The lifeless and Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers (5-5) fell back to .500 for the first time this late in the season since 2008, losing in convincing fashion to the once 0-6 New York Giants Sunday at MetLife Stadium, 27-13.
It was over when…
...Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul diagnosed Green Bay's often-used tight end clear out play and then amazingly intercepted Packers quarterback Scott Tolzien, taking the pick back 24 yards for a dagger touchdown that put New York up 27-13 in the fourth quarter.
- Tramon Williams: Rip the effort and execution of the Packers defense, but don't question what the veteran cornerback brought to the table Sunday. Williams hauled in Green Bay's fourth interception of the season to halt a Giants march in the first half, and he was otherwise a tackling machine in the open field. The oft-criticized Williams played his best game in some time Sunday.
- Jordy Nelson/Jarrett Boykin: Nelson is effective regardless of who is under center, and Boykin is slowly emerging into Green Bay's next star receiver. How Nelson caught a sideline bomb from Tolzien in the first half eludes explanation, and Boykin is becoming so good at using his size and strength to create separation. These two made plays for their young quarterback.
- Brad Jones: Hard to give two game balls to the defense. But Jones filled up the box score, tallying 13 tackles, a sack and three tackles for losses. On his sack, he timed the snap and blew up Eli Manning for a nine-yard loss.
The Packers averaged two more yards a play (7.3-5.3) than the Giants but still lost by 14 points. Green Bay also had three more offensive drives than New York...Under Mike McCarthy, the Packers have never finished on the minus side of turnovers. This season is shaping up to the first, as Green Bay is currently minus-6...Aaron Rodgers threw four interceptions to start this season, Scott Tolzien has five in two games...Green Bay ran 20 times for just 55 yards. It was the Packers worst rushing total of this season. Eddie Lacy had just 27 yards on 14 carries...Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle combined to catch 15 passes for 197 yards and one touchdown. All three had a catch over 20 yards...The Packers started only two drives past their own 30-yard line. Four came inside their own 20...The Giants had as many drives of 10 or more plays (three) as three-and-outs...The Packers defense forced three punts in the fourth quarter, and only allowed 19 total yards...Scott Tolzien threw for 339 yards and averaged 10.0 yards per attempt. He was also intercepted three times...The Packers went 2-for-8 on third down and failed their only fourth down attempt, a fake punt inside New York territory. The Giants were 2-for-2 on fourth down...Giants led time of possession, 35:14 to 24:46...The Packers allowed zero sacks and had four defensively.
– In my game preview, I hypothesized that the Packers needed to be +1 or +2 in the turnover category and have a big advantage in rushing yards to beat the Giants. Green Bay accomplished neither. New York was +2 in turnovers and rushed for 23 more yards. Three picks and only 55 yards on the ground doomed any hope of the Packers springing the upset on the road.
– The calls for Dom Capers' head continue to grow in volume. But at what point does the majority of the blame get pinned on underperforming players? On New York's first touchdown, Micah Hyde got turned around and couldn't recover to the inside. Again, there were miscommunication problems in the secondary. And the Packers couldn't win man-to-man on several third-and-short situations. Players need to execute. Since Rodgers went down, very few on defense have. Capers deserves blame, but his players have continually let down the scheme—more so than the scheme has let down the players.
– Mike McCarthy was obviously very protective of Scott Tolzien, especially early. He routinely went to run plays on first and second down, despite the Giants clearly expecting such a plan. When Tolzien was able to attack on early downs and work off play-action, the Packers moved the football. Expecting the Packers to consistently win against stacked fronts on early downs and then move the sticks on tough third downs wasn't a winning plan on offense today. But it was also hard to fault McCarthy for doing so with a young quarterback making his first NFL start, on the road, against a really aggressive front four. The run game needed to be better.
– The initial viewing would have Marshall Newhouse playing his worst game in sometime. That's saying something, too. He was slow-footed and a non-factor in the run game. Don Barclay is clearly head-and-shoulders better than the Packers former starting left tackle, and Barclay has himself been a liability at times in 2013.
– Obviously, 5-5 is a bad look for Green Bay. But with Detroit also losing Sunday, 10-6 might actually take the NFC North this season. Here's some optimism for you: If the Packers can get Rodgers back soon, somehow get to the 10-win mark and qualify for the postseason, this will be a hot and considerably more healthy team heading into January. That's been a Super Bowl recipe in previous years. Who knows. Crazier things have happened.
– Up next: The Packers will head home for the defining game of their season, against the 2-8 Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. Win next Sunday, and there's hope that Rodgers can return for Thanksgiving and salvage the season. Lose, and Green Bay can start thinking about next spring's draft. Pretty simple.
Zach Kruse is a 25-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covered prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.