Gameday Notebook: Newhouse vs. JPP

A major key will be the matchup between standout defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and ascending left tackle Marshall Newhouse. Plus, the offense is making its points (if not yards), Erik Walden's presence, a showdown at receiver and 17 other nuggets in the world's biggest and best game preview ... guaranteed.

Marshall Newhouse was taken to school by Jason Pierre-Paul when the Green Bay Packers visited the New York Giants last season.

While the Packers won the game 38-35 on a last-play field goal, Newhouse allowed one sack, three quarterback hits and five additional hurries. Even without a sack, Pierre-Paul was dominant, piling up three hits and six hurries.

"I think every game is a learning experience," Newhouse said on Friday. "I don't think I had my best game ever. I mean, that's easy to see."

Turning the calendar ahead about 51 weeks, Newhouse is arguably the most improved player in the league. Last season, he allowed eight sacks, seven hits and 39 hurries for a total of 54 pressures. Using a formula based on those figures and the number of pass-blocking snaps, ProFootballFocus.com listed Newhouse 57th out of 58 offensive tackles who played at least half of their team's snaps. This season, Newhouse has allowed five sacks, three hits and 10 hurries for a total of 18 pressures. That ranks ninth out of 57 offensive tackles.

"I've said this a bunch of times: It's very hard to fool him more than once," offensive line coach James Campen said. "Once he has something and he's got it, he does a very good job of correcting it. Hopefully, that trend continues. We need him to play big for us."

Pierre-Paul is one of the best defenders in the league. At 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, he plays with an uncommon combination of strength and explosion. A first-round pick in 2010, Pierre-Paul burst onto the scene last year with 16.5 sacks. He's added 6.5 sacks this year, along with a pick-six against Dallas on Oct. 28 and a critical forced fumble that helped save a game against Washington a week earlier.

What's the key?

"I think just trust my ability," Newhouse said. "It's a boring answer, but getting into changing a whole lot of stuff or doing a lot of crazy things, that clouds the picture, honestly. Just be physical, take the plays one play at a time. It's cliché, but that's really the way to do it. Against this team, definitely."

Trusting his ability is easier now that he can rely on his experience. This will be Newhouse's third game against Pierre-Paul. In the playoff game, he limited Pierre-Paul to one-half sack.

This season, Newhouse hasn't allowed a sack in his last three games. At Detroit last week, Newhouse didn't allow a finger to be placed on Aaron Rodgers.

In 2011, with a first-round pick used on Derek Sherrod, Newhouse was fighting for a roster spot. Now, Newhouse has played so well that he's gone a long way toward grabbing hold of the position lock, stock and barrel for years to come. Pass protection is the name of the game at left tackle, and that makes him one of the top young players in the league at the position.

"I'm just trying to improve myself and be reliable for the Green Bay Packers," he said. "Outside of that ... I don't care how good you are in this league, it just seems like there's always someone who has something negative to say about you or thinks you're not as good as someone else. I think getting caught up in that is a waste of energy, I feel like."

Points, not yards

The Packers never have finished out of the top 10 in total offense since Mike McCarthy took over as coach in 2006.

This season, Green Bay is 19th.

Still, the scoring is there. While the Packers are down significantly from their record-setting 35.0 points per game of last season, they rank ninth with 26.3 points per game. Since Week 4, Green Bay is fourth with 29.4 points per game.

It helps that the Packers are second in red-zone efficiency (67.9 percent touchdowns) and eighth in third-down conversions (42.1 percent). Field position has been huge, too. Green Bay's average starting point of the 31.3-yard line is tied with the Giants for No. 1 in the league. Last year's defense contributed five touchdowns; this year's defense has helped create field position by overall solid play.

"I think, No. 1, we're getting some better field position because of our special-teams play and our defensive play, so we haven't had to travel as many yards," offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. "We have a backed-up offense where we're backed up inside our 10 and we had a number of those last year but haven't had as many this year. Last year, when we were backed up, we were fairly effective and scored a number of touchdowns, so those are 90-yard drives. Over the course of the season, that adds up to yardage. So, that's part of it. And we just haven't had as many explosive plays as we had last year."

Walden leads the way

With Clay Matthews out for a second consecutive game with an injured hamstring, it will be up to Erik Walden to lead the Packers' outside linebacker corps.

He did just that against Detroit. Walden had one sack in the first nine games but tallied two against the Lions. He'll match up with embattled right tackle David Diehl, who's allowed four sacks in his four starts. He's allowed one sack in each of his two games since recovering from a knee injury.

Along with the production, it's up to Walden to lead a young group. The other starter, Dezman Moses, is a rookie. Frank Zombo is in his third season but will be playing in just his second game of the year.

"I think Erik has always let his voice be heard," outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene said. "I think he feels a little bit that it's falling on his shoulders more now than ever now that Clay's voice is really not on the field. I think Erik feels that. I think he's stepping up and doing some things and playing well. He's played really, really well as of late.

"He sees the field than he's ever seen before and he makes those plays. A classic example was the reverse (the Lions) ran at him. The Erik Walden of old, you know, when he wasn't really so settled in his position, he would not have had the vision and he probably would have tried to chase that play action and not been a factor in that reverse. He was able to see the reverse, play the reverse, turn it back into the teeth of the defense and we made the tackle and lived to play again. That's a classic example of him settling into his position and feeling better and increasing his vision and having presnap awareness and just being a better player."

Receiver showdown

These are two of the best receiver corps in the league.

The Packers are fifth with 1,817 yards and first with 23 touchdowns from their receivers. Randall Cobb is 12th with 54 receptions, Jordy Nelson is 31st with 577 yards and James Jones is tied for second with eight touchdowns.

The Giants are second with 1,972 yards from their receivers, with Victor Cruz leading the way with 60 catches (10th), 743 yards (12th) and seven touchdowns (tied, fifth).

"You look at their receptions, and a high percentage of their receptions go to their receivers," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "I think their tight end (Martellus Bennett) has like 36, the second tight end (Bear Pascoe) has only got three or something like that. It goes receivers by a long shot, and then their tight ends and running backs are pretty close. This Cruz guy, you watch him play and you think, ‘How in the hell did they get him as a free agent?' You look at a guy like this and you say, ‘How did somebody not draft him?' He's explosive, he's strong, he makes big plays. They invested in (Hakeem) Nicks but you get a guy like Cruz, man, what a bonus that is."

The other sideline

— The Giants, who are coming off of their bye week, have won their last four games after their annual hiatus. In those four games, Eli Manning has thrown for 1,290 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception.

— Manning has started 129 consecutive games. Since starting that streak on Nov. 21, 2004, the other three NFC East teams have churned through 24 starters — including Donovan McNabb for Philadelphia and Washington.

— While the Packers' kicking situation is a mess, Lawrence Tynes is 28-of-31 on field goals this season. He's on pace to break the single-season record of 44 set by San Francisco's David Akers last year.

— For Giants coach Tom Coughlin, it's an all-or-nothing proposition at the end of the season. The Giants have gotten hot to win two Super Bowls. On the other hand, he's 27-30 during the second halves of seasons.

History lessons

— In seven career starts on Sunday night, Rodgers has thrown 19 touchdown passes and two interceptions with a passer rating of 115.9. He's won six in a row on Sunday night, including a six-touchdown performance at Houston last month.

— The Packers and Giants have combined for 21 championships, with Green Bay's 13 and New York adding an eighth last season. They've played in five title games, with the Packers winning in 1939, 1941, 1961 and 1962. The Giants beat the Packers in 1938.

— Green Bay's 19-5 record on Sunday night is good for a .792 winning percentage. Miami (16-8) and Kansas City (10-5) are a distant second at .667. The Packers are 7-3 (.700) under McCarthy.

— The Giants held training camp in Superior, Wis., in 1939, 1941, 1942 and 1946.

Key numbers

— 22: Since Week 6, the Packers have been penalized the fourth-fewest times in the league. It's a stark contrast to the first five games, when Green Bay was the fourth-most penalized team with 40 accepted penalties.

"We coach it — I'm sure just like everybody does," McCarthy said. "Frankly, the first three weeks of penalties we really didn't factor into our statistics. I just think the up and downness and not knowing the crews, things like that. Because every crew has tendencies, too. Not that you try to play differently based on the referees, but I think it's important to recognize weekly what the crew has been emphasizing. I really think since Week 4, being with the officials that have history, have tendencies, watching the tendencies of the league, what they're emphasizing, the communication that is given through the league office, I think that is part of the (improvement), in my opinion."

— 49.8: The difference in third-down passer ratings between Rodgers (111.5) and Manning (61.7). While Rodgers has completed 63.7 percent with seven touchdowns and one interception, Manning has completed 50.5 percent with three touchdowns and five interceptions.

— 42.1: The Packers' third-down conversion rate ranks eighth in the NFL. Because of Manning's struggles, the Giants are 17th at 37.3 percent.

— 18: The combined advantage in turnover ratio, with New York tied for fifth at plus-11 and Green Bay tied for eighth at plus-7. Here will be the key: The Giants are third in the NFL with 27 takeaways while the Packers are tied for second with just nine giveaways.

"It's right at the top," Rodgers said of turnovers. "When you're talking about winning games, whether it's in late November or December or in the playoffs, you have to win the turnover battle. Last year, we lost it at home in the playoffs because I think we were minus a couple in the turnover margin and that directly led to us getting beat, so when you're taking care of the football and taking it away like our defense did last week, you're going to win a lot of those games."

Four-point stance

— The Packers are second in the NFL with 33 sacks, behind Denver's 35. Those sacks are divvied up between 14 players. Not only is that No. 2 in the league — Cleveland has 15 players with at least one full sack – but it's second-most in franchise history. The 1987 team had 15 players with a sack. On the other hand, no team has allowed fewer sacks than the Giants' 13.

"Even when you get pressure in there, he's like his brother," Capers said. "In Indy, you get a guy free in the A-gap and you can never sack him. Then, at the end of the season, they'd have 12, 14 sacks. That's kind of the way he plays. You hope that if you can disrupt him, that ball's going to come out of his hands and now guys have vision and they can break and go make plays on the ball.

— The Packers and Saints are tied for the NFL lead with 28 touchdown passes. The Packers, however, are tied with the Jaguars with a league-low two rushing touchdowns.

— Under Capers, the Packers are 24-5 (.828) when they gave up less than 100 rushing yards. The Giants are 10-0 when Ahmad Bradshaw rushes for 100 yards.

— These are two of the NFL's best coaches. McCarthy earned his 75th win last week (including playoffs). McCarthy and Andy Reid are the fastest to reach that milestone among active coaches, doing it in their 114th games. Coughlin, who has two Super Bowl championships, is 17th in NFL history with 160 wins (148 in the regular season, 12 in the playoffs).

Quote of the week

Or, the best thing that was said that we couldn't work into a story ...

Rodgers, on keeping the foot on the gas against a Giants team that is known for comebacks: "I think you have to think about that when you're playing the Giants. Eli has made a living out of making some late fourth-quarter comebacks. Last year we were able to get one there at their place after he had brought them back and tied the game. It's about playing the right way from the first snap to the last snap for us and being consistent. We haven't had that continued consistency this season for whatever reason. We haven't been able to put teams away with regularity. We need to do a better job of starting fast, getting the crowd out of it and making the most of, especially those third-quarter possessions where we've missed out on some points."


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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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