Packers Periscope: Week 11 vs. New York Giants
The Past: The two teams that always seem to cause the Packers trouble in the past couple years are the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants. Packers fans obviously remember Brett Favre’s last pass as a Packer going to a Corey Webster in the NFC Championship game in 2008; Packers fans will also remember the Giants manhandling the Packers in the 2011 playoffs when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was surprising only average while the defense finally collapsed and lost the game for the team.
However the last meeting between these two teams was perhaps the most lopsided; the Giants won 38-10 in 2012 season again embarrassing the Packers. Outside of one spectacular 61 yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson, Rodgers was largely ineffective, going 13 for 24 for 158 yards and an interception. The running game didn’t do the offense many favors either, totaling 82 yards with a 3.7 ypc split between Alex Green, James Starks and John Kuhn. The defense stuck to their “bend but don’t break” philosophy, but missing both Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews, allowed 3 Eli Manning touchdowns while the Giants running game ground the Packers down with 31 carries for 147 yards from Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown.
With the loss, the Packers fell to 2nd place in the NFC North while the Giants snapped a two game losing streak and got back into the NFC East playoff race. However a loss to the resurgent Redskins (headed by rookie sensation Robert Griffin III) the next week followed by a loss against Baltimore in week 16 eliminated them the NFC East crown and a loss by the Lions to the Bears at the end of the regular season eliminated them from the playoffs all together.
During the offseason, multiple changes were made including the release of starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw and the notable drafting of right tackle Justin Pugh, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and quarterback Ryan Nassib. Overall, the 2013 draft class has been disappointing of late, Pugh ranks 56th out of 76 eligible tackles, Hankins has played 74 snaps the entire season while Nassib still hasn’t supplanted Curtis Painter (yes, that Curtis Painter) as the backup quarterback.
The Present: Both the Packers and Giants have regressed this season, but for different reasons. Injuries, especially at the quarterback position are close to tanking the season for the Packers but the Giants have unexplainably been bad, losing their first 6 games consecutively; Eli Manning appears to have regressed somewhat, throwing 16 interceptions to only 11 touchdowns so far this season. Some of that has to be blamed on losing primary receiver Hakeem Nicks, who appears to be at the end of his career, but perhaps more importantly was the loss of a viable running game.
Andre Brown made his first appearance last week after suffering a broken leg while starter David Wilson has been placed on IR with a neck injury. The Giants have resorted to calling back “old friend” Brandon Jacobs as well as sign maligned running back Peyton Hillis. One theory as to why the offense has regressed is that without a steady running game to keep the down and distance manageable, Manning has put “everything on his shoulders” and is forcing the ball and making risky choices, which results in poor plays that force ever more risky decisions until everything spirals out of control.
Luckily, the Giants have managed to right the ship somewhat by winning the last 3 games in a row (although beating the Vikings, Eagles and Raiders doesn’t really say all that much about your team). Against an anemic Raiders defense, Eli Manning only manage 12 for 22 passing attempts for 140 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 pick, which is way below his normal level of play. However a win is a win, and the Giants will be looking to extend their winning streak to 4 against a Packers defense that could and should be dominant, but clearly isn’t at the moment.
The Future: The Giants are at a turning point this season and for the offseason. Eli Manning probably has a couple years of good play left in him before age ultimately takes its toll (then again Eli shares the same genes Peyton, so perhaps longevity will be in his favor as well), so the question becomes, do the Giants try to triage the issues they have now and shoot for a Super Bowl with Eli Manning or do they start the rebuilding process and hope to get lucky? Overally, the Giants drafting history over the last couple years has been rather unremarkable, arguably only Jason Piere-Paul has become a true star in the NFL while Prince Amukamara, David Wilson, Ruben Randle probably haven’t turned out the way the Giants would have liked while Marvin Austin has been a huge bust.
The more pertinent question is how keep Eli Manning on the right track, as clearly he’s still a great quarterback but now prone to making risky decisions and mental errors. Manning at the moment probably needs the same sort of management of Philip Rivers, another talented yet mistake prone quarterback who clearly regressed for two years before finally finding his way this season. If the Giants can keep the offense steady with a good running game and short passing attack and limit the opportunities for Eli to make poor decisions, the Giants can continue to win games.——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.