EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Aaron Rodgers’ first season as the Green Bay Packers’ starting quarterback was 2008. That year, Rodgers twice threw three interceptions, in games the Packers lost to Tampa Bay and New Orleans by a combined 31 points.
On Sunday, Giants rookie Daniel Jones had his second three-interception game of the season in a 31-13 loss to the Packers in MetLife Stadium. He also threw three picks at New England on Oct. 10. The Giants lost those two games by a combined 39 points.
Comparing almost any quarterback to Aaron Rodgers, particularly a rookie, is risky business. But the Giants firmly believe Jones has the talent to be a very successful NFL quarterback, perhaps someday occupying the rarified territory shared by Rodgers and few others.
As the Giants were reminded Sunday, that would be a very good thing.
Rodgers threw four touchdown passes – two to Davante Adams and one each to Allen Lazard and Marcedes Lewis – and did not throw an interception as the Packers improved to 9-3 and the Giants lost their eighth consecutive game to fall to 2-10. Facing a secondary that often lined up with three rookies and/or a first-year pro playing his third game, Rodgers completed 21 of 33 passes for 243 yards, posted a passer rating of 125.4 and was not sacked. He was completely unbothered playing the first half in a snow storm and the second in a downpour, hardly a surprise for a player who has thrived in Green Bay for 12 years.
“One of the best quarterbacks out there,” Giants safety Michael Thomas said. “And you’re talking about pure just arm talent, not like quarterback play, but just pure arm talent. He’s one of the best in the game, if not the best. Point blank. Period.”
“Just a true competitor,” linebacker Alec Ogletree said of Rodgers. “A guy that can do it all. He obviously is going to be wearing a gold jacket when he gets done playing and he’s still one of my favorite quarterbacks in the league. You know he just goes out there and does his job and gets the guys around him going, too.”
Jones tried his best to do that in the inclement weather, as he has every week since becoming the starter before the season’s third game. He has twice thrown four touchdown passes in a game and entered the contest on Sunday having not thrown an interception in his last 100 passes.
On the Giants’ second possession, Jones threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard to tie the score at 7-7. In that first quarter, Rodgers threw his first two touchdown passes, eight yards to Adams and 37 to Lazard. Both receivers were wide open. Safety Antoine Bethea was the closest defender to Lazard.
“It was a blitz and it was basically like a cover-zero,” Bethea said. “He (Lazard) did a double move, and it was one of those things where we didn’t work in unison on the back end, and it was a big play.”
Jones’ streak of passes without an interception ended at 110 throws on the third play of the second quarter, when his pass for Darius Slayton was intercepted by cornerback Kevin King. Less than three minutes later, Mason Crosby kicked a 47-yard field goal to give Green Bay a 17-7 lead. The Giants responded with a 66-yard drive that required 18 plays and took 9:31 to complete. It ended with Aldrick Rosas’ 26-yard field goal and a 17-10 deficit that didn’t change before halftime.
Short runs by Jones twice enabled the Giants to convert fourth downs on the drive. But Jones injured his ankle on one of them. He was examined by the team’s medical staff but never left the game. Afterward, he downplayed the severity of the injury.
“It’s sore, but that’s part of playing the game,” he said. “I’ll be fine.”
“He hurt it, but he played through it,” coach Pat Shurmur said. Asked if the injury affected Jones’ play or limit what he could do, Shurmur said. “No, there were certain things that I chose not to do with him. The interception, the one interception there in the fourth quarter when he had the guy, that’s one that he’ll tell you he just overthrew it.”
Rosas’ 45-yard field goal lifted the Giants to within striking distance at 17-13 entering the fourth quarter. But in those decisive 15 minutes, Rodgers – a Super Bowl champion, two-time Most Valuable Player and the only quarterback in history to record a 100-plus passer rating in six consecutive seasons – threw a pair of clinching touchdown passes. Jones, who has played in 166 fewer regular-season games, tossed a pair of interceptions.
“You can see what happens when you don’t get pressure on (Rodgers),” Shurmur said. “He’s really good.”
Yes, he is.
Thirty-eight seconds into the final quarter, Rodgers fired a 17-yard touchdown pass to Adams to stretch Green Bay’s lead to 24-13. On the Giants’ ensuing possession, an aborted end-around with Da’Mari Scott left the Giants facing a third-and-18. Jones overthrew Shepard and the pass was intercepted by safety Darnell Savage, who, like Jones, was selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Savage returned the ball 28 yards to the Giants’ 38. Eight plays later, Rodgers found Lewis in the end zone for a one-yard touchdown pass to make it 31-13.
Whatever faint hope the Giants had expired on their second snap, when Jones’ pass for Darius Slayton was picked off by Tramon Williams.
Like so many other teams, the Giants just could not keep up with Aaron Rodgers.
“It’s disappointing to come up short and play like we did,” Jones said. “We ran the ball better today (95 yards). There were a number of things we did better. But as a group, we weren’t consistent enough and we weren’t able to score enough. That’s been the story. We have to be more consistent, we have to find ways to keep the ball moving forward and get the ball in the end zone when we have chances in the red zone. It’s disappointing, but we have to stay at it.”
They will next take the field on Monday night, Dec. 9, in Philadelphia.
“I’m always concerned when we don’t win,” Shurmur said. “I’ll feel better when we win games. If you’re wondering how I feel, I’ll feel a lot better when we win games. I do see, you (reporters) get an opportunity to watch us probably 20 minutes a day and you report on it. This is a historically young team that’s going out there and competing against some really good football teams. We’ve got to do what we have to do to win games and I understand that. They also are developing. At some point, we’ll be good enough to win.”
View photos from Giants vs. Packers from MetLife Stadium