Rodgers could barely find anyone open against New York's stellar secondary, even with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the sideline due to an injury suffered early on. Rodgers kept having to scramble around to buy time, and even when he did avoid the rush, the Giants managed to get to him with a sack before one of Green Bay's receivers broke free of coverage.
Considering the Giants had 194 yards to their name at the time, one would think they held a comfortable lead. But they didn't. The Giants turned three trips inside Green Bay's 35-yard line into only six points, and so held just a scant 6-0 lead before Rodgers finally managed to get things rolling.
A 31-yard pass to Davante Adams down the right sideline led to a touchdown pass to Adams two plays later, complete with Rodgers scampering around the pocket for nine seconds before firing a laser into a tight window. All of a sudden the Packers had a 7-6 lead despite being badly outplayed for the entire half.
The Giants managed to get stuffed on third-and-1 deep in their own territory after the two-minute warning (running up the middle with scatback Bobby Rainey, for some reason, rather than Paul Perkins or Rashad Jennings), then let Rodgers march the Packers right up to around midfield with enough time for a couple shots. Jared Cook dropped the first one with six seconds left in the half -- and that actually worked out well for the Packers. The next play turned into a big one, with Rodgers completing yet another Hail Mary to extend Green Bay's lead.
New York would never recover.
The Packers offense got into quite a bit more of a rhythm in the second half, with more effectiveness on the ground complementing Rodgers' better play and both Randall Cobb (more on him in a second) and Davante Adams dominating their matchups. The Giants continued to make mistakes on special teams and continued to drop passes as well, but that all might not have mattered quite as much if they'd managed to build a bigger lead early on. That failure, as much as anything else, is why the Giants are going home and the Packers are heading to Dallas to take on the Cowboys in the second round.
Here are a few more things to know about Green Bay's 38-13 win.
Randall Cobb was Aaron Rodgers' No. 1 target when these two teams played way back in Week 5, racking up nine catches for 108 yards. Once Jordy Nelson went down with a rib injury, Rodgers turned to Cobb as his big play man again, and Cobb stepped up when needed.
Cobb was the recipient on the Hail Mary to end the first half, as well as two additional touchdowns from Rodgers. He shook up Trevin Wade and Coty Sensabaugh in coverage several times over the middle and generally made the most of his 12 targets.
Cobb finished the afternoon with eight catches for 125 yards and a score.
Eli Manning entered this game with five straight road playoff wins, an NFL record. He entered this game 2-0 at Lambeau Field in his postseason career. And he entered this game having gone 8-0 in the postseason during New York's two miraculous Super Bowl runs and 0-3 in all other playoff games.
Manning's road winning streak is now snapped, his Lambeau record is no longer unblemished and he's now 0-4 in the playoffs in years other than 2008 and 2012. Eli started pretty hot, firing passes to Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz early, but the Giants couldn't manage to find the end zone despite a couple pretty good drives -- thanks mostly to several untimely drops.
Eli did overthrow a few guys and lose a fumble, but he put in a pretty decent performance, all things considered. It just wasn't nearly enough, in large part because he was undermined by ...
A litany of mistakes
The Giants can look back on this game and blame themselves for a lot of what went wrong. They made a ton of mistakes, of both the mental and physical variety.
Odell Beckham dropped a third-and-5 pass on the Giants' opening drive, which led to a punt. He dropped a deep pass in the end zone later on that could have given the Giants their first touchdown. He dropped a third (arguably overthrown) pass later in the game that could have put the Giants in position to cut into the lead.
Sterling Shepard dropped a pass inside the 10-yard line that turned a possible touchdown into a field goal. He also had another potential touchdown grab knocked out of his hands by Micah Hyde.
The Giants' miscues weren't limited to the wide receivers, even though those are the ones that will get the most attention -- no doubt thanks to the Miami yacht trip those guys took in the week.
Brad Wing shanked a punt. Dwayne Harris fielded two punts inside his own 10-yard line with his back to the coverage. New York's coverage teams yielded several long returns to Jeff Janis, Christine Michael, and Micah Hyde. And Bobby Rainey fielded a kickoff that was going out of bounds and set the Giants up with possession inside their own five.
All of these mistakes contributed to the Giants' blowing that early lead and to their not being able to stage a comeback late.
New York's mistakes weren't limited to the players, either. Coach Ben McAdoo was overly conservative from the jump, making several decisions that look worse with hindsight than they did at the time, but which were questionable at the time as well.
After that first Beckham drop, the Giants faced fourth-and-5 at the Green Bay 35-yard line. McAdoo has helped the Giants win several games with aggressive fourth down decisions, but he chose to punt there. Green Bay didn't take advantage, but the Giants left the potential for points on the field by giving the ball to the other team. A 52-yard field goal would have been an aggressive call in the cold, but considering the Giants had been finding cracks in the Green Bay pass defense, letting Manning throw would have been a justifiable decision.
On the next drive, Shepard dropped a pass inside the 10 and set up fourth-and-3 from the Green Bay 8-yard line. McAdoo chose to kick a field goal to take a 3-0 lead. He did the same later on fourth-and-6 from the Green Bay 22-yard line to go up 6-0.
The likelihood of the Giants winning this game 3-0 or 6-0 was microscopic. Combined, those three drives inside Green Bay's 35-yard line yielded the Giants just six points. That's simply not enough if you're trying to beat the Packers, especially as an underdog. The Giants should have been more aggressive and pushed for a bigger early lead.
With his team trailing 14-6 in the third quarter, McAdoo elected to punt on the Green Bay 41-yard line when facing fourth-and-6. The Packers didn't turn their next possession into a score (they turned it over on downs and the Giants answered with a touchdown), but it was emblematic of their conservative decision-making all game.
Slow start, strong finish
Rodgers started this game 6 of 13 for 54 yards (4.2 per attempt) and in that stretch he was sacked four times and committed an intentional grounding penalty.
He finished the game 25 of 42 for 362 yards, four touchdowns and no picks. That's a 19 of 29 for 308-yard finish over the final two-plus quarters, during which he was working without his No. 1 receiver the entire time. He systematically avoided the New York pass rush to buy more time for his receivers to get open, and as the game went on, they did so more consistently.
Rodgers worked Adams and Cobb and Cook over the middle and down the sideline, picking apart one of the NFL's best defenses with patience, precision, and his trademark laser-beam "throw him open" passes. It was a master class.
The Packers will travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys next week, in a rematch of both their Week 6 loss (30-16, Dallas) and their 2014 divisional-round win. You may remember that particular game as the Dez Bryant (no-)catch game. We may hear about that one a few times throughout this week.
To recap the Giants-Packers game, scroll back through our blog below.