A fumble by Ryan Grant while digging for extra yardage with the score 23-13 in favor of the Giants in the fourth quarter tipped the field and assured the New York Giants a 37-20 upset win over the Green Bay Packers Sunday on an afternoon when nothing went right for the Packers.
When Eli Manning hit Mario Manningham for a touchdown on the Giants next offensive play, it gave them a 30-13 lead deep in the fourth quarter and left the New York fans celebrating.
The Packers failed on two onside kick attempts in the game, dropped at least eight passes, suffered a couple of sacks at critical moments and couldn’t stop Eli Manning on third down throughout the afternoon.
Add to that a number of missed opportunities by the Packers and it added up to the end of a great season that saw Green Bay win 15 regular season games – only to go down in history as another one-and-done Super Bowl champion.
“We did not play very well today,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said in his post-game press conference.
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He went on to say that his team’s inability to take care of the football, stop the Giants on third down and score when they got into the red zone were all factors that led to the team’s defeat today.
“We did not play to our identity,” McCarthy said. He followed that by talking about his team’s attention to detail when preparing and making sure they are ready to take care of the football.
That didn’t happen today and McCarthy seemed as baffled by that as anyone, including Rodgers.
“We turned the ball over too many times to win,” Rodgers said after the game. “We had a good plan, but I think we put our defense in some tough spots and that’s why our season is over.”
Finishing this way was also something that was disappointing to Rodgers. “We play to win championships,” he said.
Eli Manning outplayed MVP-candidate Aaron Rodgers, throwing for 330 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception against the ever-porous Packers defense as the Giants embarrassed the previously once-beaten Packers on their home field.
The Packers loss sets up a San Francisco 49ers vs. New York Giants matchup in the NFC Championship game next Sunday.
The Packers will clean out their lockers, meet once more as a team, and go home to think about what could have been.
Contributing to the Packers’ woes today were the many dropped passes and a hail Mary connection from Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks just before halftime that completely deflated the Lambeau Field crowd and left last year’s Super Bowl champions down in what turned out to be an insurmountable 10-point halftime score. Packers fans booed their team’s defense as the players left the field – something that hasn’t been seen at Lambeau Field for some time.
“It was really the self-inflicted wounds, the dropped balls,” McCarthy said about what led to the team’s poor showing.
“We left some yards on the field. We had some opportunities to make plays.”
McCarthy thought it was the third quarter that was the turning point – “having the ball nearly all third quarter and only having three points to show …” that’s what McCarthy said was a huge factor.
Rodgers’ passer rating didn’t even crack 80 today and while the drops didn’t help, he was far from his best.
Adding insult to injury were team-crippling injuries to running back John Kuhn shortly after his first-ever fumble and a re-injured leg by Greg Jennings.
Two plays in particular stand out in this one – of course, the first was the hail Mary before halftime – and the second was Rodgers being stripped of the ball as he prepared to pass to a wide open Greg Jennings down the left sideline early in the third quarter. The score at that point was 20-13 and had Rodgers completed the pass the game would have been tied.
But we all know what shoulda, coulda, woulda means.
McCarthy said that the “defensive call was the right call [on the hail Mary] … its about making plays – we had big play opportunities in a big game.” However, the head coach said the big play by the Giants at the end of the first half was not something that highly affected his team.
“We were not deflated as a football team [after the play].”
If there was anything good that came out of the game, it was that despite the Packers dropping eight passes, Rodgers didn’t give up – he played hard right to the end, Randall Cobb showed up with some big catches and the old veteran Donald Driver made some big first down catches in addition to snagging a touchdown. The offensive line, for the most part, played well against the highly-touted Giants defensive line, though they had some crucial breakdowns, especially the sack on fourth and five early in the fourth quarter that forced the Packers to give up the ball after a promising drive when they were down by just one score.
On the Packers drive with about 5 minutes left in the game, Rodgers got a roughing the passer call and ran for 16 yards. He threw his body around all day, leading both teams in rushing. However, his effort wasn’t enough for the Packers as it seemed the rest of the squad was ill-prepared to play today.
“I thought he [Rodgers] played like he normally does,” McCarthy said. “He made plays with his feet and I thought he made lot of plays tonight.”
Rodgers was also disappointed in the outcome of today’s game.
“You forget about how bad a feeling this is,” Rodgers said. “It sucks. This fan base expects championships.”
When asked about the drops by his receivers, Rodgers got defensive for a moment by saying he didn’t like the question, but tempered that by saying that it was a team effort and overall play of everyone on the team that affected the outcome.
“We all didn’t play our best game. I felt like I was prepared and missed a couple of throws.”
When asked about how unreal if felt, Rodgers said, “it’s real. We got beat by a team that was better tonight, but it’s tough. I didn’t feel it would end tonight, I felt good about the team and our chances,” he said.
Rodgers showed his biggest disappointment when he talked about his teammates. “[It’s about the ] relationships … it’s going to be a new team next year … and it’s the last time we will be together with these guys.”
Speculation is that one of those players could be veteran Donald Driver, though he is signed through next season.
However, it was Driver who came through in the clutch. He caught one touchdown inside of five minutes as the Packers – and Rodgers – did what they could to cut the lead and reduce their embarrassment, at that point in the game.
Driver also caught a couple of huge third down passes to extend drives when it seemed that receivers around him were dropping easily catchable balls.
While the Packers cut the lead to 10 after Driver’s touchdown, a missed onside kick attempt recovery on the ensuing kickoff was the dagger for the Packers. The Giants moved the ball down the field for a final touchdown as Brandon Jacobs jogged into the end zone to cap the Giants’ scoring for the day and put the game completely out of reach.
While Manning was 21 of 33 passing, Rodgers finished the day with 26 completions in 46 attempts for 264 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jennings led the team with 4 catches for 40 yards, but Driver led the team in yardage with 45 yards on three receptions. Jordy Nelson was nearly nonexistent in this game and was one of several receivers, most notably tight end Jermichael Finley, who didn’t have the wherewithal to catch the ball.
Nicks and Victor Cruz led the Giants’ offensive attack, coming up with big play after big play, especially on third downs against the overmatched and exposed Packers defensive backfield. Nicks had seven receptions for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Cruz had five catches for 74 yards.
Topics: Aaron Rodgers, Brandon Jacobs, Donald Driver, Eli Manning, Green Bay Packers, Greg Jennings, Hail Mary, Hakeem Nicks, Jermichael Finley, Jordy Nelson, Lambeau Field, Mario Manningham, Mike McCarthy, New York Giants, NFC Divisional Championship, Ryan Grant, Victor Cruz