May 25, 2024

The Green Bay Packers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on Monday night against the New York Giants.

How? In an outcome that might serve as the obituary to the season, here are the three biggest factors.

1. Pass Rush Goes AWOL
Through their first 12 games of the season, the Giants had given up 69 sacks. Sacks became an official NFL stat in 1982. In those 42 seasons, only the Philadelphia Eagles (73 in 1986) had given up more sacks in the first dozen games. They had allowed 20 sacks the last three games.

Their undrafted rookie quarterback, Tommy DeVito, had been sacked 28 times. That was the 15th-most despite starting only two games and playing in just five.

With Rashan Gary, Preston Smith and Kenny Clark, it should have been a feeding frenzy. While the Packers hadn’t posted an abundance of pressures, they entered the night ranked fifth in pressure percentage, according to SportRadar.

Indeed, the matchup was a mismatch. Just not how you thought it would be.

Green Bay’s pass rush was the bizarre combination of impotent and undisciplined.

DeVito wasn’t sacked. Gary had the only two quarterback hits. Just about every time one of Green Bay’s pass rushers converged, DeVito scrambled for sizable gains.

“We were running by him left and right,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “We ended up with zero sacks and they I think 69 coming into this game. You know, give credit to them. They obviously outcoached us, outplayed us. I felt a lot of times we had fly-bys right by the quarterback and for whatever reason just missed the quarterback.”

Defensive tackle Kenny Clark said the Giants “getting the run game going” factored in Green Bay’s feeble pass rush. That’s a logical thought, given the Giants topped 200 rushing yards, but Saquon Barkley was averaging barely 2 yards per carry through three quarters.

“We didn’t show up. We didn’t make enough plays,” Clark said.

Sacks are great but pressures can be even better against a young quarterback. However, given plenty of time by the Giants’ heretofore horrendous offensive line, DeVito was never close to making a killer mistake.

“It’s frustrating,” Clark said. “You’re coming off you beat a great team in the Chiefs and then you come in here and lay an egg. You don’t show up and it’s frustrating. We’ve got to get that figured out and we’ve got to fix it.”

2. Too Much Jayden Reed
LaFleur’s reliance on Jayden Reed was reminiscent of that 7-footer in basketball who makes a 3-pointer early in the game so spends the rest of the game chucking up 3s rather than going into the paint, where he belongs.

The plan is understandable. Without Aaron Jones, Christian Watson and Luke Musgrave, the Packers were short of playmakers. Giving the ball to Reed, who is having an outstanding season, through some manufactured touches makes sense.

But only up to a point.

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Trailing 21-13, the Packers moved the ball into the red zone early in the fourth quarter through a series of basic, well-executed plays. On first down from the 16, Reed got the ball on a double reverse and didn’t have a prayer. He lost 1 yard. An incomplete pass and a sack turned into a missed field goal.

On the next possession, Love and Tucker Kraft combined for a gain of 43. After a short pass to Reed for 5, the Packers had a second-and-5 from the 25. A jet sweep-style flip lost 5 yards and the Packers settled for a field goal to pull within 21-16.

On the do-or-die final drive, a third-and-4 completion to Reed at the sideline set up the go-ahead touchdown. Going for two to make it a three-point game, LaFleur again dug deep into the playbook rather than finding a tried-and-true winner. Reed motioned right, then moved back left for the handoff. The Giants were waiting and tackled him short.

“It’s just obviously a bad call,” LaFleur said.

There were too many bad calls, with an overreliance on schemed touches instead of running the offense organically.

3. Indefensible Ending
Green Bay’s defense extended its streak of allowing 24 or fewer points to nine games. That’s tied with Pittsburgh for the longest active streak in the league.

That nugget is nonsense, though. With the game on the line, Joe Barry’s defense collapsed like a house of cards.

The Packers led 22-21 with 1:33 to go. Preventing a professional offense from moving the ball about 40 yards for a field goal is a tough task. But that’s Barry’s job – to put his high-profile players in position to go win the game against a rookie quarterback and undermanned offense.

Instead, DeVito was the hot knife against Barry’s butter.

Three way-to-easy completions moved the ball near midfield. Then, Wan’Dale Robinson torched Keisean Nixon for a catch-and-run of 32 yards. Robinson was wide open, then tacked on 18 yards with a sprint up the right sideline.

“We obviously gave up too many chunk plays, lost our leverage twice and gave up explosive plays. Explosive plays lead to points,” LaFleur said. “You cannot do that in that critical situation. We were off – way off – on one of the throws where they get an easy hitch and gain like 10 yards. It was just bad ball.”

DeVito had 229 total yards. The Giants rushed for 209 yards. The NFL’s 31st-ranked red-zone offense scored three touchdowns in four possessions against the NFL’s ninth-best red-zone defense.

Those are just stats. The only stat that matters is when the Giants needed to score three points, they scored three points.

“To me, the biggest stat is the frickin’ scoreboard when the clock hits zero,” Barry said on Friday.

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