The New York Giants are one and done in the playoffs, and all the talk about how this team was poised for another run through the wild card to the Super Bowl is now just talk. The Green Bay Packers overcame a slow start to beat the Giants 38-13.
Now including the regular season, Green Bay has won seven straight games.
It started off well for the Giants as two Robbie Gould field goals staked the Giants to a 6-0 lead by the midpoint of the second quarter, Big Blue’s defense strong as the Packers were forced to punt on their first five possessions. But on their sixth possession Green Bay took advantage of a short field to go 38 yards in just three plays, quarterback Aaron Rodgers finding wide receiver Davante Adams in tight coverage for what would become a 7-6 lead for Green Bay.
Then on a heave at the end of the first half, the Packers took a 14-6 lead when Rodgers almost miraculously found Randall Cobb for a 42-yard touchdown. The ball somehow fell to Cobb through a sea of Giants players, Cobb grabbing the ball and staying in bounds to add to their lead.
On their first three possessions, the Packers had just 22 yards of total offense but the offense was clearly just getting warmed up. Rodgers finished 25-for-40 for 362 yards and four touchdowns.
With 9:19 left in the fourth quarter, Green Bay went up for good when Rodgers found Cobb again, this time 19 yards for a 31-13 lead.
Three things we learned from the Giants in the wild card:
The defense made some big plays
Down 3-0 late in the first quarter, a pass moved the chains 32 yards, putting the Packers in field goal territory with a fresh set of downs. But then the Giants defense stood tall, a Coty Sensabaugh sack of Aaron Rodgers for an 11-yard loss setting the tone, forcing a punt. It was a big moment for the Giants, who allowed just 7 yards of actual offense from Green Bay in the first quarter. Sensabaugh had that sack and then got a fingertip on Rodgers’ third down pass the next play, keeping Green Bay out of range to tie the game.
Then with the Giants up 6-0 in the second quarter, some tremendous downfield coverage forced Rodgers into intentional grounding, again knocking Green Bay out of field goal range. Late in the third quarter, Sensabaugh also made a big deflection in the back of the end zone on a pass intended for Cobb. The play forced the Packers to settle for a field goal. The defense made some big plays but consistently working with short fields, it was too much of a tall task.
And on a day where the offense managed just one touchdown, the defense kept things close until the fourth quarter.
Big sack numbers, little else
It was feast or famine for the Giants pass rush, who got to Rodgers with some effectiveness (to the tune of three sacks in the first half and five in the game) but then struggled for long stretches to create pressure. They also had some difficulty in their gap assignments, in particular in the second half when Green Bay began to establish the run. The sack numbers were big for the Giants but they struggled to find their way into the backfield.
With Janoris Jenkins missing from early in the game with an injury and fellow cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie banged up, the Giants needed more than just big plays, they needed consistency from their defensive line.
For the first time since the season’s first six weeks, the Giants didn’t get that from the defensive line and they needed dominance in the pass rush to have a chance to win.
Eli doesn’t deliver
The hype all week was that Eli Manning would become elite after a tough regular season, in particular the final four games where he threw four touchdowns and as many interceptions.
Manning didn’t get picked off in this game until late in the fourth quarter and his numbers were rather fine (23-for-44 for 299 yards, one touchdown and one interception) but the offense managed just one touchdown. That falls on him.
He wasn’t the game-changer under center that the Giants expected or needed and they’re going home early in part because he didn’t make the big plays when the Giants offense was driving. He surely wasn’t helped by an offensive line that was miserable all game long, but Manning didn’t make the big throw needed as the Packers offense began to click.