Giants freeze out Packers: Five Things We Learned

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jan 15, 2012



By Adam Dobrowolski
Cold, Hard Football Facts Playoff Upset Analyst


If we all knew the scoreboard  would read "37-20" in Lambeau Field, there was a lot of money to gain for those who picked the New York Giants. Taking down the 15-1 Green Bay Packers in such authoritative fashion definitely counts of the clear-cut shocker of the football season.

Never before had a 15-win team lost its first playoff game. The 2011 Packers became the first team, and they simply got embarrassed in the process. Meanwhile, the Giants pull of an upset that would make the 2007 club blush.

Was this game truly an upset? You bet, as the Packers held the advantage in 10 of 13 Quality Stats measureables that account for the Quality Stats Power Rankings. Given how poorly the Green Bay pass defense played for most of the year, was this the impossible achieved by the Giants? Far from it.

Unfortunately, while the football nation was deprived from a Saints-Packers rematch from the Week 1 shootout, we will get to see a throwback battle between the Giants and San Francisco 49ers. Just imagine if we get a similar ending to that of the 1991 NFC Championship Game...

With so much to take this game, the five lessons will have some sub-lessons that further illustrate the craziness and brilliance of this great playoff system.

1. Both teams did a great job to remove the blown review out of the headlines.
It's crazy to think that the Giants lost opportunities to win by more than 17 points. With the Giants leading 10-3 late in the first quarter, a fumble by Greg Jennings was seemingly missed by the referees during a challenge by Tom Coughlin and the Giants. A fumble recovery would've given the Giants a fantastic chance to grab an early 17-3 lead and throw the Packers for a loop. However, Bill Leavy totally went bat-vision on the play, and allowed the "down by contact" rule to stand.

It most certainly was going to be a huge shame if this missed call became a game-changer. Social media blew up with complaints, especially in the New York and New Jersey areas. The entire Giants nation cried foul, enough to the point of challenging the integrity of NFL officiating as a whole. Sure, it's an egregious error, but it was quickly time to move past that play. Thankfully, the Giants finished strong to keep the missed challenge nothing more than a highlighted footnote.

Sub-lesson: The Giants originally did not respond well to the missed call. They immediately followed that up with an offsides penalty, then allowed the Packers to score a touchdown four plays later. New York recovered the failed onside kick after the touchdown, but failed to score after a blocked field goal by the Packers. On the ensuing New York drive, Eli Manning throw an interception. More or less, the Giants had plenty of opportunities to immediately wipe away the importance of that blown call, but they didn't do so. Instead, they surged through the second half to get the win.

2. Yes, that Hail Mary to end the first half was awesome, but Green Bay's turnover early in the third quarter had just as much impact.
While the Packers were hunting the top seed in last year's Divisional Round matchup, they scored at the end of the first half on a pick six to firmly put the game in their favor. As Tramon Williams intercepted Matt Ryan to give the Packers a 28-14 lead, it clearly set the tone for second half domination. While the Packers were the hunted top seed in this year's Divisional Round matchup, they allowed a score at the end of the first half on a Hail Mary to firmly put the game in New York's favor. While Hakeem Nicks made a great catch in traffic to give the Giants a 20-10 lead, it clearly set the tone for second half of domination.

It was an absolutely awesome way to end an exciting first half, but the Packers easily makes this a great game if they immediately respond to start the second half. Instead, despite moving the ball into Giants territory, Green Bay's drive abruptly with a sack and fumble lost for Aaron Rodgers. Whatever the Packers were going to do to wipe away New York's momentum was lost, and New York continuously rolled from there on out.

Sub-lesson: This Packers drive began a theme of missed scoring opportunities in the second half for Green Bay. After fumbling the ball in New York territory, the Packers followed that up with another drive deep into opponent territory. Unfortunately, they could only muster a field goal. On the next drive, Green Bay again drove into New York territory, where a misfire to a wide-open Jermichael Finley set up a fourth-down opportunity that the Packers failed to convert. For those three promising drives, the Packers muster only three points. Had Green Bay tied the game or look the lead at that point, we were in store for a fantastic finish. Instead, we got a Green Bay flop.

3. Aaron Rodgers continues to flop in comeback situations.
In what's been so far one of the best four-year runs by any quarterback in the NFL history, it's downright shocking to see how flat Aaron Rodgers performs in comeback situations. With this loss, Rodgers drops to 3-18 in fourth-quarter comeback situations. That's right Rodgers made only three comebacks in four seasons as an NFL quarterback! This makes for quite the interesting equation:

Aaron Rodgers career comebacks * 2 = Eli Manning comebacks in 2011

Clearly, the focus for teams in the future should be to force the Packers to make a comeback. Before this year's game-winning drive against the Giants, Rodgers didn't win in the clutch outside the NFC North. That's quite embarrassing. Remember what we said after the Week 15 loss in Kansas City:
 
"The Packers have given us little evidence that they can win a street fight. They had an opportunity here in Week 15, against a struggling team that just fired its coach. And they emerged from the alleyway with a couple black eyes and their first loss since their last few fourth-quarter street fights back in 2010."
 
Again, the Packers got socked, and pretty hard with the Hail Mary. Yet, the Packers stumbled before dropping to the mat with poor plays down the stretch. Ryan Grant's fumble set up the Giants for a Eli Manning touchdown pass and a 30-13 lead. Then, after a touchdown and missed onside kick, the Packers allowed nothing touchdown to lose 37-20.

Boy, the bullies can't take up a fight with anyone that's ready to fight back.

Sub-lesson: Pay attention to our Captain Comeback! Perhaps this fourth-quarter problems for Rodgers need some more discussion, but we'll save it for Scott Kacsmar. He look this head-on, starting with a detailed pre-season piece about Rodgers being the league's best front-runner. There's no better person to give you the scoop on a quarterback's comeback adventures.

4. This week's comparisons to the 2007 Giants will be quite ridiculous.
With the Mainstream Media already foaming in the mouth after three consecutive wins, this upset will most certainly ignite a massive firestorm about the Giants and their chances for a repeat Cinderella run to the Super Bowl. Every possible similarity will be exposed, even if all the Cold, Hard Football Facts are totally ignored. To be honest, the two runs should be appreciated for their differences. After all, this game was 37-20 blowout, while Super Bowl XLII was a drag-'em-out 17-14 triumph.

This time, the Giants took down a 15-1 in the Divisional Round, defeating the top-ranked team in Passer Rating Differential. When our Chief Potentate of Pigskin, Kerry J. Byrne, stated nine days ago that the Packers and Saints should be the Super Bowl favorites, he had the Cold, Hard Football Facts to support him. After all, 40 of the last 71 NFL champions finished first or second in Passer Rating Differential. The Packers finished with the 10th-best PRD since 1960, and 17 of the top 25 teams in PRD won the NFL championship. History said the Packers were likely to roll to a repeat, and the Giants stomped on that.

Of course, to be fair to our head honcho, he did say in his SI playoff preview that the 2011 Packers reminded him of the 2007 Patriots. Both teams dropped in PRD towards the end of the season. It just so happens that both teams were stopped by a red-hot Giants team, even if they totally were different games.

Avoid the Mainstream Media and stay tuned to Cold, Hard Football Facts for the proper perspectives.

Sub-lesson: Comparisons be damned; we're just seeing a total change in the playoffs when it comes to upsets. We first looked into this issue during the 2008 postseason, when two six seeds won in the Divisional Round. The frequency of upsets seemed to be greatly affected by realignment. From 1970 to 2001, home teams went 190-80 (.704) in the playoffs. Since 2002, home teams are 58-36 (.617), even with home teams going 7-1 so far this playoff season.

Better yet, since 2005, home teams are 38-26 (.584) in the playoffs, including 15-13 in the Divisional Round. No longer are the top seeds safe.

NFC East is certainly so stranger to this. Since 2005, the division sent three teams to the NFC Championship Game:
  • 2007 Giants: finished 10-6, fifth seed, defeated top-seeded 13-3 Cowboys
  • 2008 Eagles: finished 9-6-1, sixth seed, defeated top-seeded 12-4 Giants
  • 2011 Giants: finished 9-7, fourth seed, defeated top-seeded 15-1 Packers
Perhaps we're being trolled by this division. For all the hype, it's the underdogs who are making the great playoff runs. The frantic recent history of the NFC East football in December and January was detailed after New York's Week 14 win in Dallas. It makes only fitting that these teams would be the biggest culprits for the underdog fever.

It's quite apparent that the realignment affected playoff upsets. However, it was usually like the 9-7 Giants that allowed strong wild card teams to begin some impressive runs. Instead, it's the Giants trolling us all with another back-from-the-dead playoff run. If we're hiring anyone to star in a zombie film, it'll be Eli Manning.

5. We're seeing why the Divisional Weekend might be the most fun in the playoffs.
Sure, the Super Bowl and the conference championships are great games to be excited for football. However, if those games stink, we're screwed out of entertainment. Meanwhile, in the Divisional Round, there are still four games with a great chance for any of those games to be a classic.

This weekend, we saw an explosive back-and-forth finish result in "The Catch III" (coined it first on Twitter, or at least tied for first) and a 36-32 win for the 49ers over the Saints. We also saw the Ravens and Texans play a hard-fought street fight that went to the wire, as well as one of the most dominating upsets. Seriously, we just saw a 9-7 team take down a 15-1 team, yet it was a 17-point win that was every bit as dominating as the scoreboard read. Only one other time in playoff history did a six-game underdog win, and that was in Super Bowl XLII.

If you want to some guaranteed football fun, look no farther than the second playoff weekend.

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