The Green Bay Packers could have had an easy game against the New York Giants when they played in week 13. But their own mishaps turned what should have been a comfy win in enemy territory into a nail-biter requiring Aaron Rodgers to come to their rescue.
I happened to be at that game in person. There were three things that struck me about the Packers’ play that day. Ater watching the replay on NFL Network last night for the first time, It just reinforced what I had seen in the stadium.
The Packers hurt themselves in three main ways in that game. I’m confident that if they can “clean it up”, the Packers will be hosting the Saints or the 49ers in the NFC Championship game at Lambeau. Here are my THREE DONT’S:
1) Don’t give up the big play.
Officially, “big plays” are defined as plays of 25 yards or more. The Packers secondary went the extra mile against the Giants, giving up 3 pass plays of over 40 yards in their first meeting. All three led to scores, a total of 17 points handed to the Giants. This falls very nicely into something I read today in the Wall Street Journal’s sports pages (yes they cover sports – from a purely analytical view).
The Journal reports (according to Stats, LLC), since 2008, teams with at least three more big plays than their opponents have won 80.2% of those games. Teams with just one more big play than their opponent won 60.5% of those games. The Packers had 2 big plays (one less than the Giants) in that game, both passes down the sideline to Jordy Nelson. So the Packers actually bucked the big play odds by winning that game.
My point here is make the Giants earn it. Force them to drive the field in smaller chunks, make them run more plays where something can go wrong. Which leads me into #2:
2) Don’t drop interceptions.
I watched the replay of the game last night. Without particularly looking for it, I saw at least 4 plays where the Packers dropped sure interceptions. In three cases, the ball bounced off a player’s hands.
Eli Manning will make some questionable throws and give you opportunities like that. Especially under pressure, something the Packers actually did a god job of that day. There was only one official sack, but the Packers were in Manning’s face a lot (BJ Raji and CMIII were particularly effective). Make it hard for Manning to see, and he will make mistakes like the throw that Clay Matthews turned into a pick six.
There were other similar opportunities. If the Packers would have converted only half of them, they could have had a comfortable win and avoided the nail-biting.
3) Don’t drop passes.
Seriously. Six drops total in that game. Many in the second half, when the Packers could have pulled away. Instead, they twice had to punt the ball back to the Giants, despite moving the ball well. Not much else to say here. Unless he’s under serious siege, Rodgers will dissect the Giants’ secondary – assuming the Packers CATCH THE BALL!
The Giants played their best game of the season that Sunday, and despite that effort, they lost at home, even with the Packers helping them out as described above. I started out the week concerned about the Giant’s pass rush, especially with Osi Umenyora, who missed the last game, now back and playing. But the more I think about what I saw in person and then watching the replay, the more confident I grow that the Packers will be “just fine.” As long as they don’t…
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.