GREEN BAY—The New York Giants will be facing a very different Packers defense than the one the Giants mauled for 447 yards and 35 points in a 38-35 loss at MetLife Stadium last season.
"The Packers defensive team last year had a tremendous number of takeaways. This year's team doesn't have as many takeaways but they're playing what appears to be much tighter defense. There are a lot of young players contributing. The structure appears to be the same and they're playing with outstanding quality," Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin said.
Coughlin and Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers know each other from their days in Jacksonville and in the AFC South, where Capers was the head coach of the expansion Texans in Coughlin's final year as coach of the Jaguars. Previously, Capers had been Coughlin's defensive coordinator in Jacksonville.
"They're running the ball better now," Capers said of the Giants offense. "Knowing Tom the way I know Tom, he's not going to be happy until they're running the ball. That's the way they're built."
The Giants had the league's worst rushing attack last season. This year, the Giants are 13th in rush offense, giving their ninth-ranked passing attack the balance Coughlin always seeks.
"It's interesting that they go win the Super Bowl last year running the ball the way they did," Capers said.
The Giants rode the hot arm of their quarterback, Eli Manning, and the game's deepest stable of pass rushers to roll through the playoffs and upset the Patriots in the big game for the second time in five years.
"To win and take the next step, we have to play well against Eli Manning," Capers said. "He's smart, like his brother. He throws an accurate deep ball. (Victor) Cruz is an outstanding receiver. (Hakeem) Nicks is a physical receiver and has played well against us.
"We have to make them work. They're a big-play offense."
The Giants are currently mired in what has become a traditional midseason slump. They're on a two-game losing streak. They had lost three straight heading into last season's game against the Packers.
Manning has thrown 11 interceptions, and that's a startling number for a two-time Super Bowl MVP. He's been sacked a league-low 12 times, and that might say something about a penchant for forcing passes instead of taking sacks.
"He's not going to take one. That's the way he plays. If you can disrupt him, you might be able to make a play on the ball," Capers said.
Conversely, Packers Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements is basing his unit's success on avoiding turnovers.
"Any time you play away you want to protect the football. On the road, if you turn it over you get their crowd into it and give them momentum," Clements said.
Aaron Rodgers is one of the league's most sacked quarterbacks, but he's also among the leaders in fewest interceptions thrown.
"He's got a 107 quarterback rating. What do you want me to comment on? He's just having an outstanding year," Coughlin said of Rodgers.
Meanwhile, Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum is depending on kicker Mason Crosby to snap out of a slump that has seen him miss seven of his last 13 field goal attempts.
"We need to make field goals. It's time Mason has a good game," Slocum said.
Crosby won last year's regular-season meeting between the two teams with a walk-off field goal.
"I remember people saying moral victory, but I don't believe in moral victories," Giants defensive lineman Justin Tuck said earlier this week. "We had our opportunities to win that game. That just shows the talent (the Packers) have to come out here and beat us. We started playing better after that." Additional coverage - Nov. 23