Giants-Packers Review: The Most Important Play of the Game


Pick a play — just one play, that defines the Giants’ 37-20 upset of the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. What did you choose? The Hail Mary with six seconds left before halftime, right? I’d call it the most important play of the game for two reasons.

First, because it is a perfect illustration of the Giant’s new-found ability to make the right play. Second, because it shows how perfectly inept the Packer’s defense was all afternoon. Here’s what Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy said after the game, “The defensive call was the right call, and the alignment showed you what was getting ready to occur from what they attempted. It’s about making plays and big play opportunities in big games. That was a big play for the Giants…It was a 10-point game at halftime and we had the ball coming out [for the third quarter]. It was a big momentum play for them.”

Seriously, Mike? That defensive call was the right call? Let’s watch it again.

What I see are four Giants and four Packers in the end zone at the very spot where the ball is delivered. It doesn’t appear to be a particularly well thrown pass; the play worked primarily because of the strength and athletic ability of Hakeem Nicks. But why did the Giants have four potential receivers in the end zone and the Packers just four guys to defend? I didn’t go to MIT, but doesn’t four against four give you a 50% ratio of success?

If you freeze the video just before Nicks comes down with the ball, you see two Packers defenders sort of standing around not doing much of anything — one at the 5-yard line and the other about to go into the end zone. May we ask a stupid question here? With the ball on the Green Bay 37 and six seconds left, what exactly did the Packers expect the Giants to do? It would have been virtually impossible to throw for, say, 10 yards and stop the clock with time for the Giants to kick a field goal. Even if they could have, surely everyone anticipated that the best New York could hope for was a one-out-of-five chance by heaving the ball into the end zone. Is there a high school defensive coach in the country who would have not put two — no, make that three — safeties down around the 5-yard line? And maybe 5 more defensive backs in front of them, say around the 20-yard line, who would immediately drop back deep if the Giant receivers seemed headed toward the goal line?

Instead, despite what McCarthy said, the Giants were able to get four receivers into the end zone while several guys in green shirts chased them down the field from behind. Which, in fact, is pretty much what the Green Bay defensive secondary was doing all day.

In the old NFL, this was the kind of play that got defensive coaches fired. Now, it’s the kinds of play that coaches defend by saying, “We had the right defense and they just made the play.”

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