EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Justin Tuck knows there is a way to neutralize Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Thinking about rattling him is probably not the way to go for the slumping Giants.
“I don’t know,” Tuck said of Sunday’s game between the two most recent Super Bowl champions. “We haven’t rattled him yet. We’ve had success against him, slowed him down in his progressions because of some different looks. As far as being rattled? No, I haven’t seen that yet.
“I hope I’m wrong. I hope we get an opportunity to rattle him on Sunday.”
For a primer on how, exactly, to unnerve the NFL’s top-rated passer, Tuck might want to go back to last year’s playoff game in Green Bay, where Osi Umenyiora and Michael Boley split four sacks and applied enough pressure on Rodgers to induce him to throw a game-sealing interception to safety Deon Grant.
“Our job as a defense is to get Rodgers as rattled as possible, which is extremely difficult, but I have seen it done,” said safety Antrel Rolle. “I think each and every player, each and every quarterback in this league, can get rattled at some point in time. You just have to go out there make it happen as a defense.”
That 37-20 Giants win was a far different affair than the teams’ regular-season matchup, in which Rodgers threw for four touchdowns to go along with 369 yards passing in a 38-35 victory. Included in that one was a two-minute drill in which he maneuvered through the Giants’ defense to position Mason Crosby for a game-winning, 31-yard field goal as time expired.
He looked then like he could not be shaken. In fact, he has taken on that same persona in both his regular season wins against the Giants, averaging 386.5 yards passing. He’s thrown for eight touchdowns in those games.
The Giants’ goal, then, is to interrupt that run of dominance by duplicating their playoff performance. To wit: hit him, cover his receivers, and make him throw the ball early.
But that could be easier said than done. After a slow start, Rodgers has led the Packers (7-3) on a 6-1 roll, including a five-game winning streak. He’s thrown 24 touchdown passes and four interceptions over that span.
He has thrown multiple touchdown passes in four of those seven games, looking cool and calm the whole time, even as he scrambles for yardage and extend plays to allow standout receivers Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley to maneuver into open spaces.
If the Giants learned anything about handling Rodgers in 2011, it came from that playoff game.
“I don’t think we did anything too different,” safety Rolle said. “We had a couple of personnel changes. We disrupted and took away his primary targets. And the defensive line and linebackers did a good job getting after him.
“I’m not saying not everyone did their job in that first game, but it comes down to whoever is hot on that particular day. It’s a matter of last man standing.”
The easiest way to become that man would be to put Rodgers on the seat of his pants, as Umenyiora and Boley did last season. That, the Giants hope, would make him a bit antsy.
“Any quarterback can be rattled,” safety Kenny Phillips, who could end his six-game absence because of a sprained right knee Sunday. “It starts up front.”
Having Phillips back could allow the Giants to go back to the three-safety combination that was so successful against the Packers in the playoffs. Grant is no longer with the team, but Stevie Brown has proved a valuable replacement for him. With Rolle and Brown starting, and Phillips coming in as the deep safety, the Giants would have an extra option in the secondary that could increase the pass rush pressure on Rodgers.
That doesn’t translate to rattling for Tuck. But it would be the next best thing.
“Rattle? He’s played in a lot of big-time games. He’s gotten hit a lot, and we want to hit him hard,” Tuck said. “That Seattle game (a 14-12 loss in Week 3), they hit him left and right every play, but that second half he came out and he was still as good as he always was.”
The Giants are looking to end a two-game losing streak.
“We just have to handle our game plan and approach it as a playoff atmosphere,” Rolle said.
Coach Tom Coughlin called it a “huge” game for New York. Just don’t ask him about the annual second-half swoon.
“It is a six-game schedule for us now,” he said. “One game at a time for six weeks, everything we’ve got, full speed ahead, prove the quality of our football team. I’m not saying that it isn’t the way it should be, but I’m really tired about answering all the questions about what’s wrong, and I’d rather we play a game and play it well and answer the questions that way.”
Rodgers’ final line will be _________. Let ‘er rip in the comments below…
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