There were no theatrics from Odell Beckham Jr. No fireworks by Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning.
Just a surprising defensive effort from the Green Bay Packers.
With starting cornerbacks Sam Shields and Damarious Randall inactive, the Packers and their 29th-ranked pass defense held the New York Giants’ offense in check for most of Sunday night’s 23-16 victory.
With a depleted secondary, the Packers’ defense appeared to have a daunting challenge on its hands against the veteran Manning, the explosive Beckham and a powerful Giants offense. Instead, the defense was their saving grace through Green Bay’s inconsistent offense and stumbling special teams.
The Giants (2-3) had possessions starting at their 45, their 41, the Packers’ 40, their 39, their 47 and their 49 in the first three quarters. New York managed three field goals, including a 30-yarder by Josh Brown on the sixth of those possessions that cut the margin to 17-9 with 5:26 left in the third quarter.
The Packers (3-1) went four consecutive possessions without even getting a first down before extending their lead to 20-9 on Mason Crosby’s 33-yard field goal with 13:46 remaining in the game. Completions of 20 yards to Davante Adams and 21 yards to Randall Cobb fueled that scoring drive.
Green Bay mounted a key drive to build its lead to 23-9. Thanks to an early third-and-9 conversion by Cobb in which he broke four tackles to get the first down, Green Bay burned 6 minutes, 22 seconds off the block to get a 25-yard field goal. That left Manning just 6:39 to overcome a two-touchdown deficit.
Manning finally led the Giants into the end zone with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Beckham with 2:54 remaining in the game. Manning got hit by outside linebacker Nick Perry just as he threw the ball, and Beckham managed to keep both feet inbounds a he made the catch in front of the goal post.
Green Bay was able to run out the clock, though. But not without a scare. Running back James Starks fumbled on a second-down catch but recovered. On third-and-10, Rodgers hit Cobb for a gain of 13 – taking a wicked shot from safety Landon Collins at the end of the play. Rodgers took a knee to run out the final 2 minutes.
Neither quarterback needed some late completions to get over 50 percent. Manning went 18-of-35 for 199 yards and the one touchdown. Rodgers went 23-of-45 for 259 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Green Bay mostly dominated the first half, outgaining the Giants 251-93 and picking up 15 first downs to the Giants’ four to lead 17-6.
The Packers struck first with a 16-play, game-opening drive that consumed almost 9 minutes. Green Bay converted four third-down plays and scored on Rodgers’ 2-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson, who stumbled out of his break but caught the ball while falling to the turf.
The Packers momentarily took a 14-0 lead, but Rodgers’ touchdown pass to Randall Cobb was overturned by offsetting penalties – 12 men on the field by the Giants and an illegal shift on the Packers that left Rodgers fuming. On the next play, the final play of the first quarter, Rodgers’ pass went through Nelson’s hands and was intercepted by Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
New York got on the board midway through the second quarter, taking advantage of Jacob Schum’s bad punt and a 27-yard pass to tight end Will Tye to position Josh Brown for a 47-yard field goal.
Green Bay answered quickly. First, it was Eddie Lacy plowing through the Giants for a gain of 31. Then, with Giants cornerback Eli Apple lost to a groin injury, Rodgers went after his replacement, Mitchell Hunter, for a 29-yard touchdown pass to receiver Davante Adams.
Jenkins struck again, stepping in front of a third-down pass to Adams for another interception to give the Giants the ball at the Green Bay 40. Brown’s 41-yard field goal made it 14-6 with 1:51 left in the half.
Then came another big swing. After Green Bay’s three-and-out brought out some boobirds, Manning had Tye wide open for a 61-yard touchdown but Tye couldn’t make the catch. On the next play, Manning was sacked and stripped by linebacker Kyler Fackrell, with defensive tackle Kenny Clark recovering at the Giants’ 31. The Packers couldn’t do anything with the ball, and Mason Crosby booted a 44-yard field goal on the final play of the half.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.