Sunday, December 26, 2010

Packers Grades Vs. The Giants


The Packers came into Sunday’s game against the Giants treating it as a sudden-death game to make to the playoffs, against the very team they are competing against for that likely sixth seed wild-card spot. They didn’t play a perfect game, but in the end, the Packers wore down the Giants’ offense with timely turnovers and transformed what was looking like another close battle into a statement game. The Packers won the turnover battle (6-1), the time of possession battle (37:00-23:00), and the yardage battle (515-386) convincingly, overcoming some early gaffes and frustrating the Giants into making more mistakes. Big players made big plays and a raucous crowd transformed Lambeau Field into a playoff atmosphere, and the Packers played with a spirit to match.


The Packers started out in the first quarter with a balance between the run and pass, running up a 14-0 lead by running Dimitri Nance on first downs and John Kuhn on short-yardage to set up the pass. However, the Packers went away from the pass in the second quarter, and slowly, the pass protection began to crumble, leading to the Giants tying the game up 14-14. Brandon Jackson was given the bulk of carries for little impact (18 carries/39 yards), but with the game out of reach, the Lambeau faithful called for Kuhn to return, who scored two touchdowns to put the game away.


The three-man front of BJ Raji, Howard Green, and Ryan Pickett didn’t shut down the Giants running game, who averaged 4.3 yards per carry on their way to a 90-yard day, but they contained the running game enough to limit them to only three first downs via the run. More importantly, Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson each forced a fumble from the Giants’ running backs, changing the momentum of the game and pushing the Giants to throw the ball with Eli Manning...a winning deal for the Packers.


Concussion? What concussion? Aaron Rogers quickly managed to make everyone forget any uncertainty there may have been surrounding his play as he threw for 404 yards, four touchdowns, and a sparkling 139.9 efficiency rating. He was plagued with a couple of receiver drops that might have cost the Packers in a close game (yes, we’re looking at you, James Jones), but nine receivers got into the act as Rodgers put on a clinic on how to avoid the pass rush, only taking one sack and throwing no picks. Perhaps the biggest cheer from the crowd was when he slid feet-first on a scramble instead of diving for the end zone.


In the first half, the secondary was up-and-down, at one point smothering receivers downfield, then completely breaking down and allowing long passes to untouched receivers, tying up the game. Charles Woodson, in particular, had a rough series in which he committed a illegal contact penalty, then allowed a touchdown to Hakeem Nicks. But he, like the rest of the secondary, redeemed themselves in the second half, compiling four interceptions against Eli Manning (and dropping a few others), completely frustrating the Giants’ offense. The pass rush should have gotten more pressure on Manning, only notching one sack and four hits.


After a miserable game last week, the Packers’ special teams came back this week and very mercifully nondescript. The coverage teams kept the Giants on their side of the field, and the Packers’ return teams kept the Packers on theirs. Mason Crosby kicked a 31-yard field goal, and Tim Masthay punted five times for a 41.6 average. It appeared the Packers had recovered a fumble by Hicks on a kick return in the third quarter, but the Giants challenged the ruling on the field and won.

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