By Paul Dottino
You might have an easier time digging out from the East Coast blizzard than finding the reasons for this collapse.
It’s a mess. There’s no other way to describe the Giants’ season, thanks to the past 4½ quarters that has ripped the team’s postseason destiny from its grasp. They went to Green Bay and got hammered, 45-17, in a contest they said was approached as a playoff game, one that would clinch an NFC wild-card berth, one they needed to have to right the ship on the heels of the fourth-quarter fiasco against Philadelphia.
The result? The Giants allowed more than 500 yards for the first time since 1980. They turned over the ball six times (which they had not done since 2004). They faced a 21-14 halftime deficit and got outscored after the break, 24-3.
Enough already. It’s done. What is the reality? The Giants (9-6) remain alive, but they must beat Washington and get EITHER a Chicago win over Green Bay OR two New Orleans losses (Atlanta and Tampa Bay). Let’s get to our review.
Offense-WR Mario Manningham. We know he doesn’t always run the right routes, but the guy put up four catches for 132 yards, including an athletic career-long 85-yard TD that tied the game at 14 in the second quarter. It was his second straight 100-yard performance. Manningham ran a go route down the left sideline and adjusted to the ball, which was a bit off-target, and broke an attempted ankle tackle by CB Tramon Williams on his way into the end zone. This was the Giants’ final highlight of the day.
Defense-DE Justin Tuck. On a day when nearly the entire front four was invisible, Tuck continued to fight – to the tune of seven tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery and two of the Giants’ three hits on QB Aaron Rodgers. Tuck did everything he could to single-handedly keep this game close. With less than six minutes left in the second quarter, he jumped on WR Jordy Nelson’s fumble (forced by Antrel Rolle) at the Giants 25. The takeaway ended a 12-play drive and allowed the Giants to strike with Manningham’s TD on the ensuing snap.
Special teams-P Matt Dodge. The rookie has taken plenty of heat this season – and deservedly so. But he rebounded from the mishit that ended the Philadelphia game with four punts (even though they weren’t all pretty) for a 42.3-yard average and 40.5-yard net, including three inside the 20. One punt was downed and another went out of bounds. At least nothing unusual happened.
Offense-TE Kevin Boss. So much went wrong. No running game. A passing game that was out of whack. It’s almost unfair to single out one player for one play, but we’ll do it because Boss’ failure to pick up a Brandon Jacobs fumble sealed the Giants’ fate late in the third quarter. Down 31-17, the Giants turned to Jacobs, who rumbled 21 yards down the right sideline – until a pursuing Clay Matthews punched the ball from his right arm at the Green Bay 37. It appeared Boss tried to pick up the bouncing ball on the run rather than smother it, but it slipped away and the Packers’ Nick Collins pounced on the fumble. The Giants didn’t cross midfield again until their final drive of the game, long after the outcome was decided.
Defense-CB Corey Webster. Again, this is almost unfair. Where was the pressure from the defensive line? Why were Packers’ runners continuously able to push the pile when they should’ve been stopped for no gain? There’s also no denying that the usually-reliable Webster had a miserable day and one of his worst as a pro. Rodgers was 9-of-12 for 184 yards when targeting Webster, who was hit for big plays of 39, 36, 26 and 24 yards, with all but 60 of the yards against him being produced by WR Greg Jennings. Ouch.
Special teams-LB Phillip Dillard. It’s significant and amazing to report that the non-descript special teams unit was the most efficient operation of the day. But we’ll cite Dillard for his holding penalty on Hakeem Nicks’ 23-yard kickoff return just before the 2-minute warning after the Packers improved their lead to 31-17. Nicks brought the ball to the Giants 31 (his fumble was reversed via replay), but Dillard’s penalty forced this drive to begin at the 12. Even though this possession ended with Jacobs’ fumble, the flag made the Giants’ life more difficult at a time when they needed a spark.