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A rotten apple

by Mark Daniels

Anger: Aaron Rodgers goes down on the first series and the Packers lose to the Bears.

Denial:  Seneca Wallace goes down on the first series.  It can't happen again, can it? And the Packers lose to the Eagles.

Depression:  Scott Tolzien goes the distance but the Packers drop a third straight game, falling to the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium 27-13.

Acceptance: I guess the Packers can't win without Rodgers.

Here's how Mike McCarthy summed it up from New Jersey:

Audio: Mike McCarthy.

Tolzien gave it the old college try in his first NFL start, completing 24 of 34 passes for 339 yards but he endured three costly interceptions in the second half, the most painful was easily swiped by defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul on a quick pass to the left and he jogged in 24 yards for a touchdown that put the game out of reach.  To put the Pack's free fall on the shoulders of the backup quarterbacks is unfair.   Very few healthy players have picked up the slack for a healing Rodgers, Wallace and inexperienced Tolzien.  While the defense didn't give up any ghastly big plays, they bent just enough throughout.  The shuffled offensive line couldn't open holes for a running game the McCarthy game plan was relying on.  Eddie Lacy did smash in for a four yard touchdown, but his longest run was only 5, managing 27 yards on 14 carries.   Even the most optimistic Packer fan will look at this 5-5 team and come to the realization that being one game back of both Detroit and Chicago for the NFC North lead with six weeks to go, seems like miles.  

The Giants scored first thanks to Rueben Randle who opened and closed the drive.  His 32 yard punt return had the Giants start at the Green Bay 42 and 5 plays later, Randle got behind Micah Hyde for a 26 yard touchdown catch.   After a second straight three and out for the Green Bay offense, New York moved 56 yards in 11 plays to set up Josh Brown for a 40 yard field goal and a 10-0 lead.

Tolzien then connected on two big pass plays, 25 yards to Jordy Nelson and 45 to James Jones but Green Bay stalled in the red zone again.  Mason Crosby's 24 yard chip shot got 'em on the board with 10:21 left in the first half.  

The Giants were moving again when Eli Manning threw his 17th pick of the season.  Tramon Williams dove for a ball thrown behind Louis Murphy at the Green Bay 10 yard line.  The Packers got the ball back at their own 37 following a punt, but had only :43 left in the half and no timeouts.  Tolzien made two nice throws for 24 yards and spiked the ball with :04 to play.  Crosby then powered through a 57 yard field goal to make it 10-6 at the half.  It was the longest outdoor field goal in team history and only a yard behind Mason's 58 yard franchise best inside the Metrodome.

Despite managing only 4 first downs and with 10 minutes of possession time in the half, the Packers had to feel good getting the ball to open the third.  That's when the mistakes started coming. Tolzien was picked by linebacker Jon Beason on the first series, never saw him dropping over the middle in coverage.  The Giants wound up settling for 3 after Hakeem Nicks was wide open for a 35 yard catch to the 10.

Down 13-6, the Packers moved to New York territory but tried a fake punt on 4th and 7.  M.D. Jennings took the direct snap and gained only 6 and a half according to the measurement.  New York responded with a 10 play, 63 yard drive that ended with Brandon Jacobs diving over from the one to make it 20-6.

Jarrett Boykin's 52 yard catch up the sideline set up Lacy's touchdown run and it was a game again.  Two sacks of Eli Manning forced a punt and Green Bay took over at their own 30 with 10:55 to go in the game.

That's when Tolzien took a shotgun snap, looked quickly to his left and threw right into the waiting hands of Pierre-Paul.  The athletic defensive end never really rushed upfield and rookie David Bakhtiari couldn't engage him.   Pierre-Paul easily jumped to catch the pass and literally sauntered into the end zone to push the lead to 27-13.

The Packers got it back three more times but went three and out, a few hurry up completions until under duress, Tolzien threw and ill advised lob down the middle, over the head of Boykin and Antrel Rolle picked it off.  The clock ran out on the final set of downs and the Packers limped out of New Jersey a .500 club.

Green Bay had to sit two key starters down.  Sam Shields pulled a hamstring late in the practice week and was inactive.  That hurt, for Davon House and Micah Hyde weren't up to the task. Victor Cruz caught 8 balls for 110 yards, Nicks and Randle both had explosive gains.  Don Barclay couldn't go at right tackle and while Marshall Newhouse gave up pressures, Tolzien wasn't sacked on the day, but the run game really suffered.

The rest of the inactives were Rodgers, Chris Harper, Andy Mulumba,  Nick Perry and Casey Hayward.

This is the first three game slide for the Pack since they dropped five in a row in McCarthy's second year, the first for Rodgers as a starter back in 2008.  The dreadful Minnesota Vikings (2-8) come calling on Lambeau next Sunday.  Misery loves company.