Mason Crosby

One week after quitting against the New Orleans Saints, the New York Giants and their coach looked desperate against the Green Bay Packers. In the end, the Packers would roll to their 18th consecutive win. Now let’s see what the tape says about the key plays in the game.

15:00, 1st quarter – Guess what? The Packers are kicking again. For once, Mason Crosby can’t kick it to the end zone, but the return only gets out to the 21 before Brandon Saine makes his first appearance by making the tackle.

The Packers start the game in their base defense. They’re run heavy with B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Howard Green on the line. On first down Raji drives the right guard into the backfield and Clay Matthews gets around the right tackle to Eli Manning. Unfortunately, Manning was looking to dump it to Ahmad Bradshaw in the flat. Either Charles Woodson or D.J. Smith blow the coverage. Smith appears to be in zone while Woodson is playing man-to-man on the outside receiver. By the time they close on Bradshaw, he has seven yards.

Mysteriously, the Packers switch to nickel for 2nd and 3. The Giants simply run over left guard for four.

The Packers switch back to their base for 1st and 10. I’m not sure if this was pre-planned or if Capers is just trying to guess run or pass. Either way, the Packers get caught again, which helps lead to a big play.

The Giants go play-action pass. The Packers only have the three big bodies and Erik Walden to rush Manning. Matthews drops into the flat and Manning has all day. The Packers have Charlie Peprah on the tight end and only Morgan Burnett deep. Manning looks Burnett off to the left and then lofts one down the right hash to Travis Beckham. Beckham has two steps on Peprah. He takes the pass in stride and then weaves his way through a stumbling, bumbling Peprah and Burnett for a 67-yard TD on the third play of the game.

For a guy who had only caught one other pass this year, Beckham looks like a wily vet. He used a push on Peprah to get separation. Peprah is actually stride for stride with him until the little shove at the 45. Then, Peprah and Burnett embarrassed themselves by not working together. Their attempt to tackle Beckham resembled two idiots in a Chuck Norris movie attacking Chuck in a bar: first one guy attacks and gets his ass kicked, and then the other guy does the same.

9:45, 1st quarter – The Packers fail to answer and frankly, appear a little out of sync. They pick up two first downs, both on passes to Jermichael Finley, the second of which drew a face mask penalty that gave the Packers the ball near midfield. That would be the end of it.

It’s possible the Packers were surprised the Giants kept dropping into coverage instead of going after Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has plenty of time on all three downs, but throws too far for Greg Jennings on a rare bomb on first down, slightly high and wide to Randall Cobb on second, and over everyone on third, when James Jones was open the entire time right in front of him.

8:02, 1st quarter – The Packers defense stuffs the run and forces a three and out on the Giants’ second possession.

The Packers are back in their base, and on first down Raji and Green collapse on Bradshaw for a three-yard gain. On second down, Robert Francois pushes the right guard into the backfield and tackles Bradshaw for a one-yard loss. On 3rd and 8, the Packers send a six-man blitz. Manning tries a quick stop to Ramses Barden, but throws it at his feet.

5:06, 1st quarter – Given a second chance to tie the game, the Packers offense comes through.

After a three-yard James Starks’ run behind Marshall Newhouse and T.J. Lang, the Packers do the play-action roll right that has netted big plays all year. Rodgers has Donald Driver in front of him for 10, but decides to go down the sideline for Jordy Nelson instead. Nelson makes a nice back shoulder catch for a 33-yard gain.

Two plays later, Rodgers pump fakes twice with plenty of time and finds Jennings open on the left sideline for 18 yards. On the next play, Rodgers escapes the diving attempt of Jason Pierre-Paul, who got inside of Newhouse, and finds Finley for a 12-yard TD.

On the TD catch, Finley did a great job of settling into the gap in the zone. I’m not a celebration guy, but I always did dig hand signs after a score and Finley’s little YOTTO routine is pretty cool.

2:05, 1st quarter – The Giants go 50 yards to kick a field goal to make it 10-7 Giants.

The Packers defense only gives up one first down on the drive. Unfortunately, it came on a 42-yard pass to Victor Cruz. The Packers were in their base defense again, which we’ve already seen about as much as we have all year. Once again, Raji bulls the right guard to the ground and Matthews come around the corner to hit Manning a half second after he throws the ball. As has been a theme all year, the pass rush is wasted thanks to the lack of coverage downfield.

With both safeties covering tight ends, Tramon Williams is alone with Cruz. I would expect Williams to win that battle most of the time. However, Williams is in off coverage, which isn’t his strong suit, and he takes the outside on the play like he should have help from one of the safeties inside. It never comes. Manning throws the ball to the inside where it needs to be, and Cruz makes the catch for the second big play the Packers defense has given up.

The Packers would hold from there after a Jake Ballard end zone catch is called out of bounds on third down. Props to Burnett for shoving Ballard to get him out of bounds.

Tom Coughlin complained to the media that he was shown a clip that shows Ballard’s knee was inbounds. I am guessing either a wishful imagination or special effects were  involved here. I watched the second when the knee impacts with the ground literally frame by frame three times. In no frame did the knee appear to be down inbounds.

1:53, 1st quarter – Unfortunately, Mike McCarthy may never try a trick play again.

After an excellent Cobb return gave the Packers the ball at their 40, McCarthy called a reverse option to Cobb. Just the Packers’ luck, even though this might be the first reverse option I’ve seen the Packers run in my lifetime, the Giants aren’t fooled by anything and have Jennings well covered downfield.

On third down, two plays later, Jason Pierre-Paul beats Newhouse again and Rodgers throws incomplete over the middle rather than be sacked. This is just a plain win for the defense. The Giants won the line of scrimmage and everyone was covered downfield.

15:00, 2nd quarter – After the Packers’ only three and out of the game, Eli Manning and Clay Matthews both do what has come to be the expected.

After two long Brandon Jacobs’ runs where the Packers had terrible run fits and didn’t show a great desire to tackle the behemoth, the Giants decided to start the second quarter with a pass. Again, the Packers are in their base expecting a run. When the Giants go play action, Matthews drops into coverage, and Manning has plenty of time to throw the ball. He waits too long before trying to dump to Bradshaw at the sideline. Matthews bolts in front of Bradshaw and has huge INT for a TD.

Matthews has interceptions in consecutive games. He has also scored a defensive touchdown in all three seasons he’s played. 14-10 Packers.

6:50, 2nd quarter – Without the big play, the Giants’ offense struggles to get anything going and punts twice after the interception by Matthews. Their defense comes up with the big play, however, when Rodgers forgets to look both ways before throwing the slant against a cover 2. The newly-signed middle linebacker, Chase Blackburn, ends up with Rodgers’ pass in his gut and returns it to the 12-yard line.

Similar to the disinterest shown in the Vikings game after Cobb’s fumble, the defense exerts little resistance in allowing the Giants to score in two plays. On first down, Woodson is lined up nine yards off Hakeem Nicks, though with the end zone right behind him, there’s no danger of Nicks taking him deep. Nicks gets the quick pass, turns Woodson’s head with a stiff arm to the face mask, and only the arrival of Peprah and Burnett saved Woodson from an embarrassing TD.

One play later Jacobs would barrel in from the 1 — 17-14, Giants, which is the last lead they would have.

1:17, 2nd quarter – The Packers get the lead right back with a near perfect 80-yard drive that took up most of the remainder of the half.

The keys to the drive were a 23-yard dart up the seam to Finley against the cover 2, and two big runs by Rodgers that netted 24 yards. The Packers would face just two third downs on the drive: a 3rd and 10 that Rodgers ran for 11 on, and the 3rd and 5 that they scored on. The scoring play was a 13-yard corner to Driver that the Giants did a worse job of covering than the Steelers did in the Super Bowl — 21-17, Packers.

0:32, 2nd quarter – The Packers would get the ball back before the half, when Matthews came around the end and sacked Manning as he was trying to release the ball. Props to Raji for recovering the ball, even though everyone gave up on the play. If there is no clear recovery, there is no fumble.

The Packers would quickly move into field goal range with a 22-yard screen play that was well-run by Saine. Unfortunately, Crosby would miss the 43-yard field goal that resulted.

10:00, 3rd quarter – Once again, the Packers took control of the game with a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive after the half.

Half of the yardage came from a 20-yard pass interference call on the Giants and the 20-yard TD pass to Jennings. Otherwise, the Packers picked up small chunks in moving methodically down the field. The Packers only faced two third downs: a 3rd and 3 picked up on a sideline catch by Driver and the touchdown on 3rd and 9.

Coughlin challenged the catch by Driver, though it appeared to be an obvious catch. The Giants were down to one timeout and no remaining challenges thanks to this rather desperate decision.

The touchdown was a little less obvious, as Jennings was a little too lackadaisical with the catch and only had control with three fingers. Fortunately, the refs called it a catch on the field and the replay stuck with that. With this, the Packers maintain their streak of having at least a two-score lead in the second half of every game this season.

6:40, 3rd Quarter – The Giants hit another big play and answer the Packers’ score in just over three minutes.

On the first play of the Giants’ drive, the Packers are back in their base. Again, the Giants will go after that with a deep play-action pass. Both safeties are covering the tight ends, and Tramon is alone with Nicks. I’ll take my chances with this matchup most of the time, but on this play, Manning properly throws the ball to the inside and Nicks does a great job of hanging onto the ball despite Tramon’s attempts to rip it out. It ends up a 50-yard pass play.

The Giants score four plays later when Nicks catches the fade against Woodson. Troy Aikman marvels over Woodson’s aggressive play on Nicks, but Woodson is merely trying to fight through an arm bar. Essentially, Nicks holds Woodson off with the left hand and catches it with his right — 28-24, Packers.

10:58, 4th quarter -- The Packers got a third down scramble from Rodgers and a 17-yard dump to Ryan Grant before punting from near midfield. It would be the Giants ball at the 1 after a very nice, and alert, special teams play by Jarett Bush.

Struggling with third downs for much of the game, the Giants pick up some big ones to drive to the Green Bay 31 and kick a field goal to make it 28-27. On the biggest conversion, a 3rd and 6 from their own 5, Manning has plenty of time and finds Cruz for 12 yards. The Giants doubled Matthews, and Walden took a little too long to get home.

Woodson had the coverage on Cruz. He jumped the cross, which has burned the Packers on third down all year, but Cruz runs a smash route instead and is wide open. Fortunately, Sam Shields is there to hold the play to just 12 yards.

On 3rd and 7 from their 49, Manning finds Ballard for 17 yards, which gets them in field goal range. This is another play where I don’t understand why a linebacker — Robert Francois this time — is covering the tight end on third and long. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re in dime, whether Bush, Woodson or Pat Lee covers the tight end, those are still all better options than any of the Packer linebackers.

Amazingly, the Packers would stay in front even though their offense suddenly looked like it did in the third quarter of the Super Bowl, with four drops in two drives, including two by Finley that would have netted big plays. It also didn’t help that Newhouse repeatedly got beat by whoever the Giants lined up over him.

3:46, 4th quarter – A rare Giants three and out from their own 15 sets up the Packers with good field position at their 43.

The Packers would go 57 yards in a methodical eight plays, to take a commanding eight-point lead. A quiet key to this drive was the sudden appearance of the running game, which at least could be counted on for positive yards on every run.

The biggest play of the drive was an acrobatic 21-yard catch up the sideline by Nelson. Wow is all I have to say about that.

I guess in an attempt to try everything, the Giants only rush three and drop eight on second and goal from the 8. Rodgers merely waits for Driver to fight free of Corey Webster and then fires a laser to him near the pylon.

Some locally have argued that the Packers should have went for two after their TD here, perhaps to take a nine-point lead.

I considered that at the time. The problem with that idea is the Packers don’t have the greatest two-yard offense in the world. The Packers defense, on the other hand, had come through in every late game situation, until now.

0:58, 4th quarter – This actually ends up being a pretty good time for the Packers defense to finally give up a lead. The Giants get a break on the kickoff when a fair catch signal and a clip on are ignored. Instead of starting at their 7, the Giants get to start at the 31.

The Giants dump it to Ballard two plays in a row for 30 yards. On the first one, Bush jumps the inside route by Cruz and falls down when Manning throws it to Ballard on the outside. On the second play, the Packers blitz Bush and the Giants have the right call with a dump to Ballard. An eight-yard gain turns into a 15-yard gain when D.J. Smith misses the tackle.

The Giants get into the red zone when Cruz runs a double move on Bush to shake open for 22 yards. Charles Woodson is out, and the Packers are feeling it.

Manning dumps it to D.J. Ward for 12 yards and I have no clue why the Packers defense was dropped back that far. It’s now 1st and goal from the 3. The Packers get to 3rd and goal, but then Manning, under an immediate rush, throws a stop fade to Nicks, who catches it against Shields for a TD.

If Shields finds the ball sooner, he can pick it, but the way defenders are taught to play the man, this is a tough play to stop.

On the two-point conversion, the Packers are in nickel for reasons beyond my comprehension. As bad as that alignment is, they still have a shot to stop the draw to Ward. Francois is unblocked right in the middle of the field. If he shoots the gap in front of him, he has a good shot to tackle Ward in the backfield. Instead, he hesitates and becomes a non factor.

0:00, 4th quarter – This is the first time this season the Packers were tied in the fourth quarter. A lot of people wanted to know what Rodgers could do in a last-minute drive, and they quickly found out.

I agreed with the decision to have Cobb down the ball. Lawrence Tynes was kicking it high and letting the coverage get down there. If Cobb gets tackled at the 12, the Packers might not even aggressively go for it.

On first down, Rodgers fires a simple out to Finley from the slot. Finley is well-covered, but it doesn’t matter. The pass is perfect. Giants linebacker Jacquian Williams does the Packers a nice favor by diving in an attempt to knock the ball down. He fails and Finley gets 24 yards up the sideline.

On the very next down, Justin Tuck loops to the middle and breaks free to hurry Rodgers. It doesn’t matter. Rodgers throws off his back foot. I think it’s a throwaway or trouble for the Packers. It’s neither. It’s beautiful. Jordy Nelson has ex-Packer Will Blackmon beat on a shake-and-go route. The ball floats over to hit him in perfect stride. Only Nelson losing his balance and stepping out of bounds stops it from being a TD.

Mad props all around to everyone. The Packers are in field goal range, but keep pressing. Rodgers finds Jennings on a simple out against zone and he bulls his way for 17 yards to the 12. Rodgers calls timeout with three seconds left.

Crosby comes on and kicks the 30-yard field goal to win it, 38-35. The Packers remain undefeated and have now won 18 straight games, three wins away from the NFL record of 21 by the Patriots.

The Packers have made it through the toughest part of their schedule unscathed. They SHOULD go undefeated. That doesn’t mean they will or even necessarily that it’s in their best interest to, but just looking at what they have left, they will definitely be heavily favored to win out.

The Packers struggled to stop the run in any formation this game, especially the bigger back Jacobs. Fortunately, the Giants only gave Jacobs the ball eight times.

Except for the final drive, the Packers defense was fine when they weren’t giving up one of the three big plays they gave up in this game. The Giants completed three passes of over 40 yards and they scored 17 points on those drives. When you couple that with the seven they scored off Rodgers’ interception, the Giants scored 24 of their points mostly thanks to big plays.

Injuries are taking their toll on the Packers. Marshall Newhouse had his worst game to date. Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, looked like Reggie White against him. He didn’t even block well in the run game.

Speaking of which, Evan Dietrich-Smith was destroyed by Linval Joseph all game. Joseph, a defensive tackle, led the Giants with nine tackles in the game. Nine tackles for a DT!! In comparison, the Packers had a total of four tackles made by their entire defensive line during the game. Joseph practically single-handedly stopped the Packers run game.

Besides the slew of drops, one of the reasons Rodgers is seeing his completion percentage drop is because James Starks is out. With Starks out, Rodgers seems to have forgotten the short passes are open against these defenses that play man underneath and zone over the top.

I believe the Giants surprised everyone by playing more cover 2 in this game than they normally play. Rodgers’ INT was due to a surprise cover 2 look.

That defense left Finley open, and though he had one of his biggest games of the year, he is easily over 100 yards if he catches the three balls that hit his hands and got away.

Regardless, the Packers still managed 38 points. It seems like the best teams can do is slow this offense down and not entirely stop it.

I think pulling a close one out, versus another blow out, is a very beneficial thing for this team and offense. They know they don’t have to have the lead to pull out a game.

The Packers are the undisputed kings of the NFL right now. It’s the greatest of times to be a Packers fan right now.

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