5

December

Packers vs. Giants: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 38-35 Win over New York

The Green Bay Packers ran their unbeaten streak to 12 games this season and 18 overall as quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the Packers on a game-winning drive during the final minute to help Green Bay secure a 38-35 win over the New York Giants Sunday from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Here are five observations from the game:

1. Cross it off

What hasn’t Aaron Rodgers done in 2011? He can officially cross a game-winning drive off the list. After Eli Manning’s short touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks (and ensuing two-point conversion) tied the game at 35, Rodgers took over at his own 20-yard-line with 58 seconds left and one timeouts. Rodgers hasn’t been in that situation yet this season, but he was calm and razor sharp as he completed all four of his passes—including three of 18 yards or more—to set the Packers up for a 30-yard field goal try. Mason Crosby banged home the kick as the fourth quarter clock expired to push the Packers to 12-0.

In a season full of important drives, Rodgers’ last minute masterpiece was far-and-away the most impressive and important. If they hadn’t already, the engravers for the NFL MVP trophy can begin putting in Rodgers’ name with confidence.

2. Charles…Matthews?

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews did his best Charles Woodson impression in the first half on what turned out to be one of the game’s most important plays. While up just 10-7 to start the second quarter, you got the feeling that the Giants had a pretty good hold of the game’s first 15 minutes. Matthews’ impressive break on Manning’s pass to the flats gave him an easy pick-6, suddenly giving Green Bay a 14-10 lead.

Matthews was a force for most of Sunday’s game, recording a sack, forced fumble and two quarterback hits. By my count, Matthews also had four quarterback hurries. That’s the kind of production in the pass rush that we’ve come to expect from Matthews. His interception return for a touchdown was simply icing on the cake for what was a fantastic performance all-around.

3. Up-and-down up front

The Packers offensive line didn’t play their best game of 2011, but the unit held up as well as you could have asked for against a talented Giants’ front-four. Left tackle Marshall Newhouse had problems at times with Jason Pierre-Paul and Dave Tollefson beat him clean for a sack in the fourth quarter. The Packers gave the left tackle plenty of help throughout.

29

November

Packers’ Undefeated Regular Season Coming into Focus

Before the Green Bay Packers 27-15 win over the Detroit Lions, dialogue surrounding a 16-0 regular season was nothing more than anticipative thinking. Odds say that Green Bay would slip up at some point, and a Thanksgiving game in Detroit represented the contest that most thought would be the one.

But after watching the Packers dismantle the up-and-coming Lions on national television, the possibility of this team getting through the regular season unscathed has become more than fantasy.

In fact, it might be a bigger shock now if the Packers don’t head into the playoffs with the NFL’s third perfect regular season in history.

Let’s take a look at the Packers final five games to see where a potential ‘L’ could come from.

Dec. 4, at New York Giants

Why the Giants could win: Like the Lions, New York theoretically has the defensive line to pressure Aaron Rodgers without bringing extra guys on the blitz. On offense, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw (who should be back from injury) represent a tough running back tandem, and Green Bay has had trouble tackling bigger backs. Quarterback Eli Manning is having a career year statistically.

Why the Packers will win: You don’t have to go back far to find the Packers’ 45-17 drubbing of the Giants in 2010. In fact, that win kicked off the Packers current 16-game winning streak. Rodgers threw for over 400 yards in that contest and the Packers offensive line contained the Giants’ front four.

Manning was a turnover machine last season and can still be counted on to give it away, especially against a Packers defense that leads the NFL in interceptions. The schedule also shapes up nicely for the Packers. New York will be coming off a Monday night beat down in New Orleans and have an important trip to Dallas following the Packers visit. The Packers, on the other hand, have a mini-bye week (10 days) to get healthy and prepare to take on the Giants.

Dec. 11, Oakland Raiders

Why the Raiders could win: The addition of Carson Palmer has helped stabilize an offense that possesses some explosive weapons. There is plenty of speed on the edges with receivers Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford and Darius Heyward-Bey. In Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, the Raiders’ No. 3 ranked rushing offense features one of the top 1-2 punches in the NFL. Oakland is currently 4-1 on the road in 2011.