Giants 38-Packers 10: Hits, Misses & Musings
All you need to know about the mindset of the Giants in their game against the Packers can be summed up in one first-quarter play.
After being called for a false start that put his team in third and seven on the Packers 34, quarterback Eli Manning took the handoff and with nowhere to go with the ball, ran up the gut for 13 big yards and the first down.
That was the sentence. It was the exclamation point, though, that got a lot of people’s attention, and that came when Manning lowered his shoulder and bowled over cornerback Tramon Williams for a couple of extra yards, almost as if to say, “Take that Packers!”
Take that they did as Manning and company “took it” to Green Bay in all three phases of the game. The rejuvenated Giants converted half of their third down attempts, averaged 6.3 yards per play on offense, and were five of six in the red zone – all areas that were problems for them before the bye.
That hit certainly inspired the defense, who took it to the Packers offense. After describing quarterback Aaron Rodgers as the “tick and the tock” of the Packers offense, Justin Tuck and company put Rodgers on their schedule, harassing him to no end, taking away his safety valves, and sacking him five times in what turned out to be a surprise sack party for the defense.
And so the Giants find themselves with a little more breathing room in the NFC East. But the win did more than just creating breathing room. It proved to every one of the players on that team that they have what it takes to make it back to the playoffs.
It will be interesting to see how the Giants do moving forward, but certainly this game could very well be the turning point of the season for Tom Coughlin’s group when it’s all said and done.
There are so many worthy of a hit this week as this was truly an inspired team win. However, that’s for subscribers to read; I’ll just list a few quick thoughts here.
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul didn’t get in on the sack party, but he certainly contributed to it by repeatedly collapsing the pocket. Of course, Pierre-Paul also had that huge fumble recovery at the end of the first half that set up the touchdown that put the game away for New York, so I suspect he’ll take the win over the sacks.
There must be something about playing Green Bay that really brings out the best in linebacker Chase Blackburn. Or maybe he’s just a lot better than some people give him credit for, as he had a whale of a game this week.
From his well-disguised blitz and sack of Aaron Rodgers that was timed perfectly to his prowess in the run defense, if there’s anyone out there who thinks that Blackburn doesn’t belong on the field, I’d love to hear why as this veteran player’s smarts and heart have made him an invaluable piece of the puzzle.
Fullback Henry Hynoski has quietly put together a very solid season in just his second year in the NFL. He’s routinely taken on some of the best linebackers in the league and has more often than not won his battles, his latest victim being linebacker A.J. Hawk, the Packers’ leading tackler, who was no match for the “Rhino.”
And speaking of Hynoski, his first NFL touchdown is coming soon. This kid has all the makings of being not just a ferocious blocker, but a “complete” fullback, à la John Kuhn of the Packers (who in this game really didn’t impress as much as he has in past games). It’s just a matter of time before Hynoski evolves into a multi-purpose presence on the field.
Maybe playing the slot corner isn’t among safety Antrel Rolle’s favorite things to do, but he sure did have a good game, showing aggressiveness underneath and getting his hands on the receivers within the legal area.
After a performance like this past week, it’s really hard to find fault with too many guys without nitpicking. But there were a couple of things so in the interest of balancing this report out, here goes.
Let’s start with left tackle Will Beatty, who I thought had an up-and-down game. He was nailed for two holding penalties, one of which still resulted in a sack anyway. Another flag negated a running game touchdown, which was inexcusable.
He also had some trouble early in the game with defending the edge. He did pick it up later in the game, but the start was a little too shaky there for a while.
Right guard Chris Snee looked like he was a bit off. Maybe he’s still bothered by his injuries, but in this week’s game, he allowed a couple of pressures that forced Eli Manning to rush his throws.
I’m really not sure what happened with cornerback Corey Webster on that 61-yard touchdown reception by Jordy Nelson, but it looked like as Nelson broke toward the sideline, Webster peaked back at the quarterback just for a split second and jumped at the double move the receiver gave him, which allowed Nelson to separate. I also am not sure if Webster was supposed to have deep help as the safety – it looked like Kenny Phillips was the nearest man on the play — seemed to be missing in action.
Sometimes it’s easy to become complacent when you’ve been doing things a certain way for so long. But as with anything in life, a change every so often is a good thing, and in this week’s game, we saw a number of ideas tried out by the coaching staff that bears mentioning.
First on defense, the giants dusted off an oldie but goodie, their big safety package in which they fielded Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips, Will Hill, and Stevie Brown on the field. This was one of a few different looks that befuddled Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers all night.
Second, Mathias Kiwanuka was back on the defensive line for a good part of the evening, and when he was on the field, usually Justin Tuck slid inside to tackle, where he tends to be more effective as far as the pass rush goes.
Coming into this week, I had concerns about how the Giants were going to rejuvenate their anemic pass rush, and I even went so far as to write that they could do so by sending a linebacker every so often on a blitz.
Well, they did that a couple of times, but this “new” look defensive line alignment seemed to be just what the doctor ordered as New York was highly successful in getting Rodgers on their time than his own time.
On offense, did anyone notice the Giants ran a screen in the first quarter? And not only did they run it, they did so successfully as Ahmad Bradshaw had a huge gain on the Giants’ opening drive.
And if you blinked, you probably missed the pistol formation the offense ran, which is when the running back lined up behind the quarterback in the shotgun. It’s not something we’ll probably see a lot of going forward, but it was one of many new wrinkles offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride put in to make game planning for opposing teams a little less simple.
THE FINAL WORD
I don’t think there’s enough that can be said about head coach Tom Coughlin and the growth he’s shown as a head coach. Once a rigid, crotchety man who was dead set in his ways, the way he’s evolved has been, for lack of a better word, beautiful to watch.
We all know his devotion and deep appreciation for the military and how he has worked that into his program.
But how about his latest stroke of genius in which he warmly welcomes a young cancer survivor, 15-year-old Adam Merchant, to the team’s training facility last week?
Oh sure, teams in all sports do similar feel-good acts for their local fans, but Coughlin took things a step further in a way many head coaches do not.
He let Merchant speak to the team after their Friday practice, and the young man didn’t disappoint in delivering perhaps one of the simplest, yet most powerful inspirational messages that not even a skilled orator could devise.
“Play like world champions.”
They did just that, many of them realizing that football pales in comparison to what young Adam and thousands of other cancer patients go through in their battle against cancer. And young Adam’s presence and words reminded them of what they can be if they believe in themselves and each other.