Can Packers' Defense Solve Giants in Rematch?

New York has dominated Green Bay in the teams' two recent matchups. If they meet again in the postseason, the Giants likely would be a heavy favorite. To bolster their chances, the Packers must make the plays that slipped through their grasp on Sunday and they must get healthy.

If the Green Bay Packers qualify for the postseason, things such as first-round byes and playoff seedings are practically irrelevant because one team poses a challenge unlike any of the others.

That team, of course, is the New York Giants.

Last season, the Packers were 15-1, outscored their opponents by 12.6 points per game and boasted a turnover margin of plus-24. Against the Giants in the divisional playoffs, Green Bay was crushed 37-20 and was minus-3 in turnovers.

Entering Sunday night, the Packers were 7-3, had outscored their opponents by 11.0 points per game during a five-game winning streak and were plus-7 in turnovers overall. Against the Giants on Sunday night, Green Bay was crushed 38-10 and was minus-2 in turnovers.

Can the Packers find the answers if there's a playoff rematch?

"I think every game's a different game," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said when asked that question on Monday.

In the course of a 12-minute conversation with reporters in the hallway leading to the locker room and classrooms on Monday afternoon, Capers used the word "momentum" 14 times.

The Packers never had the momentum on Sunday night. In the first 10 games, not only had the defense not allowed a single point on an opening drive but it had yielded a grand total of three first downs — seven games with none and three games with one. Against the Giants, a 59-yard screen to Ahmad Bradshaw was the key play on a 74-yard touchdown drive.

With the game tied 7-7, Casey Hayward dropped an interception that would have, at worst, given the Packers the ball inside the Giants' 30 and possibly been a pick-six. As New York took command at 24-7, the Giants converted four third-down plays, including on touchdown passes of 16 yards to Reuben Randle and 9 yards to Victor Cruz. On the first play of the series that Cruz scored on, Morgan Burnett and Davon House had a wobbly bomb from Eli Manning go through their fingers.

"Most of the time, we'll find a way to get that momentum turned with a takeaway or whatever," Capers said. "You saw the times we had our hands on the ball, we just couldn't come up with it — the one deep pass there where we had both Morgan and Davon House back there. We didn't come up with that. The one Casey had, you've seen Casey come up with those balls. You just have to keep working and preparing and playing."

The NFL is a no-excuses business and Capers wasn't about to offer any on Monday. However, it's fair to add a dose of realism. The Giants are an excellent team with playmakers at quarterback, running back and receiver. The Packers, with Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson and Desmond Bishop out, simply don't have the horses. Getting back Matthews, perhaps this week, and Woodson, potentially in the next couple of weeks, would greatly enhance the Packers' chances should there be a playoff rematch.

"We expect our guys to go out there and perform and perform at a winning level," Capers said. "You've seen us do that. We haven't had Wood, we haven't had Clay for the past few weeks, Sam Shields, but the guys that we've put out there have normally gone out there and done a good job. I think there's a lot we can learn from this. One thing about this business is it's a humbling business and you better be ready to go each and every week. It points to what you're all about. I remember back to when we got off to a tough start against the 49ers here and we went out and played a tremendous game against the Bears in the second week. That's the challenge for us. We know we've got the Vikings coming in here. We've got to take a look at this, learn from it, be accountable for it and put it behind us and move on and go out and play our best game against the Vikings."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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