Nearly eleven days after the undefeated Green Bay Packers stepped up to 11-0 following a win over the Detroit Lions, the Packers offense faced another task at the Meadowlands on Sunday against Wildcard favorites the New York Giants.
Fresh off a three game slump, the Giants offense took advantage of the Packers weak secondary early in the game. For the first time in a month, the Packers trailed in the first quarter following a 67-yard touchdown to Travis Beckum – a play that set up a forgettable night for safety Charlie Peprah.
Aaron Rodgers would bounce back on the next Packers drive, marching down the field to hit tight end Jermichael Finley for the score. From that point on though, most signs pointed towards a shootout in the end.
The Packers weren’t without a bundle of mistakes throughout the game. Charles Woodson committed his usual two penalties that gifted the Giants some field, while Peprah allowed three big plays that earned the Giants receivers easy bragging rights.
Rodgers was also a little off on Sunday. For once, he threw an ugly interception to linebacker Chase Blackburn, and the pressure from the outside was beginning to make an impact. The Packers receivers also had a stinker dropping six passes, two of which came from the Finley front.
Positives? Well there were plenty to account for. Amongst the painful drops were perhaps two of the most brilliant catches of the 2011 season, as Jordy Nelson continues to defy gravity down the sidelines. And as much as the pressure rattled Rodgers at times, scrambling out to the right seems to be the stern answer for Mike McCarthy when opponents penetrate weak spots on the line.
Of course, kudos to the Giants however, because this was by far the Packers hardest test of the season. The crowd played a major factor throughout all four quarters, and Eli Manning’s ability to step up into pressure kept the game close in the end. That, plus Victor Cruz’s 119-yards gives Dom Capers plenty to think about ahead of the Raiders game next week.
Speaking of which, if Clay Matthews plays lights out like he did on Sunday (one interception and a forced fumble), there’s no reason for the Packers defense to struggle with tougher opponents such as Chicago and Detroit in the coming weeks.
If anything, Peprah needs to be evaluated urgently.
But while the Packers defense continues to record turnovers despite giving up big plays, there’s no need for panic.
In the end, the Packers received a pretty good scare on Sunday. The run defense struggled to keep up with Ahmad Bradshaw’s violent runs, and Jason Pierre-Paul still highlighted the weak spots on the edge that the Packers need to address.
Still, Rodgers took control of the offense and it resulted in 12-0. The protection up front gave Rodgers plenty of time to find targets, and his running shoes came in handy when the offense stalled on long third down situations.
Out of the remaining games, a perfect season could still be spoiled. But a trip a successful trip to the Meadowlands has to be a weight off of McCarthy’s mind.
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