It wasn't entirely unexpected, but that doesn't make the thoroughness of the Packers' defeat any less shocking. The Giants were simply better in just about every imaginable way, pounding the Packers at every possible turn.
Eli Manning started slow but finished hot, tossing three touchdown passes. Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown alternated gashing runs through the Packer defense. Mathias Kiwanuka notched two sacks to lead the Giants' ferocious pass rush. The list goes on. Any way you slice it, the Giants were at least a step ahead of the Packers throughout the evening.
But really, this isn't a terrible surprise. The Packers' struggles along the offensive line this year have been well-documented, and with Bryan Bulaga out of the lineup for the balance of the season, a strong pass rush from New York shouldn't have been shocking. The same goes for the Packers' secondary, which has had its own share of struggles throughout the season. Matched up with a strong New York receiving corps, a few breakdowns could be expected.
No, this loss wasn't a surprise, but that doesn't mean it's not a concern. The Giants demonstrated once again the formula for beating the Packers: putting a leash on their passing attack with deep safety coverage and a strong pass rush. Perhaps no other team is as well equipped to execute this strategy as the Giants, but there are a few opponents looming on the horizon who will no doubt have their eyes on a similar approach.
Jermichael Finley (3 receptions, 51 yards) - Rumors of Finley's demise may have only been slightly exaggerated. The embattled tight end has risen from the dead in the last two weeks, collecting another three receptions this week for 51 yards, including a neat play where he appeared virtually out of nowhere to snag a deflected ball. That's not to say more from Finley wouldn't have been nice, but it is good to see him getting on track, at least to a small degree.
Dezman Moses (3 tackles, 1 sack) - The undrafted rookie continues to show he belongs, notching a sack for the second consecutive week. It's clear Moses isn't enough of a force to carry the load on his own at this point in his career, but throwing him into the mix with Clay Matthews and Nick Perry in the future could be a good option.
Marshall Newhouse - Just kidding.
John Kuhn (4 carries, 17 yards; 3 receptions 49 yards) - You're digging deep when you turn to the fullback for a quality performance, but John Kuhn had a legitimately productive game Sunday, including a career long 32 yard reception on a beautifully designed play. Again, you'd rather not call Kuhn's number with such frequency, but if he's the only one getting the job done, he might as well get the ball.
4 - Games this season Aaron Rodgers has been sacked five or more times this season. It's incredibly alarming how frequently Rodgers is hitting the ground. He's a fairly durable player, but no one can endure the amount of hits he's taking and stay healthy for long.
Granted, not all the sacks are the offensive line's fault. As Cris Collinsworth pointed out during the broadcast, at least a couple of the sacks on Sunday were the result of great coverage. But that said, Rodgers has yet to enjoy quality pass protection in his time as Green Bay's starting quarterback. In four full seasons as the starter, Rodgers has been sacked 34, 50, 31, and 36 times, in addition to 37 sacks so far this year. For the sake of comparison, Brett Favre was sacked 19, 12, 24, 21, and 15 times in his final five years in Green Bay. Favre was certainly more willing to take chances when getting rid of the ball, but he also apparently got much better pass protection. We can only imagine what Rodgers might accomplish if he got similar time in the pocket.
122 - Yards gained on 23 carries by Andre Brown and Ahmad Bradshaw, an average of 5.3 yards per attempt. It's difficult to determine the exact relationship between the run game and passing efficiency, but consistent production on the ground certainly didn't hurt the Giants on Sunday. The Packers seem to only be able to dream of rushing efficiency like this.
13 - Total touches by Alex Green, who apparently is back in the good graces of the Packer coaching staff. After two weeks of virtually no work, Green was back in the mix this week, carrying the ball 10 times for 30 yards and picking up another 20 yards on three receptions. It's hard to know what to make of the inconsistent work load for Green, but it will be interesting to see how he's used in the future.
Jermichael Lives - It's not the Year of the Takeover (or #YOTTO, as Finley is fond of hashtagging on Twitter), but the Packers' tight end has been at least somewhat productive the last two weeks. As they sometimes say, once is an accident, twice is a trend. And three times? Well, that might be a little bit too much to hope for, but if Finley can stay productive, that might bode well for an offense that's had its share of shortcomings this year.
Rodgers Survives - Despite several hard hits, quarterback Aaron Rodgers made it through Sunday's game relatively unscathed. Of course, he got sacked five times, threw an interception, and fumbled once, but he did survive despite a patchwork offensive line and a New York pass rush hell-bent on destruction.
Division Games Upcoming - Although the loss to New York could be a setback as far as playoff seeding goes, the Packers still can control their playoff destiny thanks to a potentially favorable schedule, at least in terms of what the schedule could mean to their playoff hopes. Green Bay still has four division games remaining, and if they take care of business and win them all, they'll almost assuredly take the division crown as well.
Sacks - Coverage sacks or not, the Packers can't keep allowing sacks at their current rate. Rumor has it Aaron Rodgers was sacked once and hit twice on his way to the team bus Sunday night.
Secondary Exposed - You knew it was going to happen eventually, and the youth at the back end of the Packers' defense finally showed up against the Giants. Davon House gave up a couple completions, as did Morgan Burnett. Jerron McMillian was also flagged for a costly personal foul in the end zone that kept a Giants' drive going late in the game. Again, not an unexpected development; it was bound to happen eventually. It's just a shame the youngsters finally showed their youth on national television.
Foreshadowing? - It would be easy to dismiss the Packers' loss as an aberration, especially since they're riddled with injuries on both sides of the ball and can presumably only get healthier as the season goes on. But it's just as likely this game serves to highlight deeper issues with the current construction the Packers: they can't protect the quarterback and can't run the ball effectively enough to make defenses adjust. What's worse, the if the Packers make the playoffs, they'll likely face the Bears, Giants, 49ers, or Seahawks eventually, all teams known for their ability to rush the passer and play effective pass defense. So yeah, this loss could be an aberration, but it could also be an omen signaling another early playoff exit in Green Bay.
Up Next - The surprisingly successful Minnesota Vikings head to Lambeau Field for a noon engagement with the Packers. It's their first meeting of the year, and for the first time in a couple seasons it has serious playoff implications.