Remember That Slow Start? Me Either.Posted:Jan 9th, 2017 2:42 pm
I have no idea where to start.
Think about where the Packers stood through the first 25 minutes of this game. Would you ever, in your wildest dreams, imagine that over the final 35 minutes Aaron Rodgers would toss four touchdown passes, finish with more than 350 yards passing and a QB rating of 125?
As lost, broken and out of sync as the offense looked through the first five drives, they were nearly unstoppable the rest of the way. A deep sideline route to Davante Adams seemed to be the spark. The incredible Hail Mary touchdown to Randall Cobb at the end of the half was the detonation. Despite losing Jordy Nelson to a brutal hit to the ribs, the offense that we've watched over the last six weeks found its footing in the second half, led by Cobb whose return was precisely what the doctor ordered.
Leon Hall will be fined for the hit that ended Nelson's day, and maybe his season. That's little consolation to Nelson and the Pack. His magical season will earn him the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award, but he will be sorely missed in Dallas, if indeed his rib injury is as bad as it looked. But as things go in the NFL, you gotta move on and Cobb's three touchdown day was a loud reminder of how big a weapon he is for this offense.
The Pack escaped falling into too deep of a hole early, thanks in part to solid red zone defense and an equal measure of dropped passes. OBJ's drops were a sign of his day to come--he was a complete non-factor, thanks in part to LaDarius Gunter's strong coverage. The defense was solid for 60 minutes, with Damarious Randall holding up well and giving up very little production.
The special teams edge went the Pack's way too, with Jacob Schum flipping field position at a few key times and Micah Hyde doing damage as a punt returner. This unit will also need to win next week in Dallas, if the Packers hope to spring the upset.
But naturally, the story of this game, like all games, was the play of Rodgers, who shook off a very lethargic start and destroyed the Giants from the last play of the first half all the way to the end. It took a while to take advantage of the loss of corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who left the game early with a leg injury; but once Rodgers found matchups he liked, he took full advantage with Cobb and Adams the main beneficiaries.
There were a few head scratchers, most notably McCarthy's indefensible decision to go for it on fourth and one on the Pack's side of the field, while nursing an eight point lead early in the third quarter. There was no reason not to kick the ball away and make Eli Manning try to lead his team on a long drive. Instead, he took over at the 40 and two plays later it was a one point game.
There are times to be aggressive and there are times to be smart. McCarthy blew that one, but it ultimately didn't come back to haunt him. The Packers also give away their precious timeouts too freely and will cost them one of these days. They wasted one when they didn't get a player off the field in time early as the Giants were lining up to punt. They gave away a couple more when the play clock was winding down. Those timeouts are gold--think about the play just before the Hail Mary. If Jared Cook doesn't drop that pass the clock would have run out--the timeout that was wasted on the Giants punt would have come in mighty handily had he made that easy catch.
But hey, it all worked out and the Pack's second half performance should serve notice to the rest of the NFC. No matter how shaky things start, Rodgers and the Packers can score on anyone. They just put up 38 points on the best defense in the playoffs. They might need every one of those points next Sunday in Dallas.
Green Bay hasn't won a playoff game there in 50 years and they are underdogs in Sunday's divisional round matchup. We have all week to wonder how they'll stop Zeke, Dak and Dez, but rest assured, Cowboys fans will be wondering the same thing about the hottest, most dangerous player in the league.