By Paul Dottino
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An optimist will tell you that the Giants’ dramatic 38-35 loss to the unbeaten Green Bay Packers proved that the team could go toe-to-toe against the NFL’s best, that Tom Coughlin’s club showed it could rebound from two horrific outings and that the players still believe in themselves.
A pessimist will tell you that there are no moral victories in the NFL and that commissioner Roger Goodell does not count them when he sends teams into the postseason.
A scientist will tell you that the Giants have lost four in a row to fall to 6-6, but they are only one game behind the first-place Dallas Cowboys – and that the Giants control their own playoff destiny because they will play the Cowboys twice over the final four weeks.
Coughlin has chosen to stress the first and third positions to his team as they get ready for Sunday night’s trip to Dallas. After all, does he really have any other choice?
Offense – WR Hakeem Nicks. Nicks, who missed a few practices last week because of sore ribs and concussion-type symptoms, caught seven passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns. He beat backup corner Sam Shields in the right corner of the end zone for a 2-yard TD with 58 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
But Nicks’ most impressive catch was the right-handed stab he made of a 4-yard scoring strike that cut the Packers’ lead to 28-24 with 6:30 remaining in the third. Honorable mention to little-used guard Mitch Petrus, who had to start because left guard Kevin Boothe slid over to center after being told before the game that center David Baas (headaches) was unavailable. The Giants ran for 100 yards on 20 tries.
Defense – MLB Chase Blackburn. What else can you say? The former Giant, who was not re-signed during the off-season, returned last Wednesday – and four days later, he played most of the snaps in the middle while coming up with five tackles, an interception and two pass breakups.
He read Aaron Rodgers’ eyes while playing underneath to intercept a pass at the Green Bay 21 with 7:32 left in the first half. The Giants turned it into Brandon Jacobs’ 1-yard TD run and a 17-14 lead. And did we mention that Blackburn also contributed two tackles on special teams?
Special teams – PK Lawrence Tynes. He drilled a 50-yard field goal with room to spare that brought the Giants within 28-27 with 10:53 left in the game.
Offense – RT Kareem McKenzie. The offense played well for most of the game, and the line did one if its best jobs of the season. But OLB Clay Matthews raced around the edge, beating McKenzie, for a backside strip-sack on Eli Manning at the Giants 41 with 32 seconds left in the first half. Amid confusion that the ball was incomplete, defensive lineman B.J. Raji recovered the fumble, thwarting a Giants’ scoring chance.
Defense – OLB Jacquian Williams and CB Will Blackmon. They can run laps together because they were beaten on consecutive long passes during the Packers’ game-winning scoring drive.
On first down at the Green Bay 20 with 58 seconds left, Williams lost Jermichael Finley on the right side for a 24-yard gain, then Jordy Nelson got free from Blackmon on the left side for 27 yards to the Giants 29 with 51 seconds left. Three plays later, Mason Crosby sliced a 30-yard FG inside the right upright for the win.
We will ignore the very questionable illegal contact call against Williams that nullified a sack and gave the Packers a key first down with nearly 10 minutes left in the game.
Special teams – None. That’s right, none. Tynes, P Steve Weatherford and the coverage units did their assignments. Devin Thomas (2 KORs for 26.0 avg.) and Will Blackmon (1 KOR for 32 yards) performed well and PR Aaron Ross made two intelligent fair catches.
Giants fans: Is your glass half-full or half-empty? Let Dottino know in the comments below…