Ultimate Game Review: Packers at Giants

The play of the game, the player of the game, a look into the crystal ball and 15 incredible numbers that explain Sunday's 27-13 verdict. The play of the game was obvious: Jason Pierre-Paul's pick-six on what could have been a big play for the Packers.

Packer Report reviews the Green Bay Packers' 27-13 loss at the New York Giants on Sunday.

PLAY OF THE GAME

Jason Pierre-Paul finished with one solo tackle and two assisted tackles. Considering Pierre-Paul's status as one of the game's premier pass rushers, the Packers probably would have taken that stat line 10 times out of 10.

Unfortunately for the Packers, Pierre-Paul made the biggest play of the game. The Packers had the momentum, having scored a touchdown to pull within 20-13 and then getting a three-and-out punt after sacks by Brad Jones and Clay Matthews. On first-and-10 from the 30, quarterback Scott Tolzien lined up in the shotgun with receiver James Jones lined up on the far left, receiver Jordy Nelson lined up in the left slot and tight end Andrew Quarless lined up to the left side of the formation.

This was a designed play to Quarless, who took one step and ran into the left flat. Nelson and Jones immediately block their defenders (Antrel Rolle and Prince Amukamara, respectively). If the ball gets to Quarless, it's probably a gain of at least 10, and potentially more if he can beat the linebacker coming from the inside. Instead, Pierre-Paul makes an incredible play. He doesn't even bat it. It's just a clean catch and easy sprint to the end zone. Perhaps it's a different result if left tackle David Bakhtiari gets his hands on Pierre-Paul rather than retreating, but that's sheer guesswork without knowing the design of the play.

"I gave him a freebie there, really," Tolzien said. "That's a huge moment swing. We had a chance, and that kills you, and I'll learn from it. But I take full onus on that one."

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Eli Manning has played better games. With 279 yards, one touchdown and one interception, it's a rather ho-hum stat line. Still, Manning made the key plays to put the Giants in charge, which had to be their game plan given Tolzien was making his first NFL start and was facing one of the NFL's red-hot defenses.

There's no substitute for experience. So on third-and-5 from the Packers' 37, Manning saw the Packers' dime personnel in the game and audibled to a run, with Andre Brown taking advantage for a 10-yard run. The Giants have thrown the ball more than 95 percent of the time in that situation over the last four years. One play later, Manning threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Reuben Randle. Randle got behind rookie nickel back Micah Hyde and there wasn't a safety within 10 yards of Randle when he caught the ball around the 8.

When the Giants extended the lead to 10-0, it was Manning who saw cornerback Tramon Williams coming on a blitz and took advantage of a mismatch with Victor Cruz against Clay Matthews for a gain of 30.

Later, on third-and-4, Manning used great touch to hit Cruz for 25 against Hyde and safety Morgan Burnett. That led to a touchdown and an insurmountable 20-6 lead.

GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL

"I think definitely better days are ahead," coach Mike McCarthy proclaimed after the game.

Will those "better days" come in time to save this season?

The Packers have lost three in a row to fall to 5-5. They have sunk to 10th place in the NFC. Their 3-4 record in conference games could write them off in just about any tiebreaker. They host Minnesota next week, which is an absolute must-win given they figure to be heavy underdogs at Detroit on Thanksgiving.

Hypothetically speaking, if Aaron Rodgers comes back and they're 6-6, can they win the final four games? And with their lousy conference record, would 10-6 even be enough to get them into the postseason?

NOTEWORTHY NUMBERS

0: Career sacks, in five games against the Packers, by Jason Pierre-Paul. So, they've at least shut him down, right?

0: Drives started outside the 20-yard line following six Giants kickoffs by the NFL's worst kickoff return. The Packers started at the 20 following three touchbacks and the 18, 13 and 17 following the other three kickoffs.

0: Sacks allowed by the Packers, the first time that's happened this season.

.167 Green Bay's winning percentage when minus-2 in turnovers under coach Mike McCarthy. The Packers are 2-10 in those games. Green Bay is 9-27 (.250) when losing the turnover battle under McCarthy.

2: Sacks by outside linebackers Clay Matthews and Mike Neal. The Packers hadn't had any sacks from an outside linebacker in the previous 4.5 games.

3: Consecutive losses by the Packers, their longest streak since a five-game skid in 2008. They had just three two-game losing streaks before this slide. In 2009, they won five in a row, and they had winning streaks of four and six in 2010.

3: Consecutive games without an interception, the longest stretch since Dom Capers took over as defensive coordinator, until Tramon Williams' pick in the second quarter. That broke Williams' 23-game streak without an interception.

5: Longest run by a running back (Lacy) until John Kuhn's 12-yard run on the game's final play.

6: Week 1 starters who were not in the lineup on Sunday: Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley and Don Barclay on offense, and Nick Perry and Sam Shields on defense. That list doesn't include Bryan Bulaga, who tore his ACL on Family Night, and Casey Hayward, who might have started in Week 1 if not for an injured hamstring.

7: Consecutive games in which the Packers haven't forced more than one turnover.

32: Rushing yards by the Packers before Tolzien scrambled twice on the second-to-last drive and Kuhn ran for 12 to end the game. That woeful figure includes M.D. Jennings' 6-yard run on a fake punt.

55: Rushing yards by the Packers, their worst figure of the season. The Packers had topped 104 yards in seven consecutive games – including six of at least 139 -- before settling for 99 last week and 55 against New York.

177: Yards on five long pass plays – 52 to Jarrett Boykin, 45 to James Jones, 29 to Jordy Nelson, 26 to Brandon Bostick and 25 to Nelson.

217: Yards on the other 49 plays.

339: Passing yards by Scott Tolzien. In their starting debuts, Aaron Rodgers threw for 178 yards against Chicago in 2008, Brett Favre threw for 210 yards against Pittsburgh in 1992, Don Majkowski threw for 121 yards against Denver in 1987 and Lynn Dickey threw for 148 yards against San Francisco in 1976.


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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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