It was a disappointing end to a great season, but it was still a great, surprising season. There will be time for reflecting on the season and the team later, so let's focus on the last game. Although the freshest memories are of another killer INT by QB Brett Favre and a killer 47 yard FG to lose the game, the Packers did a lot of things well in the game. Some of the stats were very lopsided, but the score was close for a reason.
What Went Right
- QB Eli Manning had the lowest completion percentage of his three playoff games at just over 50%. The Packers did a good job at putting pressure on him, although they only recorded two sacks, and did a good job in coverage at taking TE Kevin Boss and the Giants' running backs out of the passing game.
- The Packers run defense had a great game. Although memories of big runs by rookie RB Ahmad Bradshaw might be fresh in your mind, the Giants only average 3.4 yards/carry and their longest run was 12 yards.
- The Packers offensive line did a great job in pass protection. The strength of the Giants at Tampa Bay and at Dallas was their pass rush from their front four. RT Mark Tauscher was arguably the game MVP for shutting down DE Michael Strahan (plus his fumble recovery), and the Giants had no pass rush up the middle. Favre wasn't sacked and had plenty of time to throw, even on the his interception in overtime.
- Winning the turnover battle. It probably seems like I've lost it, but until Favre's killer INT in OT, the Packers only other turnover was an interception that was recovered when CB R.W. McQuarters fumbled it right back on the interception return. Still that's 2 Packer turnovers to 1 by the Giants, but the Packers also forced 4 other fumbles while the Giants only forced 1. Recovering fumbles is luck, but forcing a fumble is a skill. It was luck that the fumble on the kickoff return slipped away from LB Brady Poppinga, or that WR Plexico Burress fumbled it out of bounds, or that TE Kevin Boss was right there to recover RB Brandon Jacobs' fumble at the goal line. The Giants never started in Packers' territory until 2:15 remained in the game, and they made the Giants work the length of the field in the cold which helped keep the game close. The Packers did what they had to with forcing fumbles, but it just didn't work out.
- Penalties. The Packers were one of the most penalized teams in the NFL in 2007 and it hurt them in this game. The Giants actually had more penalty yards then the Packers, but the only big penalty to hurt the Giants was the 15 yard penalty on CB Sam Madison on the play before the TD pass to TE Donald Lee. The two penalties against the Packers on the first drive of the 2nd half were huge because it led to a TD and kept the Packers offense on the sidelines too long. First CB Al Harris had an illegal contact penalty that wiped out his own INT, then S Nick Collins had a late hit on Manning to keep the drive alive.
- Losing the time of possession battle. The Giants had two drives of over 7 minutes, one kept going by the penalties mentioned above, but that wasn't the biggest problem. It wasn't even the play of the defense on 3rd down because they kept the Giants to a respectably low 6 of 16 on 3rd down conversions. It was the offense's inability to sustain any drives. The offense didn't have a drive longer that 3:12 and only converted one first down on 3rd down (1 for 10). The defense had some trouble getting off the field, notably on the first Giants' possession in each half, but the offense had more trouble staying on the field.
- Mike McCarthy "was not really committed to the running game today." Dallas made a big mistake last week against the Giants by abandoning the run in the 4th quarter, and McCarthy goes out and makes the same mistake. The Giants run defense did a great job, but after the Packers last FG with almost 12 minutes to go in the game, RB Ryan Grant only had 1 carry the rest of the game while they attempted 7 passes (only 2 completions on short checkdowns on 3rd down).
- The coverage on WR Plexico Burress. Although this might seem the worst of the Packers sins, this is the most forgivable. The Packers rely on a lot of man-to-man coverage so to pay more attention to Burress could have opened it up for one of their other receivers. CB Al Harris couldn't cover him, but he was the best option. Although CB Charles Woodson has outplayed Harris this season, he was gutting it out on a bad knee and he'll have an MRI to see if he needs surgery so he probably couldn't have done any better. They could have replaced Harris with CB Jarrett Bush or CB Tramon Williams, but then players would have been out of position and there is no guarantee they could have done any better either. Williams has only played well lately and Bush had trouble with tall receivers during the season. Also, Burress hadn't done much in either of his two previous playoff games, he didn't play well against the Packers back in week 2, and he's played through an ankle sprain this season. It was a reasonable gamble to expect Harris to cover Burress, but it obviously didn't work out.
- The Favre INT to CB Corey Webster. He had no pressure in his face and he throws short on a pass to WR Donald Driver that is picked off by Webster to set up the game losing INT. Sounds bad, but that is not an automatic pass for Favre in even the best conditions. He threw a similar pass to that same spot in the first quarter that he airmailed way out of bounds, so he might have been thinking he had to take something off his throw. Plus, remember, it was damn cold and windy. Not a sign of him getting old, or making some dumb mistake, it was just a poor pass in bad weather and Webster made him pay for it.