Playing too safe? Coach Mike McCarthy said after the game that he feared early last week he put too much on the plate of quarterback Scott Tolzien as he prepared for his first start. But considering how Tolzien played at times, maybe McCarthy played it too safe. The offense was slow to get out of the gate, running only six plays in the first quarter and going three-and-out twice. On both series, the Packers ran the ball on first and second down only to put Tolzien in an obvious passing situation on third down. It was clear from the beginning that the running game was going to struggle (Eddie Lacy rushed for just 27 yards on 14 carries). As the game went on, Tolzien showed he could handle throwing the ball downfield. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he completed all six of his passes thrown at least 15 yards downfield. It was just the fourth time since the start of the 2006 season that a quarterback went 6-of-6 or better on such throws in a game. In throwing for 339 yards on 24-of-34 passing, Tolzien had completions of 52 yards (to Jarrett Boykin), 45 yards (to James Jones), 29 yards (to Jordy Nelson), 26 yards (to Brandon Bostick) and 25 yards (to Nelson). As productive as Tolzien was down the field, all three of his interceptions (including the one Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul returned 24 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter) came on shorter throws. “It's my job first and foremost to take care of the football,” Tolzien said. “Guys were playing their tails off, and that's Football 101. From the time you're playing youth ball to every level, that's the starting point for a quarterback. And I did not do that.”
Red zone woes: It's not like the Packers were lighting up the scoreboard when they got in the red zone with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. We noted last week that they were tied for 17th in the NFL in red zone touchdown percentage (50 percent) during the first seven games of the season. But in the last three games without Rodgers (except for the opening series against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 4), the Packers have converted just 2 of 9 red zone trips into touchdowns. Tolzien went 1-for-2 against the Giants. “It's not all on Scott by any means,” Jones said. “This is a team game. Everybody wants to look at the quarterback first. A lot of things go into it. Scott just needs to keep on doing what he's doing, and we'll be OK.”
One takeaway not enough: Remember when coordinator Dom Capers' defense used to be a turnover machine? In 2011, they led the NFL with 31 interceptions. Now, they go weeks without creating takeaways. When cornerback Tramon Williams picked off Eli Manning in the second quarter, it marked the Packers' first interception since Week 7 against the Cleveland Browns and just their fourth interception of the season. If the Packers are going to win without Rodgers, their defense needs to make plays like JPP did for the Giants. “Defensively, we need to start doing stuff like that,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “I think Tramon's interception was huge. [It] took points off the board. It was big. If we can find a way to multiply that and keep doing it and get the ball out on some of these sacks we got, it would've been nice. If you want to be a dominant defense, you have to make those plays.”
Rallying cry: Maybe McCarthy was just looking for something to cling to or maybe he actually saw enough in the Packers' third straight loss to be encouraged about for the rest of the season. Either way, it was somewhat surprising to hear McCarthy say, “I think this football team still has a chance to be special.” In order to do that, the Packers need Rodgers back. It has become evident that they can't win without him. He's not likely to return for this Sunday's home game against the Minnesota Vikings. After that, the Packers will be on a short week when they prepare for their Thanksgiving Day game at the Detroit Lions.