Mike McCarthy specifically mentioned C Scott Wells, and the job the Green Bay Packers offensive line did against the Giants, as they "set the tempo." When you compare their win over the Giants to their upset loss in Detroit, the big difference was the play by the offensive line. That's where the inconsistency has been over the second half of the season. When the offensive line is playing great, the Packers are on a roll.
One of their biggest problems earlier in the season was in short yardage situations. That's a thing of the past. The big difference has been FB John Kuhn. And surprisingly it's happened after the Packers decided to use him less. In their last four games, Kuhn has only 18 carries and 7 receptions, but on those 25 combined touches he's converted 11 first downs and 5 touchdowns. And these usually happen on third and short, or goal line situations.
QB Aaron Rodgers was slowed down by a couple dropped passes, but he ended up completing 67% of his passes for 404 yards and 4 touchdowns. The week off while he recovered from his latest concussion might have helped him get some rest. He showed once again how dangerous he is when he has time to throw.
More after the jump, and more on this game from Big Blue View.
While the offense stalls on their first drive (6 plays, 12 yards), after the defense forces a punt, Rodgers hits Nelson on an 80 yard touchdown pass up the middle. The Giants safeties were playing shallow because the Packers showed run (they ran it three times on their opening drive) and they couldn't catch up after Nelson ran by S Antrel Rolle on a near perfect pass from Rodgers. The next touchdown came after a Manning interception started them at the Giants 44 yard line. They ran it most of the way, but Rodgers threw for the touchdown to Jones after the offense line did a great job in protection. Rodgers had time to move around and look for the open receiver.
The first drive of the second quarter was quickly ended after three straight incompletions. On their next possession, the offense put together a long drive that started at their 10 yard line, but a fumble by Nelson at the Giants 15 yard line ended that scoring chance. After a Manning to Manningham long touchdown evened up the score, two passes to Jennings for a combined 37 yards, and a dumb Giants personal foul (after Driver's amazing one-handed catch), moved the Packers down to the Giants 16 yard line. Two plays later, the Packers ran some misdirection to both sides of the field, while letting Kuhn plow straight up the middle (behind Daryn Colledge of all lineman) for the rushing touchdown.
A fumble recovery gave the Packers great field position for their first drive of the second half, but a couple drops by Nelson and Driver forced them to settle for a field goal. Their next drive featured two 30+ yard strikes to Driver and Jennings that set up them up near the goal line. As with the touchdown to Jones, Rodgers had a lot of time to throw and was able to wait for Donald Lee to get open. The last drive of the third quarter ended on a pass attempt that slipped out of Rodgers hands, but they were fortunate that Kuhn recovered it.
The first drive of the fourth quarter was disrupted by a Justin Tuck sack (the only time he beat Bryan Bulaga in a overall solid game for the rookie), and then Jones dropped a 20 yard pass down the right sidelines that would have been a big play (it hit him right in the hands). The next drive started in good field position after an interception by Sam Shields (that would have been overturned if Tom Coughlin hadn't burned both his challenges in the 3rd quarter). A big strike to Jennings down the left sidelines to start it, a big play to Quarless when Rodgers rolled to his right and forced the defender to choose between staying in coverage or going after the quarterback, and then a little dump off pass to Kuhn on which he was able to power-in for his second touchdown. After another Manning interception, and a couple unsuccessful running plays, Rodgers hit Nelson on a deep left sideline pass down to the 1 yard line. Then Kuhn powered in for his third touchdown of the game. It was Matt Flynn, Dimitri Nance time thereafter.
The offensive line. It's starts with them. While they didn't give Brandon Jackson a lot of room to run, they gave Rodgers a lot of time to throw. As mentioned above, Wells received a lot of the praise for their performance.
Rodgers. He's deadly with time to throw, no matter how well the Giants secondary has played this year. This will probably go down as one of the top passing performances of the year throughout the NFL.
Jennings, Nelson. While Nelson had a fumble that cost them points, he and Jennings were the big playmakers that moved them down the field.
Kuhn. It's not flashy, but the Packers troubles in short yardage situations has almost vanished over the past few weeks. Let the offensive line hold their blocks, and let Kuhn power-in behind for the tough yards.