Playing their first postseason game since their dramatic Super Bowl XLVI victory against New England on Feb. 5, 2012, the Giants Sunday played one of their poorest games of the season and lost to the Green Bay Packers, 38-13, in an NFC Wild Card Game in Lambeau Field. None of the Giants’ five regular-season losses had been by more than 14 points.
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“We were ready for today and ready for the moment,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “No one knows why you don’t go out there and play your best. Overall, the Packers played better than we did. That’s what it came down to. We did some good things, had some good drives, got close, but they excelled and made some good plays.”
That they did. Despite being sacked five times, Aaron Rodgers threw for 362 yards, and became the first Giants opponent to throw four touchdown passes in a playoff game. Randall Cobb caught three of them, another record, including one on a Hail Mary on the final play of the first half that deflated the Giants.
“Tough way to end a season,” said coach Ben McAdoo, who failed to join Dan Reeves as the only coaches to win a playoff game in their first season with the Giants. “Give Green Bay credit. They played well tonight. We struggled to play complete team football in all three phases and we didn’t handle the ball particularly well.”
“We know where we stumbled,” running back Rashad Jennings said. “One mistake here, one mistake there. We weren't able to overcome those mistakes early in the game. We put our defense in tough situations. We knew coming into this game specifically that we had to score points, because they have great offense and we would have to put up points, and we didn't do it."
“We knew this game was going to be a big field position game,” Wing said. “I feel like I let the team and the organization down in that respect.”
The return teams didn‘t make a positive impact play, and Bobby Rainey inexplicably fielded a kickoff on the 3-yard line and stepped out of bounds, when he could have let it bounce out of bounds (the Giants would have taken possession at their 40) or into the end zone for a touchback (which would have given them the ball at the 25).
Despite forcing the Packers to punt on each of their first five possessions, the Giants led just 6-0 midway through the second quarter. On their first possession, Odell Beckham, Jr. couldn’t bring in a third-down pass that would have enabled the Giants to retain possession. When they next had the ball, neither Beckham nor Sterling Shepard could corral potential touchdown receptions, and the Giants settled for a 26-yard Robbie Gould field goal.
Later, a Manning pass to tight end Will Tye gained 51 yards to the Packers’ 28. But the Giants gained just six more yards and Gould was summoned again to kick a 40-yarder.
Beckham later had his hands on two other passes, but just couldn’t secure them.
“There were plays early in the game that were just inches away,” Beckham said. “It’s right there, but you just don’t come away with them. As easy as it is to say that you have to take it and grow from them, you really do. You have to sit here and embrace this feeling. You have to swallow it and go on about your business. That’s really all I can say. It’s inches away. They were right there.”
“It’s very disappointing to see plays that were made in the slot that I felt I would’ve been (there to stop),” DRC said. “I could’ve been there. Even if they would’ve made it on me, I would’ve felt better if it was on me.”
That feeling was most prevalent on the final play of the first half. When the Packers took possession at their own 20 with 1:38 remaining – and no timeouts – their total yards deficit was 203-67. They quickly closed the gap by 80 yards. On third down from the Giants’ 42, tight end Jared Cook couldn’t handle Rodgers’ pass. Had he caught it, time would have expired. But the incompletion stopped the clock, giving Rodgers one more chance. He made the most of it, launching a high, arcing pass to the back of the end zone, where Cobb inexplicably got behind all six Giants defenders in the area and caught the ball for a touchdown as time expired. The momentum-changing play gave the Packers a 14-6 halftime lead.
“We all jumped, but thought it was overthrown,” safety Landon Collins said. “Cobb just stayed in bounds, reached out and caught it. I was surprised that he caught the ball and stayed in bounds. That’s what great players do. That’s what you’re supposed to do. Get the ball. I guess that was what the assignment was. He did a great job at what he did.”
“I think they got the momentum back right at the end of the half,” linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. “That was it for them. I feel like we had all the momentum in the first half, and they had it all at halftime.”
The Giants’ lone shining moment was Manning’s 41-yard touchdown pass to Tavarres King (the receiver’s first career score), which was followed a big fourth-down stop by the defense. That made it 14-13 with 5:16 left in the third quarter. But Green Bay scored 24 unanswered points to end the game.
“We just didn’t score enough,” Manning said. “Teams were going to double Odell and we knew that. We tried to create ways to get him the ball. You have to run the ball in those situations. Today, we had some third down opportunities and converted some, but just didn’t convert enough in the red zone and didn’t convert enough early on. Offensively, we weren’t as explosive as we thought we could be. Credit to teams for game planning and not giving us those explosive plays.”
It was a recurring theme that ultimately resulted in their demise in the season’s final game.