by Troy A. Sparks
GREEN BAY – There was no other way to put it for the Green Bay Packers. Their Super Bowl hopes were down to winning the final two regular season games to make the playoffs.
The New York Giants needed to beat the Packers at Lambeau Field, Dec. 26, to grab one of the two wild-card spots and knock the Packers out of the postseason. They were looking to snatch the only wild-card spot up for grabs in the NFC from the Pack. New Orleans has the inside track on the other one.
Between New York coach, Tom Coughlin, and Green Bay coach, Mike McCarthy, one of them could lose their job if the team they lead is out of the postseason.
Everything went right for Green Bay. They won the coin flip, and with 7 minutes 53 seconds left in the opening quarter, a touchdown pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to receiver Jordy Nelson put the Pack up 7-0.
An interception by cornerback Tramon Williams turned into another TD for Green Bay on a pass to receiver James Jones from Rodgers.
They hit the ground running with a commanding 14-0 lead.
Green Bay let New York back into the game in the second quarter. Cornerback Charles Woodson slipped on the half-frozen turf, which left receiver Hakeem Nicks wide open.
He ran down the right sideline for a TD to cut the Packer lead to 14-7. A fumble by Nelson gave the ball back to the Giants.
They turned that possession into a scoring reception from quarterback Eli Manning to Mario Manningham to tie the game at 14.
The Giants took the wind out of the sails of the green and gold and silenced the crowd.
The Pack struck back with fullback John Kuhn getting into the end zone late in the half to give Green Bay the lead for good at 21-14.
They put 10 more points on the board to take a 31-14 advantage, courtesy of a Mason Crosby field goal and a scoring reception by tight end Donald Lee.
A field goal by New York’s Lawrence Tynes cut the Packer lead to 31-17 entering the final quarter.
The crowd chanted, “Go Pack Go!” That was enough momentum for the team to drive the Giants away and run them out of town.
Kuhn (or K-o-o-o-o-n, as the fans say) scored the last points of the game with a rushing and a receiving TD. The 45-17 beat-down by the Packers knocked their opponents down like an avalanche.
“It’s a big win,” receiver Greg Jennings said. “We came out and punched them in the mouth from the start. It felt great.”
Jennings gave props to Kuhn at a time when the running game appeared dead after the bye week. Kuhn had three touchdowns in the game.
“The thing about John Kuhn is when he runs in the game, all of the fans know that he’s getting the ball. The defense knows that he’s getting the ball. He never disappoints.
That’s the beauty of John Kuhn. I told him that he’s going to be here for a long time.”
Packers Notes: Rodgers, on a second down play at the New York 21-yard line, ran 15 yards to the 6. The electrodes in his brain reminded him to slide to the ground instead of diving. The last time Rodgers dove head first after running out of the pocket at Detroit, he was hit in the head and suffered a concussion….Linebacker Desmond Bishop, who saw the ball go near the out of bounds line on a fumble by New York running back Brandon Jacobs, which was forced by linebacker Clay Matthews, slapped the ball back in bounds.
It was recovered by Nick Collins on the ground after the Giants’ Sean O’Hara tried to pick it up. “I cleaned it out,” Bishop said. “I wanted to get it so bad, and my momentum was taking me out of bounds. I didn’t want to go out of bounds. I just tipped it back and kept it in play.
Hopefully, one of our guys got (the ball), and I was fortunate enough that Nick Collins got it.”….Crosby went over 500 points in his career with three field goals in the game….The Packers wanted to erase the memory of their last game against the Giants.
Their 23-20 overtime loss in the NFC Championship Game in 2008 at Lambeau still lingered in the minds of the players who were on that team.
That loss denied the green and gold a trip to the Super Bowl that year….Before Jennings and Jones, whose lockers are next to each other, faced the media, Jones’ phone rang.
“That’s probably my grandma calling me,” Jones said. “‘Grandson, what’s wrong with you dropping that ball?’”, he said in a squeaky voice.
“It’s okay,” Jennings said, “I’m not going to beat him too bad because he had a couple of drops today.”
Jones caught four of seven passes….What could be scary for the Packers is that they can beat Chicago, Jan. 2, and still be on the outside looking in….Jennings went over the 5,000-yard mark in receiving yards.
Rodgers’ 404 passing yards in the game were the most by a Green Bay quarterback since Lynn Dickey threw for 418 at Tampa Bay in Oct. 1980.
Giants Notes: Six turnovers did the visitors in. “The thing that I told the team is there’s no way anyone wins in this league when you turn the ball over six times,” Coughlin said….The team still kept their playoff hopes alive going into the final week of the regular season, but they need Green Bay to lose.
If the two teams have the same record (both teams are 9-6), the playoff situation could be very sticky.
“We had a shot to win and get into the playoffs, but now we need some help,” Manning said.
“We need Chicago to come (to Lambeau) and beat Green Bay.”….Defensive tackle Barry Cofield said the loss to the Packers and second straight in as many weeks is frustrating.
“(The frustration) is at an all-time high,” he said. “I didn’t think it could be worse than last week (against Philadelphia).
“You can’t go out there and have bad performance after bad performance and keep saying that we will get it right. We just have a tendency not to play well enough.”