Sunday, December 4, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Packers 38, Giants 35
By Dan Graziano
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the game of the day in the NFL:
What it means: I'm sure New York Giants fans are disappointed in their team's fourth straight loss, but the fact is that the Giants showed all of the same guts and heart and toughness they showed during their 6-2 start but came up just short against a team that might be one of the best of all time. The Packers' Mason Crosby kicked a 30-yard field goal with time running out for a 38-35 win to improve the Packers to 12-0 and drop the Giants to 6-6. But the Giants have proven again that they can play with anyone in the league when their heart is in it. And since they're only one game out of the division lead with four to play (and two of those against the division-leading Cowboys), that still has a chance to serve them well before it's over.
Giants' lines step up: The Giants needed to get to Aaron Rodgers with their defensive line if they were to have any chance to stop him, and they did. Justin Tuck played his best game in weeks, and Jason Pierre-Paul was the same, speedy, unstoppable monster he's been all season. The Giants delivered hits on Rodgers even when they didn't get there in time to sack him, and the Packers went to the run game an uncharacteristic amount in an effort to run clock and keep the pass-rushers off of Rodgers' back. The Giants' offensive line also played a pretty good game, considering it was without its starting left tackle again and center David Baas was a late scratch due to headaches. They weren't great in pass protection, but for some reason the run-blocking was some of the best it's been all season. And with Ahmad Bradshaw back from his foot injury, the run game became a legitimate threat for the Giants again.
Eli Manning doesn't scare: The Giants quarterback was the main reason behind the team's 6-2 start, and even as things haven't gone as well lately, he's remained undaunted and excellent. After the Packers scored to go ahead by eight with 3:34 left in the game, Manning moved his team right back down the field and scored with a touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks with 58 seconds to go. A D.J. Ware run for a two-point conversion tied the game and put the biggest scare yet into the undefeated Packers.
But turnovers kill: You need to be just about perfect to beat a team like the Packers, and as good as Manning was in matching the great Rodgers, he did turn it over twice. The interception that Clay Matthews returned for a touchdown came on what Manning will surely call a "bad-decision" play -- he shouldn't have thrown the ball once he saw the coverage down the field. And while the fumble just before the end of the first half wasn't really his fault, as Matthews whacked him from behind as he was getting ready to throw the ball, it cost the Giants a chance to add valuable points as the first half was winding down.
Kenny Phillips out?: The Giants made no announcement on the Phillips knee injury after he left the game in the first half. But the star safety never returned to the sideline. If he has to miss games, that's going to negatively affect the Giants in pass defense as well as run defense. They like to play three-safety sets and would have to do so without their best one.
What's next: The Giants travel to Dallas on Sunday to play the Cowboys in a Sunday night game with major NFC East implications. The Cowboys' overtime loss to the Cardinals means the Giants still have an opportunity to take control of the division if they can beat the Cowboys on Sunday and again in the regular-season finale on Jan. 1.