EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—For the past three games, the Packers have moved the ball and put themselves on the edge of field-goal range, or knocked on the door for touchdowns.
But too many times, the offense has come up short, and that trend maddeningly continued on Sunday at MetLife Stadium in a third straight loss, 27-13 to the New York Giants.
In the first three quarters, three times the Packers crossed midfield and came away with nothing, and the one time they reached the red zone, they settled for a field goal. The result was a 14-point deficit that ultimately became the final margin.
“As an offense, we started getting a little tempo going, started making some plays down the field once we got the balls in our hands, and when we got down there we didn’t capitalize,” receiver James Jones said. “That’s kind of lately been our kryptonite.”
The Packers found their tempo with some big pass plays, but things regularly fizzled. Scott Tolzien passes of 25 yards to Jordy Nelson and 45 to Jones only produced a field goal.
“That’s something that’s been a thorn in our side all season, the red-zone conversions,” guard T.J. Lang said. “It’s definitely been a negative for our team, for our offense. A lot of yards, getting down there, and stalling. It’s not very satisfying.”
Equally unsatisfying were separate drives that saw throws to Brandon Bostick for 26, Nelson for 29 and Andrew Quarless for 19 that all crossed midfield but all resulted in nothing, when one more first down would provide an opportunity to get points.
One of those stops was the result of an interception by Giants linebacker Jon Beason. The last of those three failures came when a fake punt on fourth-and-7 was stopped one yard short of the first down, at the New York 37-yard line.
The inability to seize momentum was seemingly there on numerous occasions, but the full swing never materialized.
That was no more evident than in the fourth quarter, when the offense finally found the end zone, using a 52-yard pass to Jarrett Boykin to set up a 4-yard TD run by Eddie Lacy, pulling the Packers within 20-13.
The defense then responded with a pair of sacks by Brad Jones and Clay Matthews for a three-and-out, giving the ball back to the offense. But on the very first snap, Tolzien’s quick throw to his left was snagged out of the air by defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and run back 24 yards for a back-breaking score.
“That was a blow,” James Jones said. “That just came down to them making more plays than us when it counted. Lately, that’s what teams have been doing, offensively and defensively. They’ve made more plays than us. We have to own up to it, man up to it, and go out there and get better.”
The defense wasn’t blameless in this game, giving up four big gains that each led to a score by the Giants offense.
Reuben Randle’s 26-yard TD pass started the scoring, while Victor Cruz had receptions of 30 and 25 yards, leading to a TD and field goal, respectively. Hakeem Nicks added a 35-yard grab when cornerback Tramon Williams and safety Morgan Burnett got crossed up in coverage, leading to another field goal.
The defense rose up twice, getting an interception by Williams in the second quarter to thwart a potential scoring drive. Then in the fourth quarter came the two-sack stop, but just as quickly the game swung back to the Giants.
“We held them back there in good field position, but we need to do that all game,” Matthews said.
“We did good things out there, but ultimately you have to do great things to win ballgames.”
Pierre-Paul’s play was a great one, the biggest in the game bar none. The Packers will need some of those to maximize on the reprieve they were given Sunday, when the Lions lost to the Steelers, keeping Green Bay at 5-5 just one game back of the division lead, jointly held by 6-4 Detroit and Chicago.
“We’re right there in the thick of things,” Matthews said, echoing many of his teammates’ sentiments that it’s too early to think the Packers are out of the race. “Obviously three losses in a row is not where we want to be, especially the way we started. We need to get a big victory at home. It’s time to come back and rally.”
It will come down to grabbing the momentum when it’s there for the taking, and not letting go -- in the next game, and the rest of the season.
“We’re 5-5, everything’s in front of us,” Jones said. “We’re one game back. We’ve got a lot of good players, a lot of good coaches, we’ll be OK. We just have to find a way to get a win.”
Instant Replay: Giants 27, Packers 13