Packers running back Eddie Lacy gets stuffed by the Giants

The Green Bay Packers dropped their third straight game to the New York Giants on Sunday, so let’s get this over with.

8:30 1st Quarter - The Giants started with the ball and advanced to midfield before an unseen facemask penalty set them back 15 yards and led to a punt.

As expected, the Packers start in their base defense and switch to the dime in passing situations. The dime features rare defensive snaps for Jarrett Bush with A.J. Hawk still the lone linebacker.

Even though M.D. Jennings properly fills the outside and drops Andre Brown for a 3-yard loss on first down, the Giants end up with a 3rd and 1 when Eli Manning dumps it to Brown and he outruns Clay Matthews and Brad Jones for an easy 12-yard gain on second down. On 3rd and 1, a Packers penalty for 12 men on the field gives the Giants their first third down conversion.

A couple plays later, the Giants put three receivers on the field, which puts the Packers in the nickel. Micah Hyde has the slot against Victor Cruz, and he appears to expect inside help from Hawk. However, Hawk bites aggressively on the play fake and the middle of the field is wide open to Cruz when he slants underneath Hyde. He gets 12 and another first down.

Fortunately, this early success is quickly halted by a facemask penalty on third down, which saved the Packers defense from giving up a 17-yard scramble to Manning of all people. The Giants throw short on 3rd and long and punt.

The first Packers drive is a simple three and out. After having 12 men on the field on defense converted a third and 1 for the Giants, the Packers commit the same penalty on offense to turn a 3rd and 7 into a 3rd and 12. Predictably, Scott Tolzien throws it short, and the Packers are forced to punt.

Once again a punt turns into a disaster for the Packers as the Giants get their longest return of the season on their first attempt against the Packers. Wonderful. There is nothing wrong with the punt; it is 51 yards, has good hang time, and pins returner Rueben Randle near the numbers. James Nixon is unblocked and right in front of Randle when he catches the ball. Except Nixon looks like he’s never covered a punt before, when Randle steps to his right, Nixon flies out of control right by him. Ryan Taylor first hesitates and then whiffs on the tackle, and Bush gets held and then tackled with no call.

Randle gets 32 yards, and the Giants get to start their second drive at the Packers’ 42, which is the last thing you want when you are trying to play a defensive game with your backup quarterback.

5:30 1st Q - The Giants look like they may waste their great field position when a holding call makes it 2nd and 20. But on second down, Manning finds tight end Brandon Myers right in the middle of the field for a quick 15 yards. Morgan Burnett appears to think giving up 15 yards on 2nd and 20 is some sort of victory for the defense.

On the following 3rd and 5, the Packers assume pass and have their dime on the field. Manning sees it and gives it to Brown on the draw. Mike Daniels creates a hole when he takes an inside pass rush. It is six blockers on six defenders and no one gets off their block. Brown gets 10 yards and a first down.

A couple plays later the Giants go with their three-receiver set, which puts the nickel on the field with Hyde in the slot. Hyde again tries playing to his help by taking the underneath and inside coverage with help over the top, but he doesn’t get proper depth when Randle runs the deep in. Manning easily fits the ball into the gap, and Randle makes a nice off-the-ankles catch for a 26-yard TD.

By allowing a touchdown on the Giants’ second possession, the Packers quickly fall back into the now familiar trailing position.

On the Packers only other possession of the first quarter, they would go three and out again. Two runs to Eddie Lacy got six, even though they were decently blocked and could have gotten more. On 3rd and 4, the Giants sent a seven-man blitz. Scott Tolzien hangs in there and delivers to James Jones on the slant before taking a hard shot. Prince Amukamara holds and interferes with Jones the whole way, which is the only way I think he can cover him. No call. Punt.

14:05 2nd Q - The Giants start at their 22 this time, but they proceed to go 56 yards in 11 plays, holding the ball for 5 minutes. They eventually kick a field goal to go up by two scores at 10-0.

On 3rd and 7 from the 25, the Packers go with an exotic coverage, perhaps because they don’t trust their ability to play it straight up. The defense appears to be in the dime with a two deep look. However, the Packers send Tramon Williams and A.J. Hawk on a blitz from the left side, which means at the snap Jennings slides down to take Williams’ spot, Burnett slides over, and Hyde back pedals deep to take Burnett’s spot.

Since Hyde was originally lined up in the slot, this leaves Clay Matthews dropping back into coverage, alone on Cruz. Cruz runs a nifty stop-and-go to shake loose from Matthews, and Manning merely slides to his left, away from the blitz, and delivers on time to Cruz. Cruz breaks the tackle attempt by Matthews and rumbles up field for 30 yards.

On 3rd and 10 from the Packers’ 45, the Giants go to Cruz in the slot against Hyde again. Hyde makes a nice tackle to hold the gain to 9 yards, but the Giants wisely decide to go for it rather than attempting a 53-yard field goal. On fourth and only about a foot, the Giants give to Brandon Jacobs — yes, that effin guy — right up the middle. Right guard David Diehl buries B.J. Raji, and Jacobs roars on through for an easy 5-yard gain.

The Packers make a couple nice plays after that. On 1st and 10, Jacobs gets the corner, but Williams takes out his feet and stops him for no gain. On 2nd and 10, Datone Jones flashes around the end and forces Manning to throw the ball away. The Giants were lucky intentional grounding was not called. On third down, Manning finds Myers on the out, but Jennings makes a decent tackle to keep it short of the first down. The Giants settle for the field goal.

That is two scores in three possessions for the 30th ranked offense in the NFL. If you were hoping for the defense, or at least the woeful Giants offense, to give the Packers a chance in this game, you are still hoping.

10:20 2nd Q - Absolutely needing a response on offense, the Packers get one, going 76 yards in 7 plays to at least pull within one score at 10-3.

The entire drive is two plays. On 2nd and 10, the Packers run a fake screen to Johnathan Franklin. Jordy Nelson runs upfield instead of blocking, and Tolzien finds him for 25 yards. On the very next play, the Giants anticipate a run and load the box with just a single safety deep. That safety pays too much attention to Nelson on the other side and allows Jones to run the deep post against single coverage. Jones beats Amukamara for a 45-yard gain.

It is understandable that Tolzien switched to runs on the next two plays. The Giants stay in their nickel and only have six guys around the line of scrimmage. Both are supposed to be whams to Starks up the middle, but both plays are stopped by Jason Pierre-Paul crashing down from the outside. On the first, Andrew Quarless is supposed to block JPP. He can’t. JPP tackles Starks for no gain. On second down, no one blocks JPP, and he simply does the same thing.

On both plays, Starks has a shot at a touchdown if he immediately takes the play outside of T.J. Lang. On the second play, Starks tries exactly that, too late, and runs right into the back of Lang before being tackled for a 1-yard loss.

On 3rd and 11, Tolzien never looks for anyone but Jarrett Boykin. Boykin makes the catch, but is tackled short of the first down. The play might work except for a fluke. Brandon Bostick is running a corner route over the top of Boykin, but he runs into Giants’ linebacker Jacquian Williams, who is mistakenly going out to the flat to cover Franklin. Franklin is actually already covered on the play, so someone is screwing up. Regardless, the collision between Bostick and Williams prevents Bostick from getting into the end zone, which may have given Boykin the room he needed to score or get the first down.

The Packers have been poor in the red zone no matter who has been at QB, and they have to settle for another field goal.

3:30 2nd Q - The Giants are driving again. This time they move all the way to the Packers’ 14 and threaten to put the game way, before an interception by Tramon Williams keeps the Packers alive.

The drive is this time done mostly on the ground as Andre Brown is beginning to run over, through, and around the Packers defense. The Packers defensive linemen are not taking up more than one blocker, and even when the Packers linebackers manage to get through traffic, Brown is running right through them.

On 4th and 1 from the Packers’ 35, the Packers should have stopped Jacobs. Mike Neal makes a great play to get off the block and meet Jacobs at the line of scrimmage. An unblocked Burnett decides to jump on Jacobs’ back and go for a ride. The Giants push Jacobs forward for the first.

It ends up not mattering as on 3rd and 11 Eli goes Eli. Manning throws an out that no one is running, and Williams makes a nice diving catch for the interception. Tramon shows some nice moves in advancing the ball to the Packers’ 21, though I am yelling the entire time for him to just not get injured.

The Packers get a nice play to Brandon Bostick that moves them near midfield. They end up punting from there. On 3rd and 6, the Giants blitz six. Justin Tuck runs through Marshall Newhouse and hits Tolzien as he’s throwing the ball. Yes, we’ve heard this story before. Punt.

Fortunately, the Packers follow with their best defensive stand of the game. On first down, a good pass rush from Matthews and Neal forces Manning to throw off rhythm for Myers. Bush is covering this time and does a better job than either Packers safety has, knocking the ball away. On second down, Datone Jones blows by David Diehl and causes Manning to flee the pocket and slide down for two yards. On 3rd down, the Giants try the underneath route to Hakeem Nicks, but Williams plays it perfectly and cuts Nicks down short of the first down. Punt.

The Packers get a 9-yard pass to Boykin and then a 15-yarder to Nelson to move the ball to the Giants’ 39. Mason Crosby trots in and hits a 57-yard field goal right down the middle. That makes the halftime score 10-6.

10:05 3rd Q - The Giants kick another field goal after a Scott Tolzien interception gives them the ball at midfield.

On 3rd and 7, Tolzien gets his only third down conversion of the game when he throws an out and up to Jordy Nelson from the slot. Nelson makes a nice sliding catch for a 29-yard gain. Two plays later, Tolzien looks for James Jones over the middle and throws it right to Jon Beason. Beason goes beast mode on a Packers offense looking to strip the ball and gets the ball to midfield.

On the very next play, Nicks runs a slant and go from the outside. Williams and Burnett both cover the outside and let Nicks run free. He is wide open for 35 yards. The Packers defense stiffens from there, getting a break when Brown fails to clear for Victor Cruz on third down. Cruz drops the ball, and the Giants have to kick the FG to go up 13-6.

00:25 3rd Q - The Packers move the ball near midfield thanks to a well-blocked screen to Lacy that got 16 and then Quarless’ best play as a Packer, where he caught the ball one-handed before heading up the sideline for 19 yards. On 3rd and 12 from there, Jones gets tripped by the defender while the ball is in the air, and it is a hard luck incompletion.

After the Giants run into Tim Masthay during the punt, Mike McCarthy decides to try to pick up the first down with a fake punt. It is a direct snap to M.D. Jennings, of all people, and he does well to cut off a block and head upfield. If Ryan Taylor holds his block for just another second, it is a first down. Instead, his man grabs Jennings from behind and drags him down a foot short of the first down.

The Giants start at the 37. They proceed to drive for 63 yards in 10 plays, taking up another 6 minutes plus. Their touchdown makes it 20-6.

On 3rd and 4 from the Giants’ 43, Manning finds Cruz for 25 yards between Hyde and Burnett. The Packers are actually doubling Cruz on this play, and both guys are in position to make a play. Hyde sees Burnett right there and appears to leave it to him. Burnett however appears to lose track of the football. It drops in perfectly between both of them.

On 3rd and 5 from the Packers’ 11, Manning goes to the old reliable and finds Myers right in the middle of the field for an easy 8 yards and a first down. Two plays later, the Packers have to live with the indignity of having Jacobs score on them from less than a yard out.

12:45 4th Q - The Packers would respond by going 83 yards in just 5 plays to keep their improbable hopes alive.

On the second play of the drive, Tolzien hits Boykin on a stutter and go for 52 yards. Facing 3rd and 1 from the 4, shortly after, Lacy jumps for the first down, takes a hard shot from Cullen Jenkins, lands on his feet and then drags the pile all the way into the end zone. The touchdown brings the Packers within one score at 20-13.

10:55 4th Q - The Packers defense follows with its second three and out of the game. On first down, Brad Jones jumps through a gap at the line before Brown can block him, and Jones sacks Manning for a 9-yard loss. Two plays later, on 3rd and 7, the Packers blitz both linebackers again. This time Hawk forces Manning to shuffle to his right and right into the arms of Clay Matthews. Punt.

10:50 4th Q - At this point comes the back breaker. On 1st and 10 from the 30, Tolzien looks for Quarless on a tight end screen to the left. Jason Pierre-Paul waits for Tolzien to throw the ball, leaps when he releases it, snags it right out of the air, and goes 24 yards for a touchdown to make it 27-13.

It isn’t often you throw an interception returned 24 yards for a touchdown from your own 30.

Plenty of people have tried to hand out blame for this play. Most of it is ridiculous. The play has about zero to do with the play call. The Packers lined up in this formation — Nelson and Jones to the left, Quarless in the near slot — plenty of times. If JPP correctly guessed an out to the tight end was coming, it was most likely because he stood back and watched Quarless release off the line instead of immediately bursting upfield on the pass rush. Ironically, does JPP even attempt this play if he had been having any success rushing against David Bakhtiari all game?

If you insist on blaming someone, then Tolzien gets about 10 percent for trying to throw right over the top of JPP, but there is no way he is going to think that someone rushing right at him is going to be able to catch that ball. Tolzien tried to take the blame afterward saying JPP’s arms were in the air, and so he can’t throw that ball. Yeah, except the replay shows that JPP doesn’t put his arms into the air until Tolzien releases it. So, I appreciate Tolzien trying to jump on the grenade there, but it is tough for me to blame him for assuming he would be able to complete that pass.

Instead, I choose to give the credit to Jason Pierre-Paul. The reason why you almost never see a rushing defensive end snag the ball right out of the air is because it is damn tough to do. JPP and Tolzien are probably only about 5 yards apart when the play happens, and Tolzien doesn’t exactly throw softly. Even with the crazy athleticism involved, I still say the play is about 60 percent luck and 40 percent skill. Nine times out of 10 that ball goes off of JPP’s hands. Not THIS time though.

Perhaps the Packers would have had a chance still if they scored on their very next drive. They go three and out instead.

On first down, a stretch to the right loses a yard. Lacy hesitates to run to the edge, as has been the case all game, and neither Evan Dietrich-Smith nor Josh Sitton can get out to block the linebackers they’ve been assigned to. On second down, Tolzien tries the quick out to Quarless on the opposite side. That loses a yard.

On 3rd and 12, Tolzien throws short of the first to Nelson, who is swarmed by three defenders. Punt.

Having not gotten any closer, the Packers need a three and out to get the ball back immediately. They don’t get that either. The Giants pick up two first downs and move past midfield before sacks by A.J. Hawk and Mike Neal stop their drive. By that time, there is only four and a half minutes left, and that isn’t enough time to get it done.

Tolzien gets over the 300 yards passing mark by leading the Packers down to the Giants’ 34. On first and 10 from there, Tolzien is about to get hit and throws it too high for Boykin. It is picked off by Antrelle Rolle, and that is the final dagger.

When Aaron Rodgers went down, Mike McCarthy correctly predicted that the Packers would need to play better in all areas to make up for the loss. Not only has that not happened, but one could argue that most of the team has played worse football since that fateful play against Chicago.

Now, what is easiest overlooked is that some of that has to do with the opponents that the Packers have played. A common saying in football is that it isn’t who you play but WHEN you play them. I would argue that the Chicago Bears are a better team with Josh McCown at quarterback, though losing Lance Briggs certainly hurts the defense. And I don’t think there is any question that the Eagles with Nick Foles and the Giants with Andre Brown back are playing much better football now than they were earlier in the season.

Regardless, all three teams played well against the Packers. Some of that has to do with the Packers, and some of it could have happened against anyone. In fact, though I think the Packers offense with Rodgers under center is too much for the Bears or the Eagles to keep up with, I am not completely convinced that the Packers win this game against the Giants even if Rodgers plays.

The Packers had their worst rushing game of the season, and that only partially had to do with the Giants stacking the box. In fact, the Giants did less loading the box than the Eagles did the week before. Confident that they could stop the run, the Giants even left their nickel defense on the field during some running situations. It didn’t matter. When the Packers did manage to block to the second level, their running backs made poor decisions and failed to capitalize. Neither Lacy nor Starks pushed the edge or used the cutback to attack the defense. Both simply ran where the play was designed to go and got what the front end offered or didn’t offer.

Eddie Lacy was also tackled by the first defender the most I’ve seen in a game this season. Time and time again defensive backs came up and tackled Lacy one-on-one. In short, this was the worst game that the Packers running backs have played, and I have to question again why Johnathan Franklin can’t get a shot to succeed when others are failing.

The Packers also failed to stop the run. They didn’t get gashed, but they also couldn’t consistently stop the run. They never forced Manning to carry the offense, and they also failed to stop the run when it mattered most — fourth down and the red zone. The defensive line didn’t protect the linebackers, and then they didn’t get off blocks to make up for it.

For a second straight week the safety position had more to do with the big plays given up by the Packers than the corners did. The Packers remain vulnerable there, and pretty much every opponent they play know that. This is one area of the team for which no improvement is forthcoming. McCarthy went as far as admitting Morgan Burnett played poorly last week. He said he was “content” with his performance this week. I guess contentment comes from giving up big plays just as long as they aren’t touchdowns.

With their first pick of the 2014 draft, the Green Bay Packers select… at safety…

Could be a fairly high pick at this rate.

Mike McCarthy can gush about his backup quarterback and his 330 yards all he wants. I have some other numbers for him — 1-7 on third down, five interceptions in two games, and 0-2. Yes, as I’ve already covered, other parts of the team aren’t stepping up to help the guy, but his performances have been far from Matt Flynn of 2010 and 2011. And though Tolzien may be able to improve in other areas, some guys just have the knack for throwing big interceptions in crucial situations, and some never lose that knack.

One area of the team that HAS picked their game up and deserve no part of this crapfest is the receiving corps. Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Jarrett Boykin, Andrew Quarless, and Brandon Bostick have been flat making plays. I’m not sure what more these guys could do. In fact,  I would argue that they are being under-utilized. At least a couple times a game, the Packers should be taking shots down the sideline to their receivers. If defenses want to single cover these guys, then make them pay for it. McCarthy said after the game that he’s never seen a quarterback hit on every single deep ball before. Well, if that isn’t a sign to KEEP DOING IT, then I don’t know what is.

Mike McCarthy has one more game to prove his team CAN win without Aaron Rodgers on the field. I advise he find a way to get it done before 2013 is lost. My best advice would be get Rodgers back out there. There is an entire offseason to heal.

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