For pretty much the first half of the season, the New York Giants looked like the same team that won the Super Bowl last year; great defense and an Eli Manning who steps up in the fourth quarter each and every time. Then came a slide, and the usual doubts. Now, it seems the Giants have found the right formula to put them back on track.
The last time someone beat the Green Bay Packers by this much (28 points, 38-10) was in the 2008 season, when they lost to the New Orleans Saints. Just like in last season’s NFC playoffs, the combination of Manning’s efficiency the the Giants’ mismatches (in their favor) on defense made it pretty much impossible for Rodgers, arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, to make his usual impact on the game.
He was sacked five times, already sacked more after 11 games than he was the entirety of last season. The Giants kept getting to him, giving up on trying to stop the run. They simply denied the long ball, with Rodgers attempting only one pass for 30 yards or more (connecting with Jordy Nelson for a 61 yard touchdown). He simply saw Kiwanuka in his face all night long.
More on how bad the Giants made Rodgers look? He was under duress, sacked or hit while throwing on 17 of 33 (51.5 percent) dropbacks. That was the highest percentage of dropbacks a qualifying quarterback was pressured in a single game this season. It was a season-low 17.3 Total QBR in Sunday’s loss to the Giants. It was his lowest in a game with at least 20 action plays since Week 4 of 2008 against the Buccaneers (6.8), his 4th career NFL start.
On the other side of the ball, Eli Manning finally looked like, well, the Eli Manning of the first half of the season and for most of the last one. No interceptions thrown, no shooting himself and his team in the foot. He reached 200 touchdown passes in just 132 career games, the fourth fewest games needed to reach the mark by any active QB by throwing three passes to no interceptions, completing 16-30 for 249 yards. He had quite the run support to help him through Andre Brown (64 yards, TD) and Ahamd Bradshaw (58 yards, TD), as the Giants averaged 4.7 yards per carry. Too bad they lost Andre Brown to a broken leg.
It seemed like the Packers didn’t know what hit them. The Giants have a tendency to do that; it just hasn’t happened in a few weeks. Suddenly, the offense was clicking on all cylinders. The protection on Manning was back to what it should be, sacked only once throughout the game. Manning’s arm was back to normal. Maybe the week off and a bit of rest to the gunsslinger was all that Manning needed.
I never thought my arm was tired, never felt like it. After a week off, you come back to practice, it felt good, alive, balls coming out with a little pop on it. After 10 weeks, it definitely needed a little rest.
With Manning playing like that; with the defense and especially the front four feeling they have some secondary support once again, the NFC East is pretty much a done deal. It’s the beginning of the last stretch of the season, and the win over the Packers means the Giants are heating up, once again, at the perfect time.