The Green Bay Packers overcame a pedestrian first quarter, scoring the final 24 points of the game on their way to a dominating 38-13 win over the New York Giants in the opening round of the postseason.
Aaron Rodgers continued his hot streak, throwing for 362 yards and four touchdowns to pace the Packers’ offense and set up a matchup with the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round. But despite what ended up being a resounding victory, Green Bay was fortunate that the Giants couldn’t’ get out of their own way early in the game.
With under three minutes left in the first half, the Giants were still holding onto a 6-0 lead. The deficit could easily have been bigger for Green Bay, as Odell Beckham, Jr. and Sterling Shepard were both guilty of drops on what should have been touchdowns.
Instead, Green Bay found itself down just a single score despite putting up a total of seven yards in the opening quarter. Still without any points and approaching the two-minute warning, Rodgers and the offense caught fire and established momentum that would last for the remainder of the game.
Taking over possession with roughly three minutes left in the half, the Packers quickly went 38 yards in three plays, capped off by an acrobatic Davante Adams’ catch after Rodgers expertly escaped the pocket. Just like that, Green Bay had gained a 7-6 advantage. The home team would lead the rest of the way, but the offense was just getting started.
After a quick Giants’ three and out, the Packers got the ball back with 1:38 left in the second quarter. Green Bay reached the New York 42-yard line, where #12 worked his magic again. As time expired, he lofted a Hail Mary to the end zone that found its way into the arms of Randall Cobb. Even with early inefficiencies, the Packers now led 14-6.
The Giants made things interesting in the third quarter thanks to a gutsy, questionable call by Mike McCarthy. Leading by eight and facing fourth and one, the Packers elected to go for it. Ty Montgomery was stuffed in the backfield, and Eli Manning took advantage of a blown coverage two plays later for a 41-yard score. Green Bay was suddenly clinging to a one-point lead.
But the Giants would fail to score for the remainder of the game, while the Packers were just getting started. Green Bay recaptured the momentum with a 63-yard drive that ended in Cobb’s second touchdown of the night. The defense buckled down, forcing two straight New York punts, which the Packers responded to with a field goal and another impressive Randall Cobb touchdown—his NFL postseason record-tying third of the night.
What seemed destined to be a close game quickly became a blowout. With the Giants desperately trying to claw back from an 18-point deficit, Clay Matthews forced and recovered an Eli Manning fumble to set up the Packers’ final scoring drive, a nearly six-minute affair that ended in an Aaron Ripkowski rushing touchdown. The Giants’ final drive was put to an end after Damarious Randall intercepted Manning in the end zone with less than a minute remaining.
The Packers showed a lot of heart that was completely nonexistent amidst the team’s four game losing streak, and responding to the early adversity gives reason for optimism moving forward. Green Bay ended the game with advantages across the board, including a nearly 10-minute advantage in time of possession (34:31-25:29).
The win marks what will be the final game played at Lambeau Field this season, with any remaining postseason games coming on the road. The Packers will need to avoid such a slow start next week against the top seeded Cowboys, but Green Bay could beat almost anyone if they play like they did over the final 33 minutes.
Jordy Nelson left the game early for the Packers, and his absence would be a huge blow on the postseason run. But for one day at least, the rest of the team picked up the slack. Adams and Cobb finished with 125 and 116 yards, respectively, and Jared Cook (48 yards) continues to make himself a major factor in the passing game.
Meanwhile, the defense gave up a lot of yards early and suffered from a few blown coverages on big plays, but overall they limited the damage and posted a respectable game. Beckham was largely a non-factor thanks to a few crucial drops, finishing with just 28 yards on four catches. Tavarres King led the Giants with 73 yards and New York’s only touchdown.
Manning threw for 299 yards and was sharp to start the game, but struggled as time progressed and committed two turnovers. Neither team had a dominant running game, though Christine Michael brought explosiveness and energy to give Green Bay a slightly more balanced attack as they tried to run down the clock.
The Packers now face their second straight NFC East opponent and will be looking to avenge their 30-16 dismantling to Dallas from earlier this year. A win would give Green Bay its second NFC Championship berth in the last three years, though getting there will require a 60-minute, full team effort next week. It will be a tough match up, but Rodgers and company are capable of pulling off the upset if they continue to play like they have for the past seven weeks.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .