Posted by Holly Phelps on December 23, 2010 Jump To Comments
Surprisingly, the beleaguered punter at Lambeau Field on Sunday won’t be playing for the Packers. Giants rookie Matt Dodge was widely berated for doing what no punter should EVER do. That’s right, on the last play of the game, instead of kicking it out of bounds, he kicked it to a 300 lb lineman…oh, wait, no. No, he kicked it to DeSean Jackson. One game-winning punt return for a touchdown later…
The story of New York’s late-game meltdown writes itself. Yet, despite squandering a 31-10 fourth quarter lead, the Giants control their own destiny. If they win on Sunday, they clinch a playoff berth and sentence the Packers to their living rooms. Safety Antrel Rolle has already guaranteed a Giants victory.
But, for the sake of argument, let’s not take Rolle’s word for it, and instead look inside the first matchup of these teams since the 2007 conference title game.
The biggest challenge facing the Packers on Sunday is the Giants defensive line. Justin Tuck, Barry Cofield, Chris Canty, and Osi Umenyiora comprise the toughest front the Packers will face all year. If solid run defense can keep Jackson and Kuhn from getting into a rhythm, watch out. They are 2nd in the league in sacks, and will almost certainly get Rodgers on the ground. For the Packers to give Rodgers time to attack the Giants secondary – and not put him in jeopardy of yet another concussion – they will need strong performances from every member of the offensive line.
New York has a big-play offense itself. Eli Manning is third in the league with 50 passes of 20 yards or more, and his 28 touchdowns are tied for fourth overall. With receiver Hakeem Nicks returned from injury and Mario Manningham developing in his absence, Manning has weapons to put up points on anyone. Not to mention, in addition to blocking for Ahmad Bradshaw and mauler Brandon Jacobs, the Giants O-line is second-best in pass-protection. BJ Raji and Clay Matthews may find it difficult to get to Manning, but they still must try.
Frankly, the most you can hope to do against an offense as balanced as the Giants is to “bend but not break.” Luckily, this is the Packer defense’s M.O. And, happily, the Giants offense may help out the Packers by turning the ball over – something they do with great frequency. Manning leads the league with 20 interceptions, and the offense has lost 14 additional fumbles.
If the Packers defense wants to regain its swagger, you couldn’t ask for a better opportunity. No matter how many yards they give up, if the Packers D can keep Manning out of the end zone, Green Bay has a good chance to win.
Late-season meltdowns aren’t news to New York. Just a year ago, the team started with five straight wins, followed by a four-game skid. Then, with playoff hopes still alive at 8-6, they suddenly folded, losing to Carolina 41-9 and the Vikings 44-7.
Obviously, different year, different team. And, maybe that players-only meeting on Monday purged all their bad juju. Still, you gotta wonder whether this isn’t becoming something of a pattern. In San Diego, Norv Turner’s teams consistently start slow before ripping off a string of victories into December. Are Tom Coughlin’s Giants about to start their late-season slump?
Green Bay can’t afford to sit back and wait for the Giants to wave a white flag, because New York understands that a win gets them to the postseason. Instead, the Packers must see this as a playoff game already — one in which they must play better than the last time these two teams met.
Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays!