The Giants have a three-game winning streak and a little luck on their side.
Green Bay’s All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers is still recovering from an injured collarbone and his backup, Seneca Wallace, is out for the year with an injured groin, which means the next man up is third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien.
But even though a one-time practice squad player will be leading the Packers (5-4) into MetLife Stadium in a pivotal matchup for both teams, the Giants (3-6) refuse to show any bravado.
“We’ll play the game like we always play the game and execute the game like we always execute the game. It doesn’t matter [who’s under center],” said defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. “Sure, Aaron Rodgers makes a big difference but you don’t know what this new quarterback can do. We haven’t watched much film on him yet. We just have to study him up.”
Pierre-Paul, who sat out Wednesday’s practice with a bum shoulder, already deemed himself out for Thursday’s session and is uncertain about his availability on Sunday.
As for guys who are definitely playing, they agree with Pierre-Paul in not taking the undermanned Packers lightly. Bookend defensive end Justin Tuck said the main reason for that is the ability of Green Bay’s head coach Mike McCarthy to construct a solid game plan, regardless of who takes the snaps.
“Coach Mike McCarthy isn’t going to change much. I don’t think he changed much even when Seneca got hurt,” Tuck said. “The new quarterback [Tolzien] came in and still ran that offense pretty good [280 yards with one touchdown and two picks]. He may not be as accurate as Aaron is, but he still made some pretty good throws and still did a lot of good things against a quality opponent [in the Eagles].”
Tuck acknowledged one saving grace for Tolzien is the resurgence of a Packers’ running game that’s been dormant for years, as rookie running back Eddie Lacy (669 rushing yards and four scores) can better hide their young passer.
“Yeah, they got a steal [with Lacy falling to the second round]. Lacy is a powerful back and seems like he makes all the right reads. Even when it’s not a very impressive run, it’s still second-and-five or so. He always seems to be falling forward. He’s a bigger back and reminds me of [Seahawks running back] Marshawn Lynch,” said Tuck. “With Aaron being out, they’ll probably feature him more and get the down and distance in their favor so they don’t put a lot of pressure on an inexperienced quarterback.”
The Giants defense has had a resurgence of their own lately, as their second-half dominance in particular has been as good as any team this season. New York hasn’t given up a second-half touchdown in four games now, which is the first time that’s happened for the franchise since 2007. Big Blue has also held their past three opponents to 213 total yards or less. The last NFL team to do so was the Texans in 2011.
Kudos and verbal bouquets aside, Tuck is confident Big Blue will find a way to neutralize Lacy and make the Packers a one-dimensional offense. He acknowledged how well a play-caller McCarthy is and how well the Packers have adjusted without Rodgers, but it ultimately comes down to how well his defense prepares in the film room and the practice field.
“It’s only difficult in the sense that you don’t know who you’re going against,” said Tuck. “But regardless of who we’re playing against, it still comes down to what we do. If we go out there and play our style, it shouldn’t matter who we play.”
Big Blue notes ...
»Tuck was asked if he ever gives any thought to what other teams go through in regards to losing their franchise quarterback to injury and the ripple effect it has on a team. Giants QB Eli Manning has played in 146 straight games. The chatty defensive end shook his head and replied, “No, but thanks for the jinx.”
»Safety Antrel Rolle continued his talk of the Giants being in good shape despite the team’s 3-6 mark and the team’s mindset.
“We’re definitely a 3-6 team, but our level of confidence is rising,” said Rolle. “It [togetherness] speaks volumes about this team.”
»Running back Brandon Jacobs (hamstring/knee), tight end Bear Pascoe (ankle), and cornerbacks Terrell Thomas (knee) and Corey Webster (groin/ankle) also joined Pierre-Paul on the sidelines. Thomas was merely given the day off after practicing twice already this week. His sitting out of Wednesday’s practice is his customary weekly day off as a precautionary measure for his repaired ACL.
»Pierre-Paul said while the shoulder is providing some discomfort, it’s nothing compared to what he experienced with his back over the summer.
“There’s going to injuries and going to be some ups and downs in your career. [But] right now, it’s nothing,” said Pierre-Paul. “This is baby compared to my back surgery. I got over that and I’m going to get over this.”
»Rolle noted how raw and inexperienced Tolzien is — and acknowledged that he hadn’t even heard of the former Wisconsin star until a couple of days ago, but added he and his defensive unit will not take him lightly.
“He can throw the ball,” said Rolle. “We don’t take anyone lightly.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.