from Jon Wagner SNYGiants columnist
When the New York Giants aren’t going right, it often takes being faced with as tough a challenge as the Giants can face to bring out the best in them.
And, perhaps some added incentive from a participant in the Make-A-Wish Foundation program, can also help.
Such was the case for New York (7-4), which came off of its bye week and ended a two-game skid with a 38-10 thumping of the Green Bay Packers (7-4), who had been riding a five-game winning streak before getting embarrassed in a matchup of the past two Super Bowl winners at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Sunday night.
“We approached this game as if it were the first of a six-game season,” said Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin, in reference to New York’s six remaining post-bye regular season games.
As for the more motivated play his defending Super Bowl champion team showed relative to its two prior games, Coughlin confided, “A Make-A-Wish young man came to us on Friday and said to us, ‘Play like World Champions,’ and the message was loud and clear.”
Tied 7-7 in the opening quarter, the Giants’ defense made its presence felt on star quarterback Aaron Rodgers (14-for-25, 219 yards, one touchdown, one interception, one lost fumble, five sacks) and their offense finally turned multiple red zone opportunities into touchdowns instead of settling for field goals, as New York took control with 17 straight first-half points before scoring the final 14 points to put the contest away.
Quarterback Eli Manning (16-for-30, 249 yards, three touchdowns, one sack) broke a career-worst streak (spanning more than three games) of 107 consecutive passes without a touchdown in an historic way, reaching a franchise-best 200 career touchdown passes, surpassing the career total ex-Giant quarterback Phil Simms by one touchdown throw.
Manning and his offense set the tone early as running back Ahmad Bradshaw (ten carries for 58 yards and one rushing touchdown; two catches for 61 yards) took a screen pass on the fourth play of the game and went 59 yards to the Green Bay two-yard line, to allow fellow running back Andre Brown (13 carries for a game-high 68 yards and one touchdown) to put the Giants up 7-0 on a two-yard touchdown run, just 2:22 into the game.
Unfortunately though, Brown, who had been enjoying a breakout season as a key contributing reserve back, was lost for the season after later breaking his leg.
The Packers tied the game just four plays later though, as wide receiver Jordy Nelson (two catches, team-high 77 yards, one touchdown) got behind cornerback Corey Webster (three tackles, all solo; one pass deflection) up the right sideline, to tie the game on a 61-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers.
Following a New York three-and-out and a 55-yard field goal attempt by Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby that hooked just left of the left upright, the Giants went 55 yards on 14 plays to grab the lead for good, 14-7, as rookie wide receiver Reuben Randle (two catches, 26 yards, one touchdown) caught a 16-yard pass from Manning in the back of the end zone for his first career score with 2:38 left in the first quarter.
New York immediately got another chance to add more points when Webster redeemed himself for his earlier blown coverage of Nelson on Green Bay’s next play. Webster stepped in front of a Rodgers pass that was intended for wide receiver Randall Cobb (four catches, 39 yards) for a nice interception at the Packers’ 33-yard line.
Unable to get a first down, the Giants settled for a 43-yard field goal by kicker Lawrence Tynes, to extend their lead to 17-7 with 23 seconds left in the period.
An eight-yard sack of Rodgers by linebacker Chase Blackburn (six tackles, four solo; one sack; one pass deflection) on the next play led to a Packers three-and-out, which resulted in another Manning-directed scoring drive.
Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (game highs of five catches and 77 yards; one touchdown) caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Manning to the Green Bay 35-yard line, and five plays later, Manning tied Simms’ team record on a nine-yard touchdown throw to wide receiver Victor Cruz (three catches, 36 yards, one touchdown), to push New York’s lead to 24-7 with 9:37 to go in the first half.
Helped by a defensive holding penalty on Webster, on a third-and-11 incomplete pass, the Packers responded with a ten-play, 63-yard drive for a 28-yard Mason field goal that trimmed their deficit to 24-10 with 3:37 remaining before halftime.
But, after another Giants three-and-out, defensive end Osi Umenyiora (two tackles, both solo; one sack, one forced fumble) hit Rodgers and forced a fumble that deflected off of the facemask of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (three tackles, one solo; one fumble recovery) before Pierre-Paul was able to finally scoop up the loose ball and bring it back ten yards to the Green Bay 23-yard line.
Striking quickly, Manning completed a ten-yard pass to Randle on the next play, and one play after that, Bradshaw scored on a 13-yard run to give New York a commanding 31-10 lead just 44 seconds before intermission.
That would be all the offensive support the Giants’ defense needed as the Packers punted three times and lost the ball on downs over their four second-half possessions.
Surviving two straight muffs by Randle on third quarter punts, New York avoided a turnover for the game, and marched 53 yards on six plays for the game’s final score when Manning completed for 15 yards to tight end Martellus Bennett (three catches, 44 yards) and threw a 30-yard pass to Nicks before ultimately going back to Nicks on a 12-yard touchdown pass to move past Simms and swell the Giants’ lead to 38-10 with 3:36 left in the third quarter.
Becoming the fourth quickest in NFL history to reach 200 touchdown passes, Manning did so only behind his brother Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees.
Green Bay traveled 60 yards on 11 plays after New York’s final score, but lost the ball on downs, and although the Giants then did the same to start the fourth quarter, they went 85 yards on 17 plays and took 9:23 off the clock.
As the only team without in its division without a losing record, New York will take a two-game NFC East lead to the nation’s capital on Monday night, December 3rd, for a meeting with the second-place Washington Redskins (5-6), who seeking a third straight victory, will try to cut the Giants’ divisional lead in half. Dallas (also 5-6) is tied with Washington and will host last-place Philadelphia one night earlier.