EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Wow.
That's what I've got for you at the moment.
It has been a long time since we've seen the Green Bay Packers get beat down like this. How long? Their 38-10 loss Sunday night to the New York Giants was their worst regular-season defeat in five years (Week 16 of the 2007). It was the first time in three years they had so much as lost a game by double digits, and it ranks as the second-worst defeat in terms of point differential in the seven-year tenure of coach Mike McCarthy. Only a 35-0 loss to the New England Patriots in 2006 was worse.
"Beaten very thoroughly tonight," McCarthy said. "I haven't felt like this since probably the first game I coached as the Green Bay Packers coach."
"Embarrassing," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.
"They played harder than us," said defensive lineman Ryan Pickett. (As we'll note in a moment, Pickett pledged that would "never happen again.")
In truth, you could have made a reasonable argument before the game that the Packers would have a tough time beating the Giants, who were due for their annual post-Thanksgiving surge. While you were at it, you could have noted that a loss would still leave the Packers in decent shape, both in the playoff race and even for the NFC North title.
But I'm not sure anyone would have suggested the Giants would overwhelm Green Bay with 31 first-half points, the most the Packers have given up in an entire game this season. Most of us wouldn't have predicted the Packers would put up their lowest point total since Rodgers was knocked out of a Week 14 game against the Detroit Lions in 2010. Nor could we have guessed that Rodgers would fall under unprecedented duress and commit two turnovers, or that for the first time in his NFL career, he would be pulled from a blowout loss to protect against further punishment.
Why did this happen? Why did a team that had won five consecutive games fall so flat? McCarthy and players were blunt in their assessment.
There were schematic reasons, most notably McCarthy's ill-fated decision to spread the Giants' defense out in a way that left him unable to offer his linemen help in pass protection. As a result, the Giants put a stunning level of pressure on Rodgers, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He was sacked, hit or put under duress on 17 of his 33 dropbacks (51.5 percent), the highest rate against an NFL quarterback in a single game this season. Said McCarthy: "I probably didn't call the best game I've called in my time here."
The Packers also had no answer for a near-constant two-deep safety look the Giants employed after Rodgers hit receiver Jordy Nelson for a 61-yard touchdown pass on their opening possession. It has been a season-long obstacle for the Packers, and Rodgers suggested Sunday night must serve as a productive push.
"You win five games in a row," Rodgers said, "and everyone's happy. But there are things that kind of go under the radar that need to be handled. Sometimes it takes a loss to handle those things."
Mostly, however, the Giants just played at a higher speed than the Packers, which as McCarthy noted "is very uncharacteristic" of his teams.
"We don't remember [what this feels like]," Pickett said, "but maybe it's a good reminder of what happens when you don't come to play. I'm telling you, we're going to take this as a positive.
"We didn't come. They had more energy. They played harder than us. That's not going to happen again. If we lose, it's not going to be because a team played harder than us. That's not acceptable around here, and it definitely won't happen anymore. It's going to be motivation for the rest of the year."
Perhaps. And as we alluded earlier, the Packers still have control of whether they clinch the NFC North. They can do so by winning their remaining five games, which includes a Dec. 16 clash with the division-leading Bears.
But when a team that hasn't lost by 10 points in three years suddenly takes a 28-point licking, it's worth sitting up and taking stock. These Packers have had their lulls before, but usually they come in the context of a relatively close loss.
"We're not going to overreact to it," McCarthy said, which I think is the right approach.
"We have too many good people, too many talented people, too much in our locker room to perform like that," he added. I agree, and it's worth noting that receiver Greg Jennings should return to the lineup this week, and that linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerback Charles Woodson won't be far behind.
But, well, wow. On this night, I don't know what else to say. The Packers got crushed, no one saw it coming and everything that happens from here on out is new territory for them. And away we go …