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Game Preview: Giants, Packers bring winning records to London

GAME-PREVIEW-UNITED

LONDON – The Giants will try to prevent the magic Aaron Rogers and the Green Bay Packers enjoy in Lambeau Field in a game that has been relocated overseas.

The two teams will meet Sunday (9:30 a.m. EDT) in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, a 3,800-mile change of venue that seems like a positive development for the Giants. The Packers have won 15 consecutive regular-season games in their historic home (though they lost postseason games there each of the last two seasons). In 118 regular-season games in Lambeau, Rodgers is 88-19-1 (plus 6-4 in the postseason). He is 3-1 against the Giants in Wisconsin, including 1-1 in the postseason.

Rodgers has never played a game on foreign soil – or turf. Indeed, the Packers are the only NFL team that has never played in London, where the Giants are 2-0.

The Giants reject the theory they got a break by not having to visit Lambeau because Rodgers is so good, he can succeed anywhere.

"He's one of the best to ever do it," Giants coach Brian Daboll said. "Much like I've said about some of the other really good players, he's fun to watch when you're not getting ready to play him. I'll be watching their offense and naturally you're just watching 12 and the things he does, how he moves people, the accuracy, off-schedule plays, and checks and things he does. He's as good as it gets and he's a hard quarterback to defend. He's impressive."

Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale needs no reminders of Rodgers' greatness. He held the same position with the Ravens when the Packers visited Baltimore last Dec. 19. Rodgers completed 23 of 31 passes for 268 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a one-point Packers victory.

"He throws guys open all the time," Martindale said. "They can be covered great, and they're just going to make plays that way. You just have to have that mentality as a defense that he's going to make plays. Let's just make the tackle, stand up and go play the next one."

Martindale's defense is predicated on unsettling quarterbacks with persistent pressure. But Rodgers has undermined that strategy for 15 years by drawing penalties with hard counts, escaping the rush or standing strong in the pocket and completing a laser downfield.

"We've played him different about every time we've played him," Martindale said. "The way to attack him changes from year-to-year (depending on) who he has with him. The thing that separates him is everybody knows that he's a Hall of Fame quarterback, I think we'd all agree on that, and that's from him throwing as many touchdowns as he has (an even 500, including the playoffs).

"So, everybody knows that, but what they don't really appreciate, which I do, is just the great football mind that he has. He gets them in the right run game, he gets protections right, he knows the pressures are coming. He's a great student of the game and I really admire how he goes about playing this game. It's always fun, it's a fun matchup."

It's also a tremendous challenge, one that many players relish. Defensive lineman Leonard Williams has faced Rodgers twice.

"He's been in the league for a long enough time that he's almost like a coach and a player out there," Williams said. "You can see that he completely controls the offense, and he's very smart. He tries to catch the defense in situations where they have too many guys on the field and tries to do a hurry up offense. It's almost like he plays a game-within-a-game type of thing. I think, overall, the biggest thing about him is how smart he is. And also, he can pass and run. So even though he's a little bit older, at his age (38) now, he still is capable of making plays on his feet. It's kind of challenging when you have to account for both things on a guy."

Third-year safety Xavier McKinney has never faced Rodgers. But he has played against a quarterback in that same stratosphere.

"When you play a Hall of Fame quarterback – I had a chance to play Tom Brady last year – they are going to play tricks with you, just because they know so much," McKinney said. "They've seen so much. They almost know what you're thinking before you even know what you're thinking. You've just got to be real disciplined with how you play. You got to make sure you're doing your job at all times and just never get caught lacking because it can definitely catch you sometimes."

Even though McKinney is well aware of Rodgers' achievements and glittering reputation, studying him this week opened up new avenues of respect.

"He's a guy that he makes throws that are pretty much unbelievable at times," McKinney said. "He puts it on the money a lot of the time, and he's seen a lot of different things. He's pretty much seen it all. So, that's always a challenge when you face guys of his caliber, Hall of Fame quarterbacks like him. Just trying to get a good disguise in and try to throw him off any way that you can. But the main thing is you just got to do your job and hope he messes something up. But obviously, that's rare."

Rodgers benefits from a strong supporting cast. Running back Aaron Jones is seventh in the NFL with 328 rushing yards and averages 6.8 yards a carry. Rookie wide receiver Romeo Doubs tops the team with 19 catches. Allen Lazard averages 14.5 yards a catch and has two touchdowns.

"It sounds crazy because he's a Hall of Fame quarterback that's known for throwing touchdowns all over the place, but it all starts with stopping the run," Martindale said. "You got to stop the run, or you don't have a chance. You got to make them one dimensional, and you're playing with fire when you do that. But you've got to make a decision."

The Giants' decision is to try to make Aaron Rodgers less magical than usual.

View photos from practice at Hanbury Manor ahead of Sunday's matchup with the Packers in London.

*Tottenham Hotspur Stadium holds 18,941 fewer fans that Lambeau Field, which is where the game would have been played had it remained a customary Packers home game. Hotspur hosts soccer games. But it has a sliding stadium floor that allows it to have either a soccer grass field or American football turf.

With a capacity of 62,850, it is the third-largest football stadium in England, but would be the NFL's second-smallest venue, behind only Soldier Field.

Tottenham Hotspur opened in April 2019 and cost more than $1.3 billion.

*The Giants and Packers are both 3-1. This is the 32nd regular-season game in London and the first to match up two teams with winning records.

The Giants are 2-0 in London, beating Miami in the first game there in 2007 and the Rams in 2016. The Packers are the only NFL team that has never played in London.

*The Giants and Packers first faced each other in 1928. Green Bay leads both the regular season (29-23-2) and the postseason series (5-3).

View some of the best photos from the Giants' two previous trips to play in London.

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