The Green Bay Packers survived a frustrating first half to dominate the Giants for the final 33 minutes of the game. Of course Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, and Julius Peppers all shined in the win, but who were the other key contributors?
LaDarius Gunter – Gunter played a huge role in shutting Odell Beckham Jr. down. He was allowed to be physical at the line of scrimmage, and did a fantastic job in not letting receivers get over the top. His play has improved as much as anyone during the season. Who would have seen that coming?
Gunter is probably the most important player today. If it's a quiet day for him, he's the Player of the Game.
— Andrew (@andrewmertig) January 8, 2017
Jared Cook – Cook didn’t look like he was playing in his first playoff game. I thought the adjustments at halftime, largely centered around using Cook to draw the Linebackers and Safeties attention, which freed up Cobb across the middle. Resigning him needs to be a major priority this offseason.
Jeff Janis – Janis tends to be a personal target of mine, but he was a huge contributor on Special Teams. The Packers dominated the Giants on ST all game, and Janis was a key on returns and as a gunner on punt coverage.
Jacob Schum – Speaking of punt coverage, Schum gave his guys plenty of time to get down the field. He had great hang time and distance, despite kicking a frozen rock most of the game. Schum outplaying Brad Wing was a big factor in the Packers staying in the game with the offense struggling in the first half.
Offensive Line – Going against one of the best d-lines in football, the Packers consistently gave Aaron Rodgers eons of time to throw. We’ll get to see the two best offensive lines in football next week in Dallas.
Dom Capers – I’ve been ripping Janis, Schum, and Capers all season, and they all shut me up (at least for one week). Capers game plan was great, and he got his players to play above their abilities. His number one CB is a guy who came into the season as the 5th guy on the depth chart, his 3rd CB was a Safety, his 4th was on the Practice Squad three weeks ago, and his 5th was a Wide Receiver. Yet they managed to shut down a Quarterback who’s won two Super Bowls and a top 5 WR. They also played well with lead in the 4th quarter, with a tighter zone than we typically see. I don’t know if this is Dom’s last season, but he will go down as one of the best D-Coordinators in NFL history (even if I’m a little hard on him now).
I was sitting at the 5 yard line in the North End Zone for the game. As the first half came to a close, Jared Cook dropped a pass that allowed the clock to stop and the Packers were clearly going to throw up a Hail Mary. I had a flashback to January 2012 when I sat in the same seats watching Eli Manning complete a Hail Mary just before halftime. If someone had a still photo of that pass you could have seen my soul break. I mentioned to the people around me, some my Lambeau friends and some I had known for an hour, that completing the pass would be the sweetest revenge the Packers could have. I could not cheer when Cobb caught the pass. I simply stood in stunned disbelief as everyone jumped around me. That play exorcised some playoff demons the Giants have represented for the Green and Gold. Playing in Dallas also brings back a lot of the 90s playoff angst. January 2017 could be the Packers Playoff Redemption Tour.
Go Pack Go!Andrew Mertig is a a lifelong Packers fan and draft enthusiast. He has covered the NFL draft for radio and television stations in Green Bay. He is currently a host of the Pack-A-Day podcast and a writer for PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter @andrewmertig