First of all, it's important to note that Clay Matthews—the only Packers defender with more than three sacks—was out of the game, nursing a sore hamstring. Also, Sam Shields was out with an ankle injury, and Charles Woodson hasn't been available for weeks now.
The Packers were operating without some of their defensive stalwarts, and the Giants exploited them with a solid game plan and excellent execution.
Let's take a look at how they did it.
Kevin Gilbride put together an excellent game plan that kept the Packers off-balance the entire game.
The Giants ran 61 offensive plays—30 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns and 31 runs for 147 yards and two touchdowns.
You won't see a more well-balanced offense, and the consistent success Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown had in the running game lulled the Packers secondary to sleep, leading to some monster plays.
Negate the Pass Rush With a Screen
The Giants got off to a scorching start by scoring on the first possession of the game.
Without Matthews in the lineup, the Packers were determined to bring pressure by any means necessary.
On the fourth play of the Giants' first drive, Dom Capers sent A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones up the middle on a linebacker stunt blitz, leaving his defense exposed to attack with the right play call.
Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks lined up on the right side to start the play, and then Cruz motioned to the left, ultimately faking a reverse run to the left.
Morgan Burnett (the strong safety) tracked Henry Hynoski, who was heading toward the right flat, while Tramon Williams stuck with Nicks as he ran down the right sideline.
This opened up quite a lane for Bradshaw, who got excellent blocking from his line and from the receivers.
Gilbride's decision to call a screen pass turned out to be the Kryptonite to Capers' blitz, and Bradshaw ripped off a 59-yard gain and almost scored a touchdown.
The Cruz Factor
As we saw on the last play, one of the reasons the screen pass was so effective is that two defenders keyed in on Cruz, who had motioned to the left side of the line on a fake reverse.
That wasn't the only play in which Cruz proved to be an effective decoy, either.
The Giants lined up on 3rd-and-9 at their own 40-yard line early in the second quarter, already up 17-7. The Packers desperately needed to make a stop, but alas, it was not to be.
Cruz and Nicks both lined up on the right side, with Cruz on the outside and Nicks in the slot. Then, Cruz motioned into the slot position and ran a comeback route of sorts while Nicks ran a deep out.
The Packers were in what appeared to be a mixed scheme, with the defensive backs on the right side playing zone and the lone corner on the left playing man. Either way, both safeties were responsible for the deep zone.
Burnett was responsible for the deep zone on the right, and he ended up tracking Nicks all by his lonesome as Williams and Casey Hayward both stayed underneath to cover Cruz, who was sitting a yard or so inside the first-down marker.
Manning hit Nicks with perfect timing as he broke to the right out of his deep out, and the result was an easy—and I mean, easy—25-yard completion to convert the third down.
The Giants had the Packers' number all night long.
Gilbride had an excellent game plan, and his players executed it well.
The Packers never got much pressure on Manning, and combined with a potent running game, that spells disaster for any defense.
When the Giants are fresh and healthy on offense, they are one of the toughest teams to defend in the NFL.
If Manning and his offense can execute like this the rest of the way in 2012, Big Blue could be primed for another late-season surge to the Super Bowl.
Note: All screenshots courtesy of NFL Rewind
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