With backup QB Scott Tolzien at the helm, the Packers were within striking distance at just under 11 minutes remaining in the game, with the Giants ahead 20-13. Tolzien tried a very quick pass to tight end Andrew Quarless in the flat left. The problem was that DE Jason Pierre-Paul was there, raised his hands, snagged the ball cleanly and went in untouched for a 24-yard pick-6. The defense had just gotten a big stop before that -- a rare one on the day -- to snatch some momentum from the Giants. This gave it right back, and was obviously too big of a hole for the team to crawl out of.
This interception was Tolzien's second of three on the day. Still, he completed 24 of 34 passes for 339 yards. In his first two appearances for the Packers, he has racked up more passing yards than either Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers in their first two games seeing significant action for the Packers. But he also has 5 interceptions in those two games. That can't continue, especially, with a defense that seems to have flipped the off-switch over the last few games.
But the Packers don't have many options at the moment; Matt Flynn just rejoined the team late last week. Once again, Tolzien has been named the starter for the coming game against the ViQueens at Lambeau Field. That is a game the Packers need to have, must have, if they are to keep any semblance of their playoff hopes alive. Believe it or not, at 5-5, and with a three-game losing streak in tow, they are still only one game back from both Da Bearz and Lions against whom they still have one game each remaining.
If you want to read a very good article about Tolzien, by the way, we highly recommend this one by Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Survey says: defense lost the game
According to at least one reader survey (the assumption is that most are Packer fans), 74% of those voting blamed the Packers defense -- not Scott Tolzien -- for the loss. Apart from the best game of the year from CB Tramon Williams, including a rare interception, the rest of the defense was missing in action. On a day when nearly everyone, including yours truly in our own game preview and prediction, said that the defense was going to have play at the top of its game in order for the Packers to have a serious chance of winning this game, they were essentially a no-show. This appears to be a trend over the last three games, and it is a disturbing one at that.
Granted, head coach Mike McCarthy's vanilla play-calling for most of the game -- noted by many via Twitter during the game as run-run-pass-punt -- has to bear some of the responsibility, as well. The offensive line had its own issues, not opening up any running room for RB Eddie Lacy. Tackle Marshall Newhouse, starting for the injured Don Barclay, was beaten like a rented mule on more than one occasion. Rookie David Bakhtiari had his hands full with Jason Pierre-Paul most of the day.
(Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Special teams didn't do much either on the day, other than a booming 57-yard field goal by K Mason Crosby to close the first half and make the score 10-6. It was Crosby's longest outdoor field goal (he hit a 58-yarder indoors in 2011 in the Humpty Dump in Minnesota) and is the longest field goal ever kicked against the Giants. So the Pack at least had that going for them.
But the defense did little to get pressure on Giants QB Eli Manning and, again, tackles were generally missed (unless Williams was making them) and receivers were wide open especially over the middle. This sounds like a broken record because it is: this has been the operating scenario for the last several weeks. And if it continues -- particularly this week against Minnesota at home -- the Packers' playoff hopes will be pretty much done; the Pack would likely have to then win out -- with or without Aaron Rodgers -- in order to stay in the mix. The chances narrow considerably.
Where do the Packers go from here?
That is the question of the day, the week, the month, the season. If the Pack doesn't get this ship turned around fast...well, you know the rest.
You can read the excellent analysis of Packers uber-beat writer, Bob McGinn, here. It's definitely worth your time for the many insights you'll get.
Stay tuned for developments during the week, Packer fans. It's gotten interesting. Far more interesting than we would have hoped for.