GREEN BAY – As Head Coach Mike McCarthy described it, the “very good night” the Packers’ offensive line had against the Giants was encapsulated by one simple play.
Third-and-1 midway through the fourth quarter.
A simple handoff to Aaron Ripkowski into a mass of bodies turned into a 13-yard gain as the Packers’ fullback kept his legs churning and his linemen kept pushing the pile, all the way to a first-and-goal.
“To have an explosive gain on a dive play, that was incredible,” offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said on Monday. “The offensive line was phenomenal pushing the pile and finishing strong. It’s something they take great pride in.”
A season-best 147 rushing yards, including a 7.4-yard average by Eddie Lacy (11 carries, 81 yards), is plenty to be proud of as well. Pushing the pile is nothing new, as the group did so on an 8-yard run by Lacy against the Lions before the bye week.
The switch in Week 1 to Lane Taylor at left guard in place of Josh Sitton has gone as smoothly as anyone could have hoped.
“I had great confidence in Lane all along,” McCarthy said. “I think we’re playing better in the run game than we have in my time here. The group has really jelled.”
The linemen also were practically flawless in pass protection. Not only was quarterback Aaron Rodgers not sacked in 45 pass attempts, but he had extensive time in the pocket on a handful of plays with the Giants mostly sticking to a straight four-man rush with a depleted secondary. Edge-rushing stars Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon were kept quiet by tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga.
Lacy did end up leaving the game in the second half with an ankle injury, which McCarthy doesn’t believe is serious. Also, receiver Randall Cobb is “sore” after taking a nasty hit on the game-sealing third-down conversion with two minutes left.
“It didn’t look very good live and it didn’t look very good on the film,” McCarthy said. “Unnecessary, but he’s going to be fine.”
Special teams will need to recover as well after a rough night. The Packers’ coverage units, solid through the first three games, allowed kickoff returns of 35, 42 and 37 yards to two Giants returners.
Another concern was punter Jake Schum, who averaged just 36.5 yards on four punts. Two efforts carried only 33 and 32 yards, respectively, giving the Giants good field position they turned into field goals.
For now, there’s no talk of changing punters, according to McCarthy.
“We just need to punt it better,” he said. “I’m not a big fan of changing players in mid-stream. He’s new here. We need to punt the ball better.”
Special teams coordinator Ron Zook said Schum’s issue is likely a fundamental one with his drop.
“He’s shown that he can do it. It’s just a consistency thing,” Zook said. “Field position is a key for us and he’s got to punt it down there and give us a chance to cover it.”
Four penalties on special teams, costing Green Bay 27 total yards, didn’t help matters in the field-position game. Zook questioned some of the calls but said the players need to adjust and “play it clean” if things are being called tightly.
He also felt the intensity of the units was lacking against the Giants, and that can’t continue.
“We lacked a little bit of energy it seemed like,” Zook said. “One thing about special teams is it’s about energy, it’s about playing fast, it’s about playing with everything you’ve got. We didn’t necessarily do that, and we have to get back to that.”
Hodkiewicz: Packers' top-ranked run defense readies for its biggest test