Though the Giants only trailed by three points at the start of the fourth quarter, the Packers had a better than even probability of winning for all but a few seconds of the game, and had a better than 60 percent chance of winning for all but a few seconds after the start of the second quarter.
So, instead of looking at the plays that changed the course of the game, let’s take a look at the plays that had the biggest impact.
Sterling Shepard touchdown (NYG + 10 percent)
The Giants missed Sterling Shepard while he dealt with his concussion issues, and this play shows why.
Shepard is lined up out wide, matched up on 3rd year corner Kevin King in man coverage. Shepard gets a fantastic release off the line of scrimmage, varying his tempo and getting King off balance before accelerating into his route. Thanks to Shepard’s quickness and the slippery conditions, King isn’t able to stick with the Giants’ receiver as tightly as he needed to.
And it was a good he got as much separation as he did, as quickly as he did.
The Packers’ pass rush got to Daniel Jones, forcing him to throw the ball early, off his back foot, while falling away. Ordinarily this would be a recipe for an incomplete pass and a field goal attempt on fourth down. However, Shepard showed some, frankly, amazing awareness and ball tracking to adjust to the pass in the air. Then, while falling to the ground, he was just able to cradle the ball and barely prevent the wide, underthrown pass from hitting the ground.
It’s plays like this which remind us just how good Shepard is, and it’s a shame that the Giants weren’t able to put a him in a better offensive scheme when he was drafted back in 2016.
Allen Lazard touchdown
Where the Giants offense had to string together a long, arduous drive with multiple fourth down conversions to get into the end zone, the Giants’ defense offered only token resistance to the Packers’ offense. Green Bay was able to quickly answer the Giants’ touchdown with one of their own, a 37-yard reception on the fifth play of their second drive.
The Giants are playing what appears to be a Cover 4 scheme on this 2nd and 1 play, with Lazard drawing Antoine Bethea in coverage out of the slot. The Packers don’t do anything particularly tricky on this play, with Lazard running a fairly simple post route.
But for some reason, when Lazard makes his in-cut to the offensive left, Bethea flips his hips the opposite way, pulling him far out of coverage and making for an easy reception for the touchdown.
Cody Latimer’s 47-yard catch
Going by increase in win probability, this was the single biggest play of the game for either team. It was also good to see from Cody Latimer, a player who has become something of a forgotten man in the various discussions surrounding the Giants.
It went unremarked during the broadcast, but I want to take this opportunity to credit Latimer’s good, nuanced route running for making this play possible.
Latimer gets a good release off the line of scrimmage, wasting little time in getting into his route or stretching his legs to get up to top speed. Tramon Williams takes outside leverage and does a nice job of staying on Latimer’s outside hip. If he had help on the inside, this route wouldn’t have been there. However, Amos is initially pulled to the offensive left by the deep corner routes run by Sterling Shepard and Scott Simonson. That opens up the middle of the field for Latimer to exploit, and exploit it he does. During the first part of his route, he leans into Williams’ outside leverage, forcing him closer to the sideline, before cutting back toward the middle of the field. It is subtle, but that creates a massive throwing window for Daniel Jones, and forces Williams to have to play from behind and through Latimer to have a chance of disrupting the catch — which would have likely resulting in a pass interference call.
The result is an easy pitch and catch for Jones and the Giants are able to flip the field. Unfortunately, New York wasn’t able to capitalize on the big play and had to settle for a field goal three plays later after no further net gain.
Geronimo Allison’s 15-Yard catch on fourth-and-10
The Packers responded to the Giants’ third quarter drive with a long drive of their own, which lasted into the fourth quarter.
This play was just edged out in added win probability by Alan Lazard’s catch early in the third quarter, but considering the circumstances I decided to go with this one. This play came on a fourth-and-10, with the Packers’ drive stalling out on the Giants’ 35-yard line and with 4:24 left in the quarter. Considering the conditions, the 35-yard line is no-man’s land for either offense, so it makes sense that the Packers would try to convert. After all, it was likely too far for a reliable field goal* and a punt would likely result in a touchback and almost no change in field position.
(*Side note: Condolences to Packers’ kicker Mason Crosby who pushed through a familial hardship to play in the game and then returned to Texas to be with his family. Screw cancer.)
The Giants had a great opportunity to get off the field on fourth down, which might have been a true turning point in the game. But as we saw throughout the game — and throughout the season — the Giants couldn’t quite turn pressure into production. EDGE Markus Golden was able to get past RT Brian Bulaga, but wasn’t quite able to get to Rodgers in time to disrupt the pass or get the sack. He did get one of the Giants’ two quarterback hits, but not until after the ball was out of Rodgers’ hand.
The Packers ran a two-man route concept on the right side, using a go route and a deep in-breaking route to create a natural rub and scheme separation from slot corner Grant Haley. Haley stumbles at the line of scrimmage and is never able to recover enough to effectively cover Allison, who makes the catch for the first down. That ultimately sets up the Packers’ third touchdown of the afternoon, capping this drive just after the start of the fourth quarter.