November 23, 2017

Giants 37, Packers 20

After defeating the Atlanta Falcons at home last week, the New York Giants made it to the next round of the playoffs and headed up to to the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field to take on the defending Super Bowl Champion, Green Bay Packers.

The Giants got the ball first and started at their own 20.  Quarterback Eli Manning completed passes to wide receivers Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz that moved the ball to the Packer 42.  A short run by running back Ahmad Bradshaw and a 13-yard pass to tight end Travis Beckum got the Giants a first down at the Packer 18.  They would get as far as the 13 and kicker Lawrence Tynes made a 31-yard field goal to give the Giants an early 3-0 lead with eight and a half minutes to go in the first quarter.

Packer kick returner Randall Cobb returned the kick to the Packer 21. On the return, it looked like he fumbled, but the replay showed his knee was down.  Two passes from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to tight end Jermichael Finley and a pass to wide receiver Greg Jennings got them to the  Giant 31.  The drive would stall at the 29 and kicker Mason Crosby made a 47-yard field goal to tie the game at three with five and a half minutes to go in the first quarter.

On third and 11 from their own 19, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks caught a pass for 15 yards to move the ball to the 34.  Manning found Nicks again on the very next play.  Nicks caught the pass, bounced off some Packer defenders and ran the rest of the way for a 66-yard touchdown to give the Giants a 10-3 lead.

The kickoff by Tynes went out of bounds and the Packers got good field position at their own 40.  Some running by Rodgers and running back Ryan Grant moved the ball to the Giant 49.  An 11-yard pass to wide receiver Jordy Nelson gave them another first down at the 38.  From the 38, wide receiver Greg Jennings caught a six-yard pass and appeared to fumble.  Replay showed the play over and over again and it sure looked like the ball was coming out before his knee was down.  But the replay official didn’t see it that way and ruled Jennings was down.  An offside penalty on the Giants and a 16-yard pass to wide receiver James Jones got the Packers another first down at the 11.  On second and seven from the eight, Rodgers found fullback John Kuhn for a touchdown and that knotted the score at ten.

With momentum in their favor, the Packers tried an onside kick.  It was recovered by the Giants and they had good field position at the packer 41-yard line.  A pass to Beckum and a nine-yard run by Bradshaw moved the ball to the 21.  That was as far as the Giants would go and a 39-yard field goal attempt was blocked.  The Giants couldn’t capitalize on the good field position and the score remained tied at ten.

After a punt by the Packers, the Giants moved the ball through the air from their own 20 to the Packer 34.  On second and five from the 34, Manning looked for Nicks, but the pass was picked off by safety Morgan Burnett at the 13.  He returned it 12 yards to the Packer 25.

On third and seven from the 28, Rodgers found Jennings for a gain of ten and a first down.  From the 38, Kuhn ran up the left side and the ball came loose.  Safety Antrel Rolle picked it up and returned it nine yards to the Packer 34.  Once again, the Giants couldn’t get the ball into the end zone and settled for a 23-yard field goal to put them up 13-10 with just under two minutes to go in the first half.

The Packers couldn’t get anything going and punted.  The Giants took over with 41 seconds remaining.  A nine-yard catch and a 23-yard run by Bradshaw gave the Giants a chance to try a long field goal from the Packer 37 before halftime.  But the kicking unit stayed on the sideline.  Manning took the snap and launched a bomb to the left side of the end zone where it was caught by Nicks for a 37-yard touchdown to end the half.  At halftime the Giants had the momentum and a 20-10 lead.

Another touch-back got the Packers the ball at their own 20.  A 14-yard pass to Jennings and a 15-yard scramble by Rodgers got the Packers to their 49.  A 16-yard pass to wide receiver Donald Driver moved them into Giant territory.  On first and ten from the 30, defensive end Osi Umenyiora sacked Rodgers and forced a fumble that was recovered by safety Deon Grant.  However, the Giants couldn’t capitalize on the turnover and punted.

Passes to Driver and running back James Starks got the Packers to midfield.  Starks got the call on the next two plays and the Packers found themselves in Giant territory again.  On third and five from the 17, Rodgers fired a pass to Finley across the middle.  Finley couldn’t hang on to it and Crosby was called on for  a 35-yard field goal attempt.  It was good and the Packers now trailed 20-13.

The Giants punted on their next possession and the Packers once again moved the ball into Giant territory.  But, on fourth and five from the Giant 39, Rodgers was sacked by linebacker Michael Boley for a loss of six yards.  Clinging to a seven-point lead, the Giants knew they had to get a drive going and get some more points.  Passes to Cruz and Manningham and a defensive holding penalty moved the ball to the Packer 28.  Another pass to Cruz put the ball at the 17.  Runs by Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs inched the Giants a little deeper into Packer territory.  But on third and five from the 12, Manning was sacked by linebacker Brad Jones.  Tynes made his 35-yard field goal attempt and the Giants now led 23-13 with just under eight minutes to go in the game.

On second and five from the 34, Rodgers found Grant for a gain of ten. Grant was hit by safety Kenny Phillips and the ball was picked up and returned to the Packer four-yard line by linebacker Chase Blackburn.  On first and goal, Manning hooked up with Manningham for a four-yard touchdown to give the Giants a 30-13 lead with 6:48 to go in the game.

Facing a 17-point deficit, Rodgers knew he had to get his team going.  On third and ten from the 24, a pass to Driver fell incomplete.  However, a roughing the passer penalty was called on Umenyiora and that gave the Packers a first down at the 39.  A pass to Cobb for 21 and a 16-yard scramble by Rodgers got them down to the Giant 24.  On second and two from the 16, Driver caught a 16-yard touchdown pass to make it 30-20 with 4:45 to go.

An onside kick by Crosby was recovered at the 50 by Cruz and the Giants knew a couple of first downs would get them a win and a trip to San Francisco.  On third and 11, Manning found Cruz wide open for a gain of 17.  Bradshaw ran up the left side for 24 yards to give the Giants a first and goal at the ten.  On second and 14, Jacobs ran up the right side for a touchdown and that gave the Giants a commanding 37-20 lead with 2:36 to go.  One last desperate attempt by Rodgers was picked off by Grant and the Giants came away with a huge playoff win on the road.

For the Giants, Eli Manning completed 21 of 33 for 330 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.  Hakeem Nicks caught two touchdown passes and he and Victor Cruz combined for 12 catches for 239 yards.  Brandon Jacobs ran for a touchdown and he and Ahmad Bradshaw combined for 95 yards on 21 carries.  Defensively, the Giants forced four turnovers, allowed 25 first downs and 388 total yards.  They sacked Rodgers four times and Michael Boley led the team with eight solo tackles, two sacks, three tackles for a loss and one pass defensed.

For the Packers, it was an uncharacteristic day for them as the receivers dropped passes throughout the game and they fumbled the ball away three times.  Aaron Rodgers completed 26 of 46 for 264 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.  He spread the ball around to nine different receivers and Donald Driver led the team with three catches for 45 yards and a touchdown.  Rodgers also led the team in rushing with 66 yards on seven carries.  Grant and Starks combined for 77 yards on 14 carries.  Defensively, the Packers allowed 19 first downs, 420 total yards, forced only one turnover and sacked Manning only once.  Safety Charlie Peprah led the team with nine solo tackles and one tackle for a loss.

The Giants will be heading out to San Francisco to take on the 49ers on Sunday at 6:30 eastern time.  They met in week ten at San Francisco and the 49ers came away with a  27-20 victory.  As I mentioned in my Saints-49ers article, they met in the playoffs in 2003 and the 49ers came back from 24 points down and won 39-38.  Will the upcoming meeting be just as exciting?  Time will tell.

 

 

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: QB Kevin Kolb returned last week and the Cardinals won, but Kolb still didn’t play all that well. He was constantly throwing passes into the ground…..RB Beanie Wells is battling knee, thumb and hamstring injuries which has limited his practice time this week, but he still should play versus the 49ers on Sunday.

Atlanta Falcons: QB Matt Ryan has just not been able to take that next step this season. For the Falcons to advance deep into the playoffs, they will need him to do so or they will have no chance of beating the Packers or Saints…..RB Michael Turner is dealing with a groin injury that certainly seemed to slow him down last week, but the Texans’ defense may also have had something to do with his performance. This week he gets the Panthers, a much better matchup.

Baltimore Ravens: Some consider the Ravens to be the best team in the AFC, but I’m just not feeling it. I’m not sure I trust QB Joe Flacco to raise his game to an elite level when it matters. Even though the Ravens beat the Steelers twice, I still think the Steelers may be the best overall team…..LB Ray Lewis still isn’t practicing due to turf toe and is unlikely to play once again on Sunday.

Buffalo Bills: The injuries just keep coming for Buffalo as TE Scott Chandler won’t play this week due to an ankle injury and K Rian Lindell was officially placed on IR, ending his season…..LB Nick Barnett has had a very good first season for the Bills, already racking up 97 tackles. He would seem to be a must play in IDP leagues.

Carolina Panthers: WR Steve Smith’s production has been down of late even though the Panthers running game has picked up. Smith could certainly use some help to take the defense’s attention off of him. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to give QB Cam Newton another target to throw to, not to mention Smith is getting up there in age and could see a drop off in his numbers at any time.

Chicago Bears: Things just keep getting worse and worse for the Bears. First they lose QB Jay Cutler with a thumb injury, now they may have lost RB Matt Forte with a knee injury…..What makes the Forte injury even more interesting is that this is the last year of his contract as he and the Bears have been at odds all season long on an extension. It would seem business wise that it would be a good decision for Forte not to rush himself back, making sure he’s 100% healthy next season.

Cincinnati Bengals: It seems the sand may be running out in the hourglass for the Bengals as they were wrecked last week by Pittsburgh. They’re going to be a good team, but they still need time…..RB Cedric Benson is dealing with a foot injury that caused him to miss practice Thursday. He could still play though as he missed practice last Thursday as well.

Cleveland Browns: The Browns are going to have to make a decision this off-season. Do they believe in QB Colt McCoy, or do they draft a QB in the first round of April’s draft? They should have a top ten pick and could select one of the more highly rated quarterbacks that will be available. Of course they still need WRs and may need a RB also if Peyton Hillis leaves. Yeah, they don’t have many playmakers on this team.

Dallas Cowboys: Head coach Jason Garrett has been lit up this week for “icing” his own kicker. That isn’t actually what happened. You can clearly see special teams coach Joe DeCamillis and kicker coach Chris Boniol ask Garrett to call timeout…..What Garrett should be taking criticism for was not calling a timeout after WR Dez Bryant caught the pass at the Cardinals 32-yard line with 26 seconds left. Dallas had two TOs left and should have used one there so they could run a couple more plays to get in better FG range. It wasn’t like K Dan Bailey was having a great day. He missed a FG earlier in the game from 50+ and banked another one off the goalpost, not to mention the league percentage on 50+ yard FGs is 50.2. This is the reason why it’s extremely bewildering that Garrett keeps insisting that he didn’t make an error. Garrett has cost the Cowboys two games this season with conservative play calling (New England). If they miss the playoffs, the blame should fall squarely on him…..The good news is that WR Miles Austin should return this week as should FB Tony Fiammetta.

Denver Broncos: It is hard not to be a believer in QB Tim Tebow after last week’s performance. I know it came against a terrible secondary in Minnesota, but still this was the first game that Tebow had to win with his arm and not his legs…..The Broncos have to be considered the favorite to win the AFC West. Scary I know, but I still think they are one-and-done as they will most likely play Pittsburgh or Baltimore in the 1st round.

Detroit Lions: Head coach Jim Schwartz has done a great job of turning around the Lions, but he needs to get control of his team. They make way too many personal foul penalties and are playing way out of control which may be costing them games as well as yardage…..RB Kevin Smith is still being hampered by an ankle injury and is having a difficult time finishing games. He also hasn’t practiced this week which could lead to RB Maurice Morris having a bigger role this week.

Green Bay Packers: That’s 18 straight wins now for the Packers if you count the playoffs. The only team that I believe can beat them would be the Saints in a shootout. It might just come down to which team had the ball last or who had to kick a FG instead of a TD in a cold weather playoff game in Green Bay that hindered the passing attack (think Brett Favre versus the Giants when the G-Men last won the Super Bowl – it was close to zero degrees that night).

Houston Texans: The Texans just keep finding ways to win even without their best players. WR Andre Johnson’s return to the lineup was short-lived as his hamstring acted up once again and he had to leave the game last week. He has already been labeled as out for this week’s game. The Texans may want to keep him out multiple weeks to get him as healthy as they possibly can for the playoffs…..Another player who is really banged up is LB Brian Cushing who is dealing with injuries to various parts of his body. He’s not going to miss any game time, but certainly won’t be anywhere near full strength either.

Indianapolis Colts: I know the final numbers for QB Dan Orlovsky looked good, but keep in mind a good percentage of those numbers came when the game was out of hand and basically over…..The Colts have finally admitted that it is unlikely QB Peyton Manning returns this season. It seems we have known that for months, yet they still haven’t placed him on IR. It should be very interesting in early March when Manning is due a $28 million bonus. It will be decision time!

Jacksonville Jaguars: It is hard to believe that RB Maurice Jones-Drew leads the league in rushing on a team with virtually no passing game. QB Blaine Gabbert had what may be his best game of the season Monday night versus the Chargers yet was only 19 of 33 for 195 yards and two scores. That is hardly lighting up the scoreboard, but every journey starts with a first step. Hopefully, that’s what this is for the Jaguars and Gabbert.

Kansas City Chiefs: So much for QB Kyle Orton. He comes in for one play, a flea flicker, gets hit and dislocates a finger on his throwing hand. Now he is questionable at best to play this week…..My first question would be if Orton was mentally prepared enough to come in the game in the first half, why didn’t he start? Were the Chiefs really thinking Tyler Palko was going to improve?

Miami Dolphins: RB Daniel Thomas has played better of late, but RB Reggie Bush has so far proven that he can be an every down back. He’s not posting out of this world numbers, but they are solid numbers week in and week out…..LB Kevin Burnett is starting to justify his contract of late as his play has really picked up the past couple of weeks…..The Dolphins are playing great and are certainly one of the hottest teams in the NFL, but this still may not be enough to save Tony Sparano’s head coaching job.

Minnesota Vikings: RB Adrian Peterson is questionable to play Sunday versus Detroit, but Peterson came out Friday and said he is still having a difficult time cutting on that ankle. Assuming that’s true, I wouldn’t let Peterson play. He is your franchise player and you don’t need to be risking his health in a meaningless game…..WR Percy Harvin has picked up the offense with the absence of Peterson, showing why many people believe he is a threat to score anywhere on the field when he has his hands on the ball. He did however tear a ligament in his finger. He’ll play Sunday but could have a problem catching the ball.

New England Patriots: With the Patriots’ schedule for the remainder of the season, I still believe they end up with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs…..We’ve heard a lot of news this week concerning the health of WR Wes Welker as he is dealing with knee and wrist issues. He may be banged up, but it won’t keep him from any game action.

New Orleans Saints: You have to be rooting right now for a Saints-Packers NFC Championship game. If the weather was decent in Green Bay (big if), that could be a game for the ages. It would remind me of the Cowboys versus 49ers in the 90s…..RB Mark Ingram will miss this week’s game with turf toe. This guy just can’t stay healthy. What is even more annoying is that he comes off of two productive weeks where he was finally starting to show why the Saints drafted him so early.

New York Giants: You have to admire the bravado of S Antrel Rolle. After the Giants have lost four straight games, given up close to 80 points and 1,000 yards in the past two games, he still comes out and states the Giants have a great defense.  Yeah, not so much Antrel…..RB Ahmad Bradshaw returned last week. Although his numbers were not great, he should force defenses to respect the run again and not go all out to stop QB Eli Manning and the passing game…..The Giants seemed to have every call go against them last week, including a couple that maybe shouldn’t have. Even if that’s so, it just makes up for the Arizona game where a terrible call gave them the game.

New York Jets: I’m not a big Mark Sanchez fan, but you actually hear some of the talk shows in New York mention that the Jets should sign Peyton Manning (if he becomes available) in the off-season and trade Sanchez. It seems they forget that Sanchez is coming off back-to-back championship game appearances. He must have done something right and no one will know if Manning can truly come back from his neck surgery until he gets into a game, plus it’s not like he’s going to come cheap.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders look like they are in the middle of a late season collapse. They barely showed up last week, getting crushed by Miami, and now they get the Packers. Sure they have injuries, maybe even more than most, but you still have to play the game…..Speaking of injuries, RB Darren MacFadden is out once again this week. This is longest day-to-day injury I’ve ever seen.

Philadelphia Eagles: QB Michael Vick and WR Jeremy Maclin are both expected to return this week. This should give the Eagles’ offense a boost, and it will certainly be interesting to see if Vick does play with more caution as he stated he will earlier this week…..How much money has WR DeSean Jackson cost himself with his play and attitude so far this season?  Jackson is still signed for another season, but the Eagles can’t go through this again. They either need to sign him to a long-term deal and make him happy or ship him to a team that will.

Pittsburgh Steelers: I wrote earlier in this column that Pittsburgh may be the best overall team in the AFC. Well that was before QB Ben Roethlisberger suffered a high ankle sprain in Thursday’s win over Cleveland. Ben probably won’t miss any game time as the Steelers don’t play again until a week from Monday, but Ben’s mobility will certainly be hampered…..Another concern for the Steelers is the health of C Maurkice Pouncey who also suffered a high ankle sprain in the same game.

San Diego Chargers: QB Philip Rivers looked real good Monday night. Granted it came against a Jaguars team that lacks a pass rush or a solid secondary, but it also shows what Rivers can do when all of his receivers are healthy…..Speaking of healthy, RB Ryan Mathews also looked good and could be a future star in San Diego…..I have a feeling the Chargers offense lights it up again this week against Buffalo, everyone else has of late.

San Francisco 49ers: Because of their record, the 49ers are listed as #2 in most power rankings. I just don’t see that and have a very strong feeling they are one-and-done in the playoffs. I think their record is more because of a terrible division and nice schedule. I love their defense, but in the playoffs you need to score points and I just don’t see QB Alex Smith being able to beat Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, their most probable playoff opponent.

Seattle Seahawks: You have to love the way RB Marshawn Lynch is playing of late. He’s actually making the Hawks offense somewhat interesting…..OT Russell Okung was placed on IR this week after tearing his pectoral muscle, a tough blow for Lynch and that running game…..QB Tarvaris Jackson reported this week that his arm strength is back to 100% after his pectoral injury earlier this year.

St. Louis Rams: As if the Rams offense isn’t bad enough, there is a pretty good chance that Tom Brandstater is going to start against Seattle on Monday Night Football. I’m sure ESPN is just thrilled with this game, not to mention RB Steven Jackson can’t be very happy with seeing what is sure to be an overloaded front to stop him…..WR Brandon Lloyd should probably be benched in fantasy leagues.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Here’s a stat I didn’t see coming–the Bucs have trailed for longer this season in term of minutes than any other team in the NFL, including the winless Colts…..QB Josh Freeman missed last week’s game with a shoulder injury. His replacement, Josh Johnson, suffered a dislocated shoulder on his non-throwing arm. Ouch! Now Freeman looks like he will start this week but how long he goes is anyone’s guess, not that it matters much right now.

Tennessee Titans: Tough game for the Titans this week as they host the Saints. I doubt the Titans would have a chance if this game were being played indoors, but in Tennessee in the elements and with RB Chris Johnson looking like he has returned to his normal self, stranger things have happened. Not to mention the Titans need the game much more than the Saints. Yeah, I’m not buying that either.

Washington Redskins: As if this wasn’t a dismal enough season for the Redskins, now they lose TE Fred Davis and OL Trent Williams for violating the league’s drug policy. Apparently they were supposed to be suspended for a year but were able to get it down to four games because of a technicality (the players thought there was a grace period after the lockout–like it’s even legal to do these drugs)…..Because of their dismal finish, the Skins should be in good shape to draft a franchise QB next year.