The Green Bay Packers got everything going their way on Sunday of week 4. They saw the Detroit Lions get upset by the Chicago Bears, keeping NFC North title dreams well alive, while also getting some help in the Wild Card race with a loss by the Los Angeles Rams. But on Monday night at MetLife Stadium, the Packers could not take advantage of the opportunity in front of them, as they played their sloppiest game of the season in a 24-22 loss to the New York Giants.
From the start, this game was a chaotic mess. The referees had a terrible game, with multiple calls being overturned on replay and a number of questionable penalties called on both teams. But the teams themselves provided plenty of mind-boggling moments, as each team muffed a punt and Giants running back Saquon Barkley tripped and fumbled while going to the ground of his own accord, setting the Packers up for a late go-ahead touchdown.
Meanwhile, Jordan Love had his worst game in months, turning the football over twice and throwing inaccurate passes for three full quarters. Not until the final 15 minutes did he look like a shadow of the quarterback who had just led the team to three straight wins, and he was arguably outplayed by undrafted rookie Tommy DeVito, whose running ability caused problems for Joe Barry’s defense all night long.
That defense deserves plenty of blame for this loss as well. The pass rush was nonexistent, failing to sack DeVito at all after he had been sacked at least five times in each of the last four games. Instead, he escaped the few times he was pressured and was the game’s leading rusher for much of the contest, finishing with 10 carries for 71 yards.
Eventually, however, it was the Packers’ soft pass defense in the final minutes that proved to be their undoing. After Love finally threw a touchdown pass, hitting Malik Heath for a go-ahead score, the team could not convert a two-point conversion, and the Giants needed just a field goal for the win. They easily marched straight down the field to set up Randy Bullock for the winner from 37 yards out.
Somehow, the Packers will remain in playoff position as the NFC’s #7 seed after the loss, but this is a demoralizing loss for a team that came in as substantial favorites on the road. The Packers will head home to lick their wounds before playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — currently in first place in the NFC South — on Sunday after a short week.
For the third straight game, the Packers received the opening kickoff, but unlike against the Lions and Chiefs, they could not convert that first possession into a touchdown. They did pick up a single first down on a run by AJ Dillon, but a drop by Romeo Doubs on an RPO and an off-target pass from Jordan Love to Dontayvion Wicks on third-and-3 scuttled the drive. The Giants did little better on their first drive, getting a pair of first downs but punting away to the Packers from near midfield.
Backed up near their own goal line after a questionable (at best) blindside block penalty on Anthony Johnson, Jr., the Packers went 3-and-out as Love was inaccurate again on third down. Another early Packers penalty hit, as Rudy Ford was flagged for running into punt returner Gunner Olszewski, and the Giants took over at Green Bay’s 32. The defense held the Giants three-and-out in turn, forcing a 48-yard field goal attempt that Randy Bullock missed as the game stayed scoreless.
The Packers got a fortunate call go their way on the offense’s next set of downs. Facing a 4th and 1, Dontayvion Wicks ran a quick out and tried to stretch the ball across the line to gain while he went out of bounds. After initially being ruled short, the referees overturned the call to give the Packers a first down and keep the drive going. The next play was a 35-yard catch-and-run from AJ Dillon, who shook off a few tacklers, setting up Jayden Reed for the first score of the game. Reed took a jet sweep around the right end and Kayvon Thibodeaux misread the play, letting Reed run right by him and get to the edge for a 16-yard touchdown. Take a look at the play here:
Jayden Reed skips into the endzone for the touchdown pic.twitter.com/FTEz7XZnuS— Lily Zhao (@LilySZhao) December 12, 2023
The Giants struck back to tie the game quickly. Although the Packers’ pass rush was collapsing around Tommy DeVito, they could not get him on the ground, as he extended the play with a handful of scrambles. A handoff to Wan’Dale Robinson picked up 32 yards to get New York inside the 10 before Saquon Barkley hit the left edge for a five-yard touchdown.
Jordan Love made his first notable mistake in weeks on the ensuing drive with the Packers facing a 3rd-and-2. After getting into Giants territory with a big play from Wicks, Love pulled a zone read and cut upfield early rather than following Tucker Kraft to the sideline. He was tackled short of the line to gain, then was stripped of the football as he was going to the ground. The Giants recovered, taking over at their own 27-yard line.
New York’s first play was a 13-yard catch on the sideline by Robinson, who made a great diving catch and tapped his feet before falling out of bounds. The Giants ran up to the line quickly and drew a challenge from Matt LaFleur, but the catch was clearly confirmed on review. The Packers managed to force a 4th-and-1 opportunity, however, and reserve linebacker Eric Wilson, in for short yardage, knifed through on the edge to stop Barkley for no gain and a turnover on downs.
Love turned the ball over again on the second play of the ensuing series. He lofted a ball to Wicks, but threw a wobbly duck of a pass that was easily intercepted by Giants safety Jason Pinnock. Fortunately, the defense bailed him out again with a three-and-out, giving the Packers a little over two minutes to try to take a lead back before halftime.
A 27-yard pass interference call moved the ball across the 50, and a few big Patrick Taylor plays got Green Bay into the red zone. A drop by Doubs and a tipped pass by Thibodeaux sent out Anders Carlson for a 36-yard field goal that gave Green Bay a 10-7 lead at the half.
Out of the break, the Packers’ defense did its job in forcing a three-and-out, but Keisean Nixon struggled to handle the punt from the Giants’ Jamie Gillan. He muffed the catch, fell on the football, but then got up and took a hit, fumbling again. A zone-read from DeVito two plays later went for a 26-yard gain down to the one-yard line, and Barkley pushed over the goal line for his second touchdown and a 14-10 Giants lead.
A similar sequence went the other way moments later. After the Packers were forced to punt quickly, Daniel Whelan’s punt hit the Giants’ Bobby McCain in the shoulder on its way down, and the Packers fell on the ball at the 15-yard line. Unlike the Giants, the Packers couldn’t find the end zone, instead settling for another Carlson field goal to close to within one point.
The Giants managed to expand their lead again as they finally committed to the run game with success late in the third quarter. Barkley and backup Matt Breida did most of the work on the next drive, but it was DeVito who finished it off, scrambling out of pressure and finding Isaiah Hodgins in the back corner of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown.
Green Bay finally got moving again at the end of the third quarter, with a 16-yard catch from Samori Toure moving the chains and crossing midfield. First downs from Patrick Taylor, Romeo Doubs, and Tucker Kraft kept the ball moving as they crossed the Giants’ 20. For once, the Giants did not blitz on third-and-11, rushing just four, but the lien got to Love for a sack and Carlson missed from 45 yards out, preserving New York’s eight-point lead.
A timely three-and-out from the Packers’ defense yielded a Giants punt, and Tucker Kraft delivered a lightning bolt up the middle to jump-start Green Bay’s offense. He hauled in a deep ball up the seam and broke a few tackles for a 43-yard gain, but another field goal from Carlson, this one from 48 yards away, pulled the Packers to within 21-16.
With five minutes and change left, the Giants looked to be putting the Packers away on the ground, as Barkley broke off a few huge gains, but the weirdest play in the weirdest game of the season gave the Packers a bizarre turnover. Barkley picked up 33 yards off right tackle, but after shaking off a tackle attempt, he tripped over his own feet and fumbled when he hit the ground. Ruled to have gone down on his own, the play was properly ruled a fumble, and Carrington Valentine scooped it up and returned it 50 yards to the Giants’ 36-yard line.
The Packers appeared to have a go-ahead touchdown from Malik Heath on second-and-goal after driving to the six-yard line, but Pinnock knocked the ball out of his hands before he could establish possession with a third step. But on the very next play, Heath delivered on a quick out, just getting both feet in bounds and stretching the football over the goal line for a touchdown. The Packers could not convert a two-point conversion to take a three-point lead, settling for a 22-21 advantage with 1:33 left.
Having taken one timeout on the Packers’ drive, the Giants had two to use on their final drive. They didn’t need either to get into field goal range, as DeVito completed four straight passes, capping off with a 32-yarder to Robinson to reach the Packers’ 22-yard line with 42 seconds remaining. New York ran the clock down to set up a last-second field goal attempt for Randy Bullock from 37 yards. Bullock drilled it, sending Giants fans home happy with a 24-22 win.
The Packers dropped to 6-7 on the season, but remain in the #7 position in the NFC playoff race thanks to tiebreaker wins over the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints. Meanwhile, the Giants are now 5-8 and just a game off that last playoff spot.