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Reality, Giants’ pass rush catch up to Packers in 38-10 Big Apple ambush

Green Bay Packers News – The Green Bay Packers wrapped up their Thanksgiving weekend by choking on a giant-sized helping of humble pie.
In a game that wasn’t decided until the end – the end of the first half, anyway – the New York Giants stuffed the football down the Packers’ throats in a 38-10 blowout victory Sunday night at MetLife Stadium.
Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times and either hit or harassed on 17 of 33 drop backs. The Giants’ Mathias Kiwanuka had two sacks, and Osi Umenyiora’s strip-sack, which was recovered by Jason Pierre-Paul, set up one of New York’s four first-half touchdowns.
“When your quarterback is under pressure like that, it affected me tonight,” Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy said of his play-calling. “I probably didn’t call the best game I’ve called. You have to protect your quarterback. It’s your No. 1 responsibility. That’s not what we’re looking for.”
The Packers’ embarrassing performance isn’t going to be easily forgotten. In a matchup of current NFC contenders that also pitted the past two Super Bowl champions, the Giants dominated in every way.
This was last year’s 37-20 playoff loss to the Giants all over again, save for the finality.
Rodgers struggled to complete 14 of 25 passes for 219 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His 14 completions tied a season low and came behind an offensive line that was thoroughly manhandled.
The best that could be said of Rodgers’ evening is that he came out of it reasonably healthy considering the punishment he absorbed.
When Rodgers wasn’t running for his life, he was handing off to backs bound for nowhere. Green Bay’s running attack generated little and sustained nothing. The screen game was non-existent, too.
Furthermore, Rodgers’ 61-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson was Green Bay’s lone big play of the night.
With nowhere to run and no place to hide, the Packers’ offense had no answers for the Giants’ pass rush. At times, it seemed the Giants’ defense had 12 men on the field, they were everywhere.
Clearly the Packers were hurt by injuries to players such as safety Charles Woodson, receiver Greg Jennings and linebacker Clay Matthews. But their absence shouldn’t have left the offense so offensive and the defense so defenseless.
Not to the tune of 31-10 at half.
While Rodgers was facing serious heat, the Giants’ Eli Manning was free to peruse the field from the safety of his cocoon-like pocket. Manning shot down rumors that he was hampered with a “dead arm” by throwing for 249 yards and three touchdowns.
“I think the rest really helped him,” Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said of the team’s bye last week. “Eli said he felt as if he was coming back for the start of the season. I was very confident he would come back and be Eli.”
The loss drops the Packers (7-4) to one game behind Chicago (8-3) in the NFC North standings. If the postseason began today, the Packers would be the NFC’s top wild-card team and fifth seed.
McCarthy accepted a lion’s share of the blame for Sunday night’s disaster. He faulted his play-calling and the offense’s inability to neutralize New York’s pass rush.
That is well and good, but what matters now is McCarthy’s ability to plug the leaks in his sieve-like offensive line. While the Packers may be blessed with the best quarterback in the league, and an impressive array of receivers, they don’t have a winning combination up front.
It could be that the loss of right tackle Bryan Bulaga was the final straw for an already depleted offensive line. It could be that the Packers’ offense – deadly though it may be against solid NFL defenses – just can’t stand cleat-to-cleat with the league’s top pass rushing outfits.
If that is true it doesn’t bode well for Green Bay. Sooner or later in the playoffs, the Packers’ offensive line is going to face a potent pass rushing team such as the Giants, 49ers or Bears.
Solutions aren’t going to be readily available.
It is wishful thinking to believe second-year tackle Derek Sherrod will come off the PUP list and immediately make an impact. It’s also a long shot to think Chad Clifton, the team’s former longtime left tackle, could be coaxed out of retirement.
The harsh reality is that the once-great Clifton is a has-been, and the little-known Sherrod – until he gets healthy and plays – is a never-was.
So what’s McCarthy to do? What he always does. The Packers’ scrappy head coach will pick himself up, dust himself off and come back with a vengeance as his team prepares for Sunday’s game against Minnesota.
If being embarrassed truly is a great motivator, the Packers’ coach and his players should be all in against the Vikings.
Last week’s prediction: Packers 34, Giants 20 (Giants, 38-10)
Season: 7-4
This week’s prediction: Packers 27, Vikings 20
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio ( Havel also hosts Event USA’ MVP Parties the evening before home games.