Packers vs. Giants: Takeaways from New York's 27-13 Win over Green Bay
With another staunch defensive effort, the New York Giants won their fourth game of the season.
Their most recent win was a 27-13 romp over Green Bay, in which third-stringer-turned-starter Scott Tolzien quarterbacked the visiting Green Bay Packers. Although New York held a lead from start to finish, the tangle for momentum was fiercely contested until defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul seized it for good with a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The Giants are playing the part of verified winners. While their 4-6 record still may not indicate that, the surge they're currently riding has no team looking forward to seeing them on its upcoming schedule.
What will opponents take from New York's most recent win?
The victory over the Pack was the Giants' fourth in a row, as Big Blue has seemingly ditched the losing ways that plagued New York through its first six contests of the season. The squad's amazing resilience is only asterisked by the series of subpar quarterbacks the Giants have faced along the way.
Tolzien, once the Packers' third-string quarterback, got the start in Week 11—the first of his career. From Josh Freeman to Matt Barkley to Terrelle Pryor to Tolzien, there's no doubt New York has caught recurring strokes of luck when it comes to opposing passers.
What some view as an auspicious advantage is a mere afterthought to the Giants, as they've effectively executed game plans to stamp "W"s in each of the past four games.
Said "advantage" will end next week, when the Giants face a proven quarterback in Dallas' Tony Romo.
That game will also be an interesting barometer for where these teams stack up in the NFC East. The last time they met, the Giants committed six turnovers in a Week 1 loss that came down to the wire.
While it's always safe to prep for a nail-biter when the Giants and Cowboys meet, the two squads scheduled to share the field at MetLife Stadium in Week 12 will not resemble the two that squared off in Arlington, Texas, on September 8.
A win would be sweeter than your average revenge.
With a victory over the Cowboys, the Giants would move to 5-6, placing them just a game back on the division-leading Philadelphia Eagles (on bye in Week 12). It would also provide a valuable NFC East win, in turn leveling New York's divisional record at 2-2 with two games against the faltering Washington Redskins yet to be played.
Most importantly, a win over Dallas could serve as a spring board for the Giants. It would be an emotional win, one that would serve as a massive confidence boost for a team that's talked the winning talk but is still learning to walk the winning walk. Beating the 'Boys would help them hit that elusive stride.
Four is nice, but five would be that much better.
Holy Completion Percentage!
It's no secret that quarterback Eli Manning has had a tough season.
Manning's swelling interception total has been excessively scrutinized, and much blame has been placed squarely on his shoulders for the Giants' early-season troubles. His passing game—once the saving grace of New York's offense—has shrunk in significance this season, as Manning has connected with his receivers only about 55 percent of the time.
Manning was unusually accurate versus the Packers, though. He successfully completed 25 of his 35 attempts for a season-high percentage of 71.4. In fact, that mark is his best since Week 3 of the 2012 season, when Manning lit up the Carolina Panthers secondary at a completion rate of 77.1 percent.
It wasn't like Manning only attacked what the Packers allowed him underneath either. Sure, there were the usual high-percentage dump-offs and screens that have become commonplace in New York's revamped, toned-back offensive attack.
But Manning's 7.97 yards-per-attempt average was his highest by far during the Giants' current four-game winning stretch. He even took a couple shots downfield, connecting with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz on completions of 35 and 30 yards, respectively.
And then there is Manning's recent love affair with third wideout Rueben Randle. The second-year target has become a favorite of Manning's when the team is in scoring position. Although Randle still lags behind Nicks and Cruz in terms of receptions and yardage, he is leading the charge in terms of touchdowns.
In the past six games, Randle has caught all of Manning's six touchdown passes. Of course, the elephant in the room is Nicks' goose egg in the touchdown column for the season, but even Cruz has been shunned from the receiving end of a Manning's scoring strikes since he first connected with Randle for six points in 2013.
When Manning was racking up the interceptions at a rapid pace earlier this season, it was noted that Randle was the intended target on an astonishing percentage of them. That script has since flipped, as the chemistry between veteran passer and young receiver has flourished in recent weeks.
As long as the Giants keep winning, Manning-to-Randle is sure to be a connection we'll continue to hear about often.
Big Backs Will Bruise
It wasn't an outstanding rushing performance by the Giants running backs, but it was an effective one.
Gone (for now) is the flashy potential of the speedy David Wilson. Instead, a more bruising running style has been adopted, as players like Brandon Jacobs (264 pounds), Peyton Hillis (250 pounds), Andre Brown (227 pounds) and even rookie Michael Cox (220 pounds) have carried the load. They've been far more effective, too.
Against the Packers, New York utilized a punishing duo of Brown and Jacobs. Hillis, a healthy scratch, wasn't even needed for the contest, as Cox's kick-return abilities earned him activation over the "Ice Wagon."
Coming off a career performance in which he racked up 115 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries, Brown naturally had his workload curbed in an effort to preserve his health. Still, he was effective, carrying the ball 18 times for 66 yards. He also added 27 yards on three catches out of the backfield.
Brown doesn't get the sexy yardage. He's a downhill runner who doesn't shy away from contact, despite a lengthy injury history. He doesn't have a single rush longer than 20 yards—neither does any other Giants running back—but he always falls forward, and he's rarely caught for a loss.
Brown is an expert at making something out of nothing, which makes him the perfect back to lead New York back from its 0-6 start.
And then there is Brandon Jacobs, the throwback to the Giants' glory days. Has there ever been a more significant five-carry/nine-yard/one-touchdown stat line than the one Jacobs had against the Packers on Sunday?
Jacobs' longest carry was a mere five yards, but he crashed through the line to convert on three pivotal short-yardage situations. The first two were both drive-extending 4th-and-1 carries, while the third was a touchdown dive from less than a yard out.
The touchdown was Jacobs' fourth of the season, extending his franchise record total to 60—something he never imagined he'd have the opportunity to do when he was out of the game just a few months ago.
A Crucial Crutch
The Giants have leaned heavily on their defense, which has preyed upon less-than-stellar quarterbacks in each of their past four victories.
Tolzien did not escape this wrath, as the Big Blue defense managed to intercept three of his 34 attempts, including a magnificent snag-and-score from defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul at the line of scrimmage. Linebacker Jon Beason and safety Antrel Rolle accounted for the other two picks of Tolzien.
The turnovers were timely, as each one seemed to stifle Green Bay's momentum just as it was peaking. With the offense sputtering at times in the contest, the trusty defensive unit was consistently there to bail out the team. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has suddenly assembled an accountable platoon, one New York can count on to come through in the clutch.
The way the Giants defense has dictated the games during the current recent winning streak is remarkable. The unit executes its game plan flawlessly, forcing the opponent to play right into New York's hand. Sunday's showdown with the Packers was no different than the defense's previous three performances.
With Aaron Rodgers out of the game, Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy became the Packers' most dangerous offensive weapon. This was good news for the Giants, who had already bottled up the likes of Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy (twice). Lacy never had a chance, rushing for just 27 yards on 14 carries—an average of 1.9 yards per carry.
Lacy was neutralized, which forced Tolzien to beat the Giants with his arm. The inexperienced starter didn't play terribly, completing 70 percent of his passes and racking up nearly 340 yards through the air. He occasionally found his receivers behind Giants defenders, connecting with Jarrett Boykin on a 52-yarder and James Jones on a 45-yarder.
New York was simply counting on Tolzien to make a pivotal mistake, which he did three times.
Game plan executed.