It’s often said by coaches and players that “you win as a team and you lose as a team.” Usually that’s just a quick, convenient way to assuage a media member who is looking to assign blame, while at the same time not throwing anyone in particular under the bus.
In the case of the Giants’ 38-13 playoff loss to the Packers, it truly was a team loss. There were failures across the board: preparation, game plan, in-game coaching, execution, focus; you name it.
Some who write about this team said Eli Manning would be the deciding factor. If he did well -- or well enough, anyway -- the team’s defense would carry the day.
Well, so much for that. Eli and Robbie Gould were among the few players who seemed to show up -- maybe because they’d been in the playoffs before while so many of these guys (including a rookie head coach) seemed shaken by the stage.
Let’s hand out the participation trophies to the Giants for making the team’s defeat in Green Bay a true team loss.
Head coach Ben McAdoo. Down 7-6 in the second quarter, the Giants had a third and 1 on their own 41 coming out of the two-minute warning. McAdoo checked his iconic play-call menu and dialed up 212-pound running back Bobby Rainey to get the much needed yard. Bobby Rainey. Not Paul Perkins, who started last week and had more than 100 yards rushing. Not Rashad Jennings, who is considered the team’s big back. Nope, Bobby Rainey, who to the surprise of no one did not get the needed yard.
The Giants punted and Green Bay got the ball back with 1:46 left and no timeouts.
Secondary. Listen, losing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to a leg bruise early in the game was a definite killer to the Giants. Aaron Rodgers was just picking on DRC’s replacements all game. But the game undeniably turned on the Packers’ Hail Mary touchdown pass from Rodgers to Randall Cobb at the end of the first half. Somehow Cobb got behind the Giants’ secondary and caught the ball right along the end line. It was an absolute gut punch and put the Giants -- who moments earlier were ahead 6-0 and dominating the game –- down 14-6 heading into the half, with Green Bay set to receive the second-half kickoff.
Defensive line. The Giants sacked Aaron Rodgers five times, the last coming with 14:10 left in the third quarter. With the secondary playing at less than full strength, Big Blue desperately needed Snacks Harrison and Olivier Vernon to make game-changing plays and put Rodgers on his back. Instead the Packers’ stellar offensive line won the game in the trenches and Rodgers seemed to have all day to pass in the second half as Green Bay pulled away.
Running backs. The game was already well in hand, but probably no play was more emblematic of the Giants’ lack of focus than Perkins’ mind cramp on the Manning fumble. Clay Matthews knocked the ball out of Manning’s hand and Perkins treated it like a radioactive restaurant check. He obviously thought it was an incomplete pass; but that’s no excuse not to pick it up anyway, just to be sure.
Instead, Matthews hustled to the ball, shoved Perkins out of the way and made the recovery.
Wide receivers. Whoa boy, four of these guys –- Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Victor Cruz and Roger Lewis -- are going to get roasted by fans and the media for the next six months, thanks largely to their off-day trip to Miami to party with Justin Bieber. Know which receiver wasn’t there? Tavarres King, who accounted for the Giants’ only touchdown in the loss to Green Bay.
Beckham dropped three passes, including a touchdown and two third-down conversions. After the game, he reportedly punched a hole in the wall inside Lambeau Field, cursed out a Packers employee and was sobbing uncontrollably in the locker room. The diva act is now three years old and not aging well.
Special teams. Bobby Rainey probably had a game he would like to forget. Not only did he fail to convert that third and 1 in the second quarter (which he should never have been asked to handle), but he pinned the Giants deep in their own territory right after the Packers took a 21-13 lead -- fielding a kickoff at the 3-yard line and promptly falling out of bounds.
The Giants went three and out and the Packers took the ensuing punt back 23 yards to the Giants’ 37. Five plays later, Mason Crosby kicked a 32-yard field goal and the lead was 24-13. It was all downhill from there for the Giants.
Offensive line. Keeping with the theme of team-wide incompetence, the Giants opened their next drive with a false start by Marshall Newhouse –- just the latest drive undermined by the line’s offensive struggles.
Left tackle Ereck Flowers opened the team’s second drive of the first quarter with a false start. Later in the second quarter, with the Giants still in control and ahead 6-0, Flowers was a statue as Julius Peppers blew by him for a sack on third down deep in Giants territory. On the first Green Bay play after the punt, Rodgers hit Davante Adams on a 31-yard pass that put Green Bay at the Giants’ 7-yard line.
Just like that, the momentum swung to Green Bay. The Giants would make it 14-13 in the second half –- thanks to non-yachter, Tavarres King -– but the team could not overcome the many failures in just about every facet of the game.
The Giants had a great regular season, but they have a lot of issues to address in the offseason. Namely, on offense.
It’s going to be a long offseason for Big Blue. I recommend the team get some rest and relaxation. Granted, some of them already got a head start.