Packers vs. Giants: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 37-20 Loss to New York All Green Bay Packers All the Time
The Giants pointed their ship to the NFC Championship Game with a 37-20 win over the Packers. (Photo: Darron Cummings, GBPG)

The Green Bay Packers (15-2) picked an awful time to play their worst game of the 2011 season, and the New York Giants more than capitalized on it Sunday in knocking the defending champions out of the playoffs with a 37-20 win at Lambeau Field in the NFC Divisional Round.

Here are five observations from the game:

1. Capping a tough week

There was some this week, including Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who opined that the Packers could be more focused on Sunday in light of the terrible tragedy that struck that the Packers family early this week. But maybe those people underestimated how difficult the transition could be from a Friday funeral to a Sunday football game.

The Packers made their fair share of mental mistakes on the offensive side of the football—dropped passes, missed throws, back-breaking fumbles—that were very uncharacteristic of the Packers in 2011. Could that have partly been due to a week of grieving for the Philbin family and missing their offensive coordinator? Professional football players get paid a lot of money to separate the two, but these guys are human beings, not football robots.

2. Rusting the machine

Hindsight is 20/20, but you’d have to think Mike McCarthy will do some self-reflection on his decision to sit starters during the final week of the season. His team Sunday looked like one who hadn’t played a full game together in three weeks. The Packers offense, in particular, was never able to find the kind of rhythm that seemed so easy to achieve during the regular season.

Depending on who you ask, the Packers dropped five to eight passes on Sunday. Every single one of them was a momentum-killer. They also lost three fumbles—as many as they had all season—on their way to a season-high four turnovers. Finally, and maybe most importantly, the quarterback was far from his best on a night when the Packers needed him to be.

Would playing the starters in Week 17 have made a difference in any of those? Maybe, maybe not. But the Packers certainly looked like a rusty football team on Sunday. Execution all-around was in short supply.

3. More of the same

Packers fans wondered all season what would happen if the offense struggled and a hot quarterback was on the opposing sidelines. They got their first taste of that answer in Kansas City, and the Giants and Eli Manning showed Sunday that wasn’t an aberration. Manning threw for 274 first-half yards, including a 37-yard Hail Mary touchdown with no time left in the half, and finished with 330 yards and three scores.

The Packers’ defense did have a couple of positives—a second quarter interception by Morgan Burnett after pressure from Desmond Bishop, and no first downs allowed in the third quarter—but we mostly saw the same lacking defense on Sunday as the Packers showed all season. The pass rush was almost non-existant, receivers ran free in the secondary and the tackling was miserable. The Giants converted several third-and-longs where all three of those problems were visible. One turnover simply wasn’t enough to bailout that side of the ball Sunday.

Big changes should be coming to the Packers’ defense. I think defensive coordinator Dom Capers will be back, but the personnel has to be better. There’s no easy fix, either. I’ll have more on that in the coming days.

4. Lacking the big one

The Packers had the second-highest scoring offense in NFL history this season largely due to an abundance of big plays in the passing game. Even when the offense lacked rhythm for stretches, you could count on one or two big plays that would break open games. One of those plays never materialized Sunday, but you can’t say the Packers didn’t have their chances.

Rodgers kicked off the blown opportunities by missing a wide open Greg Jennings in the first quarter. Later on, Jennings had a catchable ball bounce off his hands after getting a step behind Antrell Rolle in the end zone. Rodgers also had the ball stripped from him while preparing to unleash a sure-touchdown to Jennings in the third. And finally, Jermichael Finley stutter-stepped his route on a third-and-5 play in the fourth and Rodgers led him too far. If any of those plays are made—and there isn’t one you wouldn’t expect the guilty parties to execute—it’s a whole different game.

5. Jumbled thoughts

This isn’t a singular observation, but more a mix of random thoughts. Try and stick with me here through them all: Questionable decision from McCarthy to call the onside kick in the first half. He’s pulled off that move in the past, but the timing of this choice didn’t add up. Can’t kill him though after praising his genius on the move so many times…Desmond Bishop and Donald Driver showed up. Brad Jones had a couple impact plays. But those three were in the minority Sunday….The Packers have a huge decision to make with Jermichael Finley. He’d be hard to let walk, but few players are as frustrating as the enigmatic tight end. I still bet on the franchise tag, but who knows…The Packers offensive line played better than anyone expected them to, especially with Chad Clifton and Marshall Newhouse shifted in and out at left tackle. Surprisingly enough, the Giants defense fared better when they brought extra pressure against Rodgers. He typically tore apart blitzing defenses in 2011…Without being a prisoner of the moment, I think you could call this the worst Packers playoff loss in franchise history. 15-1 regular season, MVP quarterback, second-highest scoring offense, and a one-and-done showing in the Divisional Round at home.

Finally, a HUGE thanks to all the readers and commenters during this season. You guys helped make my first full season helping to cover the greatest football team in the world a wonderful experience. I occupy a small part of the Packers blogosphere, but I hope you enjoyed the majority of what I wrote for you guys this season. Thanks again.


Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on


27 thoughts on “Packers vs. Giants: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 37-20 Loss to New York

  1. How in any way possible can you still feel torn about keeping Finley or letting him go?
    This is utter madness,nonsense,mystical belief,Easter Bunny,Santa Clause,Genies,I will win the lottery,crystal ball,double team-defense nightmare crap.
    To give this finless fish called Jermichael(aka Wanda) Finley the money he wants would be self gutting.
    There is a waiting line for TEs to hold the jockstraps of guys like Gronc,Davis,Gram,and Finley hasn’t even made that list.
    Please stop with the Finley defense.This game was his court hearing,even his agent failed to show up.

    1. So say he goes to New England and the Patriots have two bomb tight ends. Or worse, he Joins the Vikings and the Vikings pull out a win or some crap like that.

      Just imagine if he plays for another team and he has an amazing year, which he is FULLY capable of doing! Franchising him is a risk worth taking, and I wouldn’t even think about it.

      He just needs to fix the “dropsies” and he’ll be fine.

      1. I don’t care about the possible game they may play well against us but the 16 games he doesn’t play well for us.

  2. Perhaps one of the biggest factors in the New York Giants winning the game against the Green Bay Packers was the Giants stripping the ball at every given opportunity.

  3. One of the big difference in last years defense verses this season is the lack of pressure that the D line put on quarterbacks. It allowed Qbs to have plenty of time to survey the field and find an open receiver. Eli Manning, along with many other QBs in the league when pressured, will make mistakes. By not re-signing Jenkins was a huge mistake in my opinion. Games like this, when your offense is a little off, you can rely on your D to come to the rescue. TT you need to look in the mirror on this one.

  4. It was like watching the 1970’s or 1980’s Packers.I was at the game with my Grandson and when I got home 4 hours later every piece of Packer stuff was gone…… wife did not take the loss well. It was unfortunately like the old days.

  5. So, you knew what was going to happen. Good pick – “Traitor” (just kidding).

    There will be much off-season work to do. We need to tell TT and MM what to do so they don’t screw up again. Hope you’ll stay with us throughout the off-season.

    One observation, GB went into the season with a defensive backfield that everyone (including all of us at Al’s site)felt would be a team strength. It turned out to be a weakness. Why did that happen? Here’s a thoguht. Capers could not play the DB’s the same way he did last season. He had NO DAMN RUSH that would force quicker and less acurate throws. His answer was to get away from the “press zone” of last year and go to a deep cover, soft zone. The backs were so far off the catch they allowed the receivers to get a full head of steam and as a result they were unable to tackle anyone (I’ll bet that the Pack was dead last in the NFL for YAC). Caper’s decision to play soft created a problem that eventually cuased the results we saw yesterday. I’m not criticising him, it may have been the best way to deal with the total lack of DL competence.

    I heard Larry explain to Wayne yesterday, near the end of the game, that he thought Mathews would not have a long career unless they got some rush help. His reason was that they have two and sometimes three blockers on Mathews at all times because they aren’t at all concerned about the rest of the Packer rushers. Priority #1 – D line – Neal was not and probably will not be the answer. Priority #2 – ROLB the current batch is playing like the UDFA and low round picks they are.

    And we’re just getting started! Keep up the good work Zack.

    1. Ron, as you said, Capers was forced to pick his poison. But how do we explain a cornerback on a split wide receiver, playing 8 yards back on 3rd and one with manning in the shotgun?

    2. You’re right Al, I can’t explain it. But, I’ll try. Another one of those miscommunications we /they talked about constantly through the season. Burnett maybe a good Safety – He ain’t no leader and the guys on cover are not known for their ability to understand directions. That, as I’m sure you are saying, can be dropped on Capers. It should have been resolved over the 16 game regular season.

  6. I got over this loss really fast, because except for Driver and perhaps Bishop no one showed up. Big mistake to rest players. But just the pathetic breakdowns. imagine that no one FRONTED Hicks on that Hail Mary. No way, I guess, we could expect Tramon and Shields to play at last years levels. They regressed to the mean; Peprah who was serviceable last year was a down and out disaster this year, and Burnett was out of position too much of the time. And how in the world can you play soft zone with linebackers like Hawk who operates in slow motion. and yes, let Finley go. it is a mistake to keep touting his talent and pretending he is worth paying more than average. Jennings routinely makes that catch all season long. now i am just incoherent. McCarthy’s onsides kick was an obvious vote of no confidence in the D; his view is it does not matter where we give the Giants the ball, because we will give up third and longs at about a 100 percent rate. and yes, who did not know that this was going to happen. We all watched that D this year, and all watched the drops.

  7. Famous words spoken by MR.Miyagi.
    “Walk on left side…safe,walk on right side…safe,walk in middle…squish like grape”.

    This pertains to the defense and the theory that TT not signing Jenkins IS the reason for its downward spiral.It wasn’t but it was part of it.

    The loss of Jenkins is the walk left side safe and the loss of Collins was the walk right side safe but,the loss of Jenkins and Collins made us walk in the middle,as did every offense this season,squish…just like grape.

    In hindsight,it may have been better to move Woodson when Collins went out and have half the street covered at least.

    1. Good point Taryn, Wood could have been that DB leader. I guess Capers was more interested in the turnovers rather than leadership of the DB’s.

  8. Everyone calling this the worst playoff loss needs to get some distance and perspective. ‘4th and 26’ was far worse. 2007 and the aftermath was horrible. This loss was bad, but we have a bright future of competitive football ahead.

    I think the near perfect season quieted the leaders from last seasons SB run. Woodson rallied that defense last year with inspiring leadership. Rogers and CM3 nearly willed the team to victory. But not this year. We needed a leader to step up and galvanize the team in the wake of last weeks tragedy. MM needs to take the next step as an inspirational coach, not just a playcaller.

    1. What could MM say that would have,in any manner concerning “inspiration”be more than Joe Philbin showing up and coaching so soon after his loss.

      Inspiration wasn’t a problem but,committing the sins of basic football at the right moment for the opponent,lost this game and rightfully so.

  9. Does anybody have any idea hoq bad Alex Green’s injury is? That could have an impact on the Grant decision…

  10. JERMICHAEL FINLEY: Keep Finley for one more year, make it clear that this is his last chance to get a long-term contract. He can fix the dropsies, but will he bring the same attitude towards that as James Jones? I think only the franchise tag can answer that.

    AARON RODGERS: Look, I understand that the great quarterbacks win in the postseason, because that’s really what matters. But what exactly more was Rodgers supposed to do? 5-8 dropped passes would have given him above 60% completion, and that’s what they’re asked to do. It’s not like it’s impossible for the rest of the offense to be out of sync. Honestly, I can’t put any blame on Rodgers for this.

    CULLEN JENKINS: I know I’m in the minority here, but letting Jenkins walk isn’t all bad as it seems. The guy had 4 sacks in the first 3 games this year. He had 1.5 for the rest of the season. To me, that says the guy is OLD and ran out of gas, and that was while working with Jason Babin and Trent Cole.

    Still, I guess he was an upgrade over Neal, Wynn or Wilson.

    A.J. HAWK: Am I the only person who’s thinking of possibly trading Hawk? Seriously, we’ve been overpaying Hawk ever since we drafted him. He’s not as productive as Bishop, and Bishop is paid less. Seriously, now here’s a gamble worth taking, unlike the one on Jenkins.

    Also, we deserve to see more out of this draft class than just Randall Cobb’s amazing return game. Get smith out there!

    1. Great pts Chad.Paying Jenkins would of hampered our future and with his injury record there was a good chance he would of been on the disabled list. Franchise Finley it’s a great gamble because he has much to prove or should I say improve. Good luck trading Hawk with that contract.

    2. Chad,

      I’d love to see them deal Hawk, but who’s going to want him bad enough to give up something of value?

    3. To say the loss of Jenkins IS the reason for the defensive fail is ridiculous.
      To even consider a or else/one more chance approach to Finley is losing leadership.
      Hawk played as well as the rest of the defense.

  11. Zack good article and great comments from never comes down to one thing that goes wrong…I think the distractions were too much to overcome. Not only the funeral but interview go arounds and commercials. There also seemed to be a sense of entitlement for SBXLVI due to the season record. They were no longer hunting. I’m not insinuating that the defense was a hidden weak spot. In fact I have commented on the lack fundementals in tackling that just drive me nuts as an ex-safety. The defense has no killer instinct, lacks take no prisoners attitude. I know some will say thats the way the whole league is nowadays but I will disagree. The Giants Ravens Niners all have that defensive mindset.
    Thanks for the season Pack! It was good while it lasted.

  12. TAG & TRADE, TAG & TRADE! (Of course this means get a trade partner first, tag him, then trade him to that team.)

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