicago when Rodgers went down offered hope that the Packers might be able to grind out a win or two on the ground in their starter’s absence, but in the two games since, Lacy has averaged only 2.6 yards per carry with 86 of his 100 yards in the two defeats to NFC East opposition coming after first contact. The Giants knew they had to limit Lacy to put this game on Tolzien’s shoulders and they did just that making the young runner a non-factor in yesterday’s game.
Tramon Passes the Short Test
The Packers are deep at corner and no one on that depth chart is playing better right now than Tramon Williams who put in his fourth straight positively-graded performance sparked by his highest coverage grade of the season (+2.3). The Giants chose to primarily test Williams in his flat and they came away with nothing from that approach other than a series of stops by the Green Bay corner. After notching five stops last week, Williams went one further with half a dozen against the Giants yesterday, equally adept taking down receivers on quick passes as he was chopping down Brandon Jacobs for no gain on the final play in the first quarter.
This wasn’t a perfect game from Williams with poor timing costing him a defensive pass interference penalty early in the second quarter and a miscommunication with Morgan Burnett allowing an all too easy 35-yard gain for Hakeem Nicks immediately following Tolzien’s first interception early in the third. However, with a diving interception off of a miscommunication from the Giants and his fine work on short passes, Williams did plenty to keep his performance on the positive side of the ledger again.
New York – Three Performances of Note
Tuck and JPP Build Momentum
One of the key features in each of the Giants’ successful runs to their championships has been their defensive ends showing up with big performances when it counts. Their dire 0-6 start forced that issue earlier in the season than we are used to seeing, but both Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul have rounded into form with the Giants’ improvement. On the left side, Tuck (+1.6) notched his seventh straight positively-graded game, earning plusses both as a pass rusher and run defender. Last season was a disappointing one for Tuck, particularly as a pass rusher but he notched multiple pressures (1 Ht, 3 Hu) for the seventh consecutive contest and got multiple stops for the eighth time.
Opposite Tuck, Pierre-Paul built his game on a similar blueprint in run defense but made up for a general lack of presence in the passing game (only two hurries) with the game’s big play. Hanging off in his pass rush to read the throw, JPP got his hands up to the ball and cleanly snagged Tolzien’s pass intended for Jordy Nelson in the left flat to race back — comfortably outrunning David Bakhtiari’s attempt to track him down — to put the Giants out front by two scores with 10 minutes remaining. The Giants have given themselves no room to maneuver with their poor start and they need to maintain strong form as a team and from their defensive ends for an extremely long time for this run to mean anything substantial.
Pugh’s Growth on the Right
After a difficult first month in the NFL, Justin Pugh has grown into his role as the Giants’ right tackle and turned in another strong showing this week against the Packers. Surrendering only one hurry, he earned one of his higher pass protection grades of the season (+1.5) and since Week 4 has only allowed one knockdown (a sack conceded to Jason Hunter last week). His run blocking is still a work in progress, but since difficult games in Carolina (-4.5; 2 Sk, 1 Ht, 7 Hu) and Kansas City (-1.5; 1 Ht, 3 Hu), his pass protection has shown marked consistency with, at present, those performances looking like outliers in a solid rookie season.
It seems bizarre to suggest that a player in New York is going under the radar — Pugh is something of a forgotten man behind this season’s other first-round tackles — but the Giants will surely be pleased with his solid performance over the last month and a half.
Registering his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season, Victor Cruz put in one of his more efficient games of the season while getting the better of a number of Packers — he snagged his eight receptions against five different Green Bay defenders. Cruz made the most of a favorable matchup against Clay Matthews to collect his longest gain of the day (30 yards) on an out-and-up route in the first quarter shaking off a tackle from the Packer linebacker as he tried to fight back to Cruz downfield. His three targets against Micah Hyde were his most against one defender with Cruz edging that battle by picking up a pair of first downs against a third down stop for Hyde. Cruz collected his first downs against Hyde on a slant on the opening drive and wheel route (his second big gain of the day) with five minutes left in the third.
– In his second game back in the Packers’ lineup, Clay Matthews notched his first pressures since Week 5 with a sack, five hurries (one nullified) and a batted pass on 29 pass rushes.
– Eli Manning bossed the intermediate area against the Packers yesterday going 5/5 for 97 yards and a score on passes targeted between 10 and 19 yards downfield.
– A return to form for Brad Jones (+2.3) this week for the Packers notching a season-high six defensive stops and his highest grade since Week 3 in Cincinnati.
PFF Game Ball
Terrific against the run and providing the decisive pick six Jason Pierre-Paul was the standout performer in the game and made the timely play to cap off the Giants fourth straight victory.
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