Bone-headed mistakes, missed opportunities, and a scorching hot Aaron Rodgers proved to be the downfall for the Giants last night, ending their season after a 38-13 loss at Lambeau Field. The Giants offense couldn’t get much going throughout the game, and the defense couldn’t stop Aaron Rodgers in the second half. After an impressive season in which the Giants went 11-5 in the regular season (including handing the Dallas Cowboys 2 of their 3 losses of the season), they couldn’t win their first playoff game since their Super Bowl XLVI victory in the 2011-12 season.
In the first quarter, Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard combined for 4 key dropped passes, with each being unable to catch a third-down pass and potential touchdown passes. Despite the Giants having all of the momentum in the first quarter, they were only ahead 3-0 by the end of it due to these missed opportunities. Many have speculated that the clubbing and boat parties by some of the Giants players, including Beckham and Shepard, may have been a distraction for the players during last night’s game. Throughout the week, these players have been receiving criticism for their partying when they should be practicing for the team’s first playoff game in 5 years.
The first big blow that the Giants defense suffered occurred on the second play of the game for the Giants defense, when cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie injured his thigh while attempting to make a play on tight end Jared Cook. While the Giants defense looked strong for a majority of the first half, forcing the Packers to punt on their first 5 possessions of the game, Rodgers and the Packers eventually found a way through the strong Giants defense on the 6th drive. He opened that drive by hitting Davante Adams for a 31-yard gain, and, 2 plays later, Rodgers scrambled around Giants defenders before hitting Adams in the endzone for the touchdown. The extra point put the Packers ahead 7-6, and they never looked back. Perhaps the biggest play of the game occurred in the last play of the first half, when Aaron Rodgers continued to make his case as the Hail Mary king by completing a Hail Mary through 6 Giants defenders to Randall Cobb for the touchdown, stunning the Giants and allowing for the Packers to close the half with a 14-6 lead.
The Giants were able to regain some momentum late in the third quarter when the defense stuffed the Packers on a 4th and 1 from their own 43. Eli Manning proceeded to take advantage of the good field position by hitting Tavarres King for a 41-yard touchdown with 5:16 left in the third quarter, and King’s first career touchdown. The extra point cut the Packers lead to just 14-13. However, this momentum was short-lived, as Rodgers immediately drove the Packers downfield. The Packers got those points back on a 30-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb, making it 21-13 in favor of the Packers. Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes committed by the Giants last night occurred in the ensuing kickoff following this touchdown. Mason Crosby’s kick looked as though it was about to go out of bounds, which would have given the Giants excellent field position at their own 40. Unfortunately for the Giants, kick returner Bobby Rainey decided to field the kickoff by the sideline at the Giants 3-yard-line. Rainey’s momentum from running towards the sideline forced him to fall out of bounds after the catch, despite his attempts to regain his balance. Due to this bone-headed play by Rainey, the Giants were forced to start from their own 3. After a three-and-out, the Packers received excellent field position since punter Brad Wing had to kick it away from his own endzone. Wing’s 50-yard punt was returned to the Giants 37-yard line. The Packers would eventually take advantage of their field position to score on a 32-yard field goal by Crosby. Another instance when the Giants fell asleep at the wheel was when Clay Mathews hit Manning as he was getting ready to throw. As the Giants players were standing around, assuming that it was an incomplete pass, Mathews hustled over to the football and recovered it for the Packers. This was the final nail in the coffin for the Giants.
Aaron Rodgers was able to tear through the powerful Giants defense. Despite being sacked 5 times, Rodgers ended up with 25 completions in 40 attempts, throwing for 362 yards and 4 touchdowns, 3 of which were to Randall Cobb. Both Cobb and Davante Adams had over 100 receiving yards for the Packers. Rodgers was able to do all this without his favorite target, Jordy Nelson, who had to leave early in the game due to suffering a rib injury. Eli Manning finished the night with 23 completions in 44 attempts, throwing for 299 yards with a touchdown and interception. Odell Beckham Jr. was held to just 4 catches for 28 yards. Beckham later vented his frustrations after the loss by reportedly punching a hole in the wall of the Giants locker room at Lambeau.
This loss shows that many of these Giants players need to grow up and act more professional if they want to succeed in the future. There were too many inexcusable mistakes made by many of the young Giants players throughout the game. In the case of Beckham, Shepard, Victor Cruz (if he’s back next year with the Giants), and Roger Lewis Jr., they need to take responsibility for their actions last week for partying rather than laying low, studying, or working out a week before a big playoff game. As talented as this Giants team was, they were too young, inexperienced, and undisciplined. I hope and expect head coach Ben McAdoo to be more strict with his players come next season.