We would like, as Giants fans, to crow about our team after the thorough thrashing they gave to the Cheeseheads Sunday night at MLS. It was a good win; a great win really, especially considering that the Giants were coming off a few really poorly played games. There were the two losses to the Bengals and Steelers in which they were soundly beaten and even the game before that, the win against the Cowboys, was gift wrapped and given to them by Romo and the Cowboys, but a game in which the Giants did not play well on either side of the ball. So we would like to say that the Packers were the hottest/best team in the NFC coming into the game, having won five in a row, and the Giants beat them, which means that Giants are the cream of the crop. But some perspective is required.
I don't want to diminish the victory or its importance - it certainly puts the Giants back on the path for playing well and making some noise for the rest of this season. Among the things they did well: they didn't turn the balll over; they had an effective running game and passing game on offense. On defense they stopped the run of Green Bay well, got after Rodgers with a great pass rush and forced two turnovers themselves. The pass rush was so strong that McCarthy changed the way he called the game - wanting to protect his QB, he ran the ball much more in the second half even when they were down 3 scores, not wanting to expose his QB and get him killed. Sound thinking, I guess, but if you were at the game, it made it look like the Packers had given up and wanted to make sure they didn't miss their ride back to the airport for the trip back to Wisconsin. All that is good stuff for the Giants, but the interesting thing is that you really have to consider the opponent. I am not saying the Packers stink and this is a meaningless victory. But I am going to quote Rodgers' words in his post game interviews. He said winning five games in a row covers up a lot of the blemishes that are really there and fly under the radar because of the winning streak. Losing a game, he continued, makes you examine those things.
Putting my spin on what that meant: Packers won 5 in a row, that's true, but that does not mean they are unbeatable. No team is perfect, every team has flaws, especially nowadays in the salary cap era, when personnel decisions are not only about talent but also about money. If the opposing team has the makeup to exploit that flaw, they can win the game. If the other team does not have the particular skill or matchup to take advantage of the flaw, the imperfection will be covered up and not exposed. In the case of the Packers, they have an outstanding QB, maybe the best in the league, but their weakness on offense is their OL. The teams that the Packers played in this winning streak had weak or average defenses and specifically did not have a big pass rush from their DL. They could not exploit the macthup of the weak Packers OL and Rodgers was able to make his throws and move the offense without much disruption. The Giants on the other hand, have strength in their DL and played particularly well in this game - JPP does what he always does, Osi woke up and had a strip sack, Tuck was very effective against the run and putting on some pressure, but Kiwanuka, fast becoming the 2nd best DL-man on the team, was outstanding. So the matchup was great for the Giants - able to take advantage of the Packers weakness. It does not mean that we can crown the Giants and their defense as "back" to the high level they played at the end of last year.
I will say, however that the defense was outstanding and they played well at every position - it was not a DL-centric, DL-dominant defense. The coverage was outstanding in the secondary and the LBs, particularly Blackburn played a very good game. Packers did make some plays and moved the ball a little bit, but a lot of those plays were when Rodgers evaded the rush and made plays that other QBs in the league just would not make. While we should have some perspective, we can take some encouragement in the fact that this was a well played defensive game. Look at it this way - after the first score by the Packers, when Corey Webster got beat deep, the Packers managed only 3 points the rest of the way.
On that play, Webster took his eye off his man, looked back at the QB because he thought Nelson had completed his route and was just sitting on the sideline as a checkdown option. When that happened, Nelson ran his double move, ran up the sideline and beat Webster by 5 yards for the score. It was more a mental mistake by Webster than a physical mistake, getting beaten or overmatched.
I also liked what Fewell did showing the 3 S look. It worked in this game. I have to say that the Giants pass defense is just better, maybe way better with Phillips on the field. Brown played well and Rolle might be the best slot-cover player on the team. It gives the Giants a lot of flexibility how they cover and I liked that Fewell rotated his DBs a little bit, keeping them fresh, giving different looks to Rodgers and keeping them all "in the game" mentally. I love Will Hill, though he did not get too many snaps, and think he will be a real good player in the future.
The big disappointment for this defense is that marvin Austin is just not playing. Kuhn beat him out for playing time and now that Kuhn is out for the season, he still is not getting many reps. The DT rotation seems to be Linval Joseph, Canty, Bernard and Fewell is filling in with Tuck, occasionally JPP and Kiwanuka getting a lot of snaps at DT.