The Gillette Pro Glide Top 5 Defensive Plays sponsored post comes in handy this week. Not that I am going to use it to pinpoint five great defensive plays Sunday by the New York Giants in their 38-35 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Rather, I am going to use it to five difference-making defensive plays that the Giants did not make.
So, let's get started.
1. Jacquian Williams' Mistake With 58 Seconds Left: Recall that on the first play after the Giants had tied the game at 35-35 Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw a short out to Jermichael Finley. Williams was trailing, slightly, on the play and tried to undercut the throw for an interception. He missed, and Finley ended up with a 24-yard gain.
Coach Tom Coughlin initially praised Williams for, at the very least, being aggressive on the play but said he needed to watch the film to see exactly what happened. Monday, after watching the film, Coughlin pointed out that Williams had, indeed, made a mistake on the play. He brought up the play during his opening remarks, and had this to say:
"The technicality of that was all of that stuff was to be played outside-in. The interior people were to be outside-in. That was the call, but Jacquian lost that position and so he did make an attempt to make a play and didn't get a chance to make a play," Coughlin said. "So you correct a young kid, a young guy who's playing an awful lot of football for someone who didn't expect, really, probably to do anything but special teams. There you go."
Williams has done a lot of good things this season, learning a new position and learning the NFL on the fly. He has also made mistakes, and that one was costly.
2. Will Blackmon Being Beaten On The Next Play: Everyone wondered why Blackmon, signed as a street free agent just a couple of weeks ago, was in the game at the end instead of first-round pick Prince Amukamara. We know now that Amukamara turned an ankle earlier in the game and was not available on the final couple of drives.
In that situation, Rodgers did what great quarterbacks will do. He found Blackmon, the weak link in the Giants' secondary, in single coverage on the outside against Jordy Nelson, and took advantage of it. Nelson beat Blackmon with an outside release, and as soon as he caught the 27-yard pass from Rodgers, putting the ball at the Giants' 29-yard line, you knew the game was over.
3. Perry Fewell Falls In Love With the Three-Man Rush At A Bad Time: I have written previously of my distaste for Fewell's use of the three-man rush, and how miscast Jason Pierre-Paul is lined up over the center. The more you watched the second half Sunday the more you saw the three-man line with Justin Tuck dropping back into coverage. With the Giants trailing 28-27 late in the fourth quarter that three-man rush bit the Giants big time.
With a second-and-goal from the Giants' 7-yard line Rodgers took a shotgun snap against the three-man rush and had all day to survey the field. No Giants' pass rusher got within five yards of him during the entire play. It is Tuesday morning, and Rodgers could probably still be standing back there.
Watching the coverage, replays clearly show that cornerback Corey Webster has perfect position initially on Green Bay's Donald Driver, and very nearly shoves him out of bounds -- which would have made Driver ineligible to catch a pass at that point. Driver stays in bounds, barely, and Webster loses his balance just slightly. That was all teh space Rodgers and Driver needed to connect on a critical touchdown.
4. Prince Amukamara's Pass Interference Penalty: On a deep throw down the left sideline that fell incomplete Amukamara was called for interference against Packers receiver Greg Jennings. You can argue that it was barely anything, but Amukamara did make contact with Jennings with his left hand, giving the Packers 20 yards and leading to play No. 5 on our list.
5. Greg Jennings Catch That Might Not Have Been A Catch: From the Giants' 20-yard line Jennings turned Amukamara completely around and Rodgers hit him in the end zone for an apparent score. Or was it. Jennings did not cleanly catch the ball and Amukamara recovered to swat the ball out of his hands at the end of the play. The ruling, though, was that it was a touchdown and it was confirmed by the replay booth.
I will only say that I disagree. Possession with one hand for a brief instant is not enough, but I really am not going to kill the officials here. Really, the point is the NFL Competition Committee has made a murky mess out of the rules regarding what is and is not a catch. Watching games so many times you see plays that should be completions ruled incomplete because of some quirk in the rule, and plays like the Jennings one where a play is ruled a catch under very vague guidelines. For all the times you watch a guy seemingly possess the ball forever but have a pass ruled incomplete watching Driver possess the ball for pretty much a fraction of a second and have that ruled a completion is frustrating, even if it might -- by rule -- have been correct.
I have to agree with Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who said "Most of us know exactly what the rule reads like, but I've seen it interpreted a lot of different ways. So it's confusing to me."
Me too, Tom.
Honorable Mention: I have to throw in a sixth play here. That would be Williams' illegal contact penalty on third-and-10 from Green Bay's 36-yard line with 9:58 to play. That cost the Giants a sack by Jason Pierre-Paul and Dave Tollefson, which would have meant fourth-and-21 at the Packers' 25-yard line. It did not cost the Giants points as they did eventually force a Green Bay punt. It did, though, cost the Giants 25 yards of field position and valuable time on the clock.