The Green Bay Packers are on to Dallas. After a 38-13 beat down of the New York Giants in Green Bay, the Packers move on to face another of their historical postseason demons in the form of the Cowboys. After a closely contested first half, the Packers pulled away for a comfortable win in front of an energized home crowd at Lambeau Field. Gone are the storylines about Giants quarterback Eli Manning having as many playoff wins at Lambeau Field as Aaron Rodgers. He doesn't. Gone is the idea that Lambeau is New York's Disneyland in the playoffs. It's not.
After losing receiver Jordy Nelson early in the game, the Packers needed every one of their players to step up and elevate their game. Make up for the loss and rise up to the occasion. Several did. Let's take a look at that cast, shall we?
Welcome back, 18! After missing the last two games with an ankle injury, Cobb returned in a huge way, hauling in three touchdowns including a Hail Mary reception just before the half and another halfway through the fourth quarter to put Green Bay up 31-13. It's been a while since Cobb was really clutch in a game, ironically probably not in this fashion since the first meeting between the Packers and Giants earlier this season. This performance was reminiscent of 2013 when Cobb missed most of the season and returned just in time to catch the key game winner against the Chicago Bears in week 17 to clinch the division. If Nelson is going to miss time, Cobb is going to have to be just as much of a key contributor as he was in this game.
Ryan was everywhere. Literally everywhere in this game. This was probably his best game as a pro. He had 12 tackles, many of which came in coverage where he limited passing yards and broke up three passes of his own. Ryan doesn't have great speed but I have lauded him for his football intelligence and it appears that the light bulb was on in full effect in this game. Ryan's progression and development in the Green Bay defense is what the team was hoping for when they drafted him in the fourth round last year. Maybe this game will turn out to be an anomaly for Ryan but even if it is, he chose the right time of year to ball out.
The Packers couldn't run the ball early on. They were getting nothing from Ty Montgomery and New York seemed to be in the Packers huddle every time they tried to pick up yards on the ground. Enter Michael, who came in during the third quarter and sparked the run game. Michael runs hard and as if he's trying to bust through a brick wall to save his life. It's a breath of fresh air and it certainly was at that point in this game. The Packers were able to move the Giants defense up to respect the run and kept them on the field. That allowed Green Bay to drain clock and do what they like to do on offense. Michael had just 47 yards on 10 carries, but those were probably some of the most quality carries the Packers have had this season since the loss of Eddie Lacy.
With Montgomery hurting (he returned after leaving with a leg injury), Michael may become a key part of next week's game plan against the Cowboys.
Hyde looked like he was headed for a rough day, having to fill in at cornerback for the injured Quinten Rollins. Hyde was getting beat and were it not for some drops and overthrows by the Giants, this story may have ended differently. But Hyde, like he does, showed up in big moments. He had seven tackles and a pass break up. What landed him on the game ball list, however, was his contribution as a punt returner. Five returns for 50 yards, including a season-long 23 yarder late that set up Green Bay with optimal field position. When you step and and realize what Hyde does best and when the Packers can use him in that role versus having to play him on the outside, where he's not as strong, he may be one of the most undervalued players on this team. The Packers will have a decision to make after the season ends when Hyde's current contract expires.
At this point, I've handed out more game balls than I typically would but this is the playoffs and all big performances should be recognized. Enter Peppers, who had another big day in a big game. Peppers stat line: three tackles, one sack on third down to force a punt, one pass defended (which was batted in the air and nearly ended up being an interception) and another hit on Manning. Many have said that Peppers takes it easy earlier in the season to save himself for later in the year. If that's the case, he's making good on that strategy this season. The big guy will have his work cut out for him next week against a very good Dallas offensive line. Rest up, Pep!
Why not, right? Great on kick coverage and a nice kick return of his own. Janis returned to form of being that special teams ace that he was last season. Field position is so key in a cold weather game and Janis all but negated New York's punt return. Dwayne Harris had four yards on three returns. I'm not going to go over my head here and say that Janis now needs to fill in for Nelson if Jordy is out, but on the special teams side of things, Janis needs to be lights out every week from here on out.
Forced fumble and recovery late to stamp the win. Matthews never gave up on the play when it looked like it might be ruled an incomplete pass. The officials never blew the whistle and Matthews came up with the recovery to give the ball back to the offense. Just like his big strip sack fumble against the Minnesota Vikings a few weeks ago, Matthews seems to come up with one highlight reel play in each game. That trend needs to continue.
Jordy Nelson Leaving This Game
Giants cornerback Leon Hall put a stick on Nelson on the sideline that knocked Jordy out of the game with a rib injury. Upon further review, the hit was deemed "targeting" by former head of NFL officials Mike Periera. Hall wasn't flagged and Nelson left on a cart to the locker room. He didn't return and his status is currently unknown. That he had to take a cart back off the field and didn't return doesn't bode well for the immediate future, which is next week's game against the Cowboys. If there is any way that Nelson can be out there, he will so we can rest assured knowing that. All we can do right now is wait and see but this could turn out to be a season-changing loss if Nelson is going to miss any amount of time.
Others to mention:
- Aaron Rodgers was not left off Game Balls on purpose, there were just so many to hand out. Another amazing day from #12 as he continues to tear up defenses, this time one of the better units in the league. The touchdown to Adams, the Hail Mary and the last touchdown to Cobb were throws for the highlight reel. He's a generational talent and we're fortunate to witness this and benefit from it while some other fans (cough, Vikings, cough) are watching at home, envious. With Rodgers at the helm, this team can continue to #RunTheTable
- Davante Adams came up big in the second half and added another touchdown catch. A really nice touchdown catch for Green Bay's first score of the day. He's another who will have to step up if Nelson is lost
- Mike Daniels and the defensive line were unsung in keeping New York's run game in check for the most part. A Giants run game that had come on of late and had been productive
- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix nearly had another interception were it not for the other outfielder (Damarious Randall) giving him room to make the play. After being named to the Pro Bowl, Clinton-Dix has shown each week why he got the nod
- LaDarius Gunter with another good game on the outside. Safe to say he garners a lot of confidence among his teammates and fans at this point after being thrust into the line up early this season. He'll draw some time against Dez Bryant next week so that will be another big test for the undrafted corner
- Jared Cook with five big catches today and continues to be a nice safety valve to keep drives alive. Need another big game from him next week
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