GREEN BAY—They are two teams and two coaching staffs that know each other well. Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers served in the same capacity for Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin in Jacksonville, where current Giants Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell was Capers’ defensive backs coach.
“Any time you play a Tom Coughlin team you know you’re going to face a tough, physical team and field position is going to be important for them,” Capers said.
The Packers and Giants will meet in MetLife Stadium this Sunday in a game of critical importance to both teams’ playoff hopes. The Packers (5-4) need to end a two-game losing streak that has seen them fall out of first place in the NFC North. The Giants (3-6) need a win to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive.
“They’re the Giants. They play a physical style. Eli (Manning) is a veteran quarterback. They probably feel like they’ve gotten back into a groove. They’re playing more like the Giants play,” Capers added.
Coughlin’s team has won three straight following an 0-6 start. Manning is having one of the worst years of his career – 16 interceptions and a 68.5 passer rating – but the Giants finally found a running game in last week’s win over the Raiders, and mixing run and pass has always been a staple of Coughlin’s offenses.
“Balance is the key. The running game had a little bit of success, gives us the balance that we need to be able to go ahead and have a good mix and hopefully take advantage of some of the things we do in the passing game,” Coughlin said earlier this week.
“You’re going to get 4-5 shots downfield,” Capers said of the play-action passing game Coughlin likes to employ. “You have to be able to play the deep ball because they’re going to throw it deep.”
The Packers were not able to defend against the deep ball last Sunday, when the Eagles connected on three touchdown passes over the top of the Packers defense. The Packers will have something this week, however, they didn’t have against the Eagles: a two-handed Clay Matthews.
Matthews returned to action last Sunday for the first time since the fourth game of the season, when he sustained a thumb injury that required surgery. His right hand was wrapped in a large ball of tape that prevented Matthews from using his hand. For this game, the wrap has been greatly reduced and it’s hoped Matthews will be more like his old self.
“It’s good to have Clay back. Clay’s had some good games against them,” Capers said.
On the offensive side of the ball, coordinator Tom Clements is counting on quarterback Scott Tolzien, who’ll be making his first pro start, to play with the poise and production he did against the Eagles, after being summoned from the bench on just the second series of the game.
“That Tolzien kid comes in and does a good job; he really did. You gotta give credit to the guy, the young man. First of all, he didn’t even know he was going to play and then he plays the majority of the game,” Coughlin said.
The Packers signed quarterback Matt Flynn this week. Flynn was Aaron Rodgers’ backup from 2008-11 and set Packers all-time passing records in the team’s win over the Lions in the 2011 regular-season finale.
“He looks like the same guy he was two years ago,” Clements said. “You really can’t tell he’s been away for so long.”
Flynn isn’t likely to have any difficulty remembering the Giants from 2011, when the Packers beat them in New York in the regular season and then lost to them in the playoffs in Lambeau Field.
“I don’t know what the reason is for their lack of sacks, but the players they have are good players. We expect them to be bringing it. The front four is still the strength of their team,” Clements said.
Not much has changed, except the teams’ records and the desperation they’ll each face this Sunday. Additional coverage - Nov. 15