I hope everyone enjoyed Wild Card Weekend. Let’s try this again! I hope everyone is ready for some Dallas Cowboys playoff football! This weekend of games was supposed to partially fill our appetite for the Divisional Round, but most of the games were lackluster.
With that said, once I knew that the Cowboys would be getting the winner of what turned out to be the best Wild Card game between the Packers and Giants, I watched Sunday afternoon’s game with a notebook in hand – putting down some thoughts on both teams.
Since the Green Bay Packers came out on top 38-13, here are my notes on their impressive performance. Reminder: This is based solely on the Packers’ match up with the Giants, and will serve as a starter for diving into their match up with the Cowboys later in the week – which I plan to do by also reviewing the week 6 meeting between these teams.
Green Bay Packers Offense
Aaron Rodgers was Aaron Rodgers in this game, which is really where you have to start when it comes to this Green Bay offense – one that has been firing on all cylinders throughout this seven game winning streak. While I would have been fascinated to see how the Giants defense could have played throughout this game if New York’s offense capitalized on all their early scoring chances, the adjustments that the Packers made on this side of the ball were the biggest turning point in this game.
Green Bay’s wide receivers are far from the best group of pass catchers in these playoffs, which makes Rodgers dominance all the more impressive. Early in this game, this unit collectively played into the strength of the Giants’ secondary with bad route running all around.
When Jordy Nelson (who exited with an injury), Davante Adams, and Geronimo Allison were not crisp with their routes, they played right into the bracket coverages that the Giants used to force Rodgers to hold onto the ball.
As the WR play improved, Rodgers was able to pick apart the Giants zone looks, and his “dagger” plays came when he was able to hold onto the ball and still navigate the pocket to make a late throw.
This highly paid Giants defensive line made plays at times, but against a sub par offensive line they really didn’t dominate like they were going to need to in order to beat Rodgers. Particularly, I thought the veteran right tackle Bryan Bulaga played exceptionally well as a pass and run blocker, helping Green Bay find some rushing attack with 47 timely yards on the ground from former Cowboy Christine Michael.
Green Bay Packers Defense
The Packers’ defense gained more and more confidence as this game went on, turning in what was a really solid performance against a Giants offense that has carried them much like Green Bay’s own offense.
Early in this game, as the Giants looked to establish some resemblance of a running game, I thought the youth at the linebacker position for the Packers really showed. Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez were late in their run fills, but improved greatly throughout the game.
What made the difference for these linebackers was the improved containment play of experienced EDGE players like Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. As they began to clog gaps against the run, the Packers crowded the line of scrimmage more to force Eli Manning into beating their coverage.
The secondary coverage for Green Bay certainly wasn’t perfect, and their main flaw was on display when Tavarres King beat them on a 41 yard touchdown in the third quarter. Damarious Randall was expecting help over the top from a safety, and in a two-deep safety look he played the right technique. This look worked for the Packers in enticing the Giants into running the ball against “softer” boxes, but as King ran past Randall to the post the Packers’ safeties were caught stretched too far across the field – and up closer to the line.
The Packers’ secondary has battled through so many injuries this season, and they are just not consistently on the same page with the personnel they have out there when it comes to rolling coverages. Green Bay also showed some true double team looks to Odell Beckham Jr., which is something they may regret against Dallas if they throw a similar look at Dez Bryant with the way Ezekiel Elliott gashed them previously – without Bryant on the field.