EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—Multiple Packers said after Sunday night's 38-10 loss that the team was lacking emotion, that it didn't play with any fire.
What no one could answer was why.
The Packers had won five straight. They knew they needed to win to keep pace with the Bears atop the NFC North. They were playing in prime time on the road, the same setting in which they played their best game earlier this season, in Houston. And of course, they were facing a Giants team that ruined their 15-1 season in the divisional playoffs last January.
Yet, something was missing.
"I think the biggest thing is we have to come out and play with some emotion," receiver Randall Cobb said. "I feel like our care level just wasn't there tonight. I don't know how else to put it."
The emotions were there early. The Packers looked pretty fired up when Jordy Nelson hauled in a 61-yard TD pass on Green Bay's first series to tie the score at 7.
Pinpointing when the enthusiasm vanished was as difficult as answering why. Mason Crosby's miss on a 55-yard field goal was certainly a downer, as was Aaron Rodgers' interception just one play after the Giants had taken a 14-7 lead.
After the Giants converted that turnover into a field goal, the Packers were never within one score again.
"We were flat out there," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "They got a couple turnovers and we were trailing the whole time. It was a total downfall, I guess you could say."
It never picked back up.
"Watching everybody's body language, it was not positive out there," defensive lineman B.J. Raji said, "and our play showed that."
Scrap that: Regarding Nelson's 61-yard TD, that was one of the few snaps the Giants lined up with just a single high safety, and Nelson burned cornerback Corey Webster with a stop-and-go move down the sideline.
From there, the Giants scrapped any further thoughts of a single-high look and went to a traditional cover two, with two safeties deep, to slow down the Packers.
"It probably didn't help," Nelson said when asked if his long TD forced the Giants back to cover two. "We don't know what their game plan was, but we saw a heavy dose of it after that."
What makes the Giants' cover two scheme so effective is their ability to pressure the quarterback with just four rushers. That leaves five other defenders in coverage in addition to the two deep safeties.
"We're used to it, we just have to be able to protect the quarterback and make plays when they go to it," Nelson said. "We have to execute across the board. This year isn't the first time we've seen it. We saw it all last year, too, and we were still able to be productive, so we have to get back at it."
On the board: Backup QB Graham Harrell came in for the Packers' final possession and completed his first NFL pass.
Harrell connected with fullback John Kuhn for an 11-yard gain just after the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter. Three snaps later he threw incomplete to tight end D.J. Williams, so Harrell finished 1-for-2 for 11 yards. He handed off on his other seven snaps.
Previously, Harrell's only game action came in Week 4 against New Orleans when he replaced Rodgers for one play and fumbled a handoff exchange near the goal line.
Injury update: The injuries reported after the game were to safety M.D. Jennings (rib), defensive lineman C.J. Wilson (knee), running back Johnny White (concussion) and linebacker Jamari Lattimore (calf). Lattimore returned to the game.
Among others, the Packers played without receiver Greg Jennings (groin/abdomen) and linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring). Jennings had practiced on a limited basis all week, but having missed six games, his endurance was a question mark.
"There was no reason not to play him, just the one fact of fatigue," Mike McCarthy said. "I would think he'd be ready to go on Sunday (against the Vikings)."
Matthews has missed the last two games, and his status for this week remains in doubt.
"Clay is not as close as Greg," McCarthy said. Additional coverage - Nov. 25