EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ—Aaron Rodgers' absence from the lineup has reached three games and so has the Packers' losing streak following a 27-13 loss to the Giants at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
"The first thing you do after a game like this is evaluate yourself. Three turnovers. That's the bottom line. The guys worked too hard. That's on me, completely," Scott Tolzien said following a game that was his first start as an NFL quarterback.
Tolzien pitched three interceptions, the last of which clinched victory for the Giants when Jason Pierre-Paul, long a Packers tormentor, pulled a Tolzien pass out of the air and ran with it 24 yards for a touchdown that killed any hope the Packers had of posting a rally.
"I gave him a freebie there. We had a chance at that point," Tolzien said of Pierre-Paul's pick six. "I will learn from that. I would've liked to have been a lot cleaner. You evaluate yourself. I'll be better this week."
The Packers had cut the Giants' lead to seven points only moments earlier, when Tolzien executed a five-play, 83-yard touchdown drive, the big play of which was a 52-yard completion to Jarrett Boykin. With 12:43 to play, there was a groundswell of hope among Packers fans in attendance, and it intensified when the Packers defense forced a three-and-out by the Giants, but then came Pierre-Paul's big play and that was that.
"We have to be real honest about it. Five interceptions in two games," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said of Tolzien's stat line since relieving Seneca Wallace after the first series of the previous week's game, a loss to the Eagles. "It's something that'll be addressed."
Will Tolzien be the starter again this week when the Packers host the Vikings in a must-win NFC North game? Is there any chance Rodgers will return to action? They are the headline questions to be asked this week.
"I felt I might've put too much on his plate early in the week," McCarthy said of Tolzien. "I didn't coach well enough and our team didn't play well enough to win."
The Pierre-Paul play was one of two turning-point plays in the game. Midway through the third quarter, with the Packers trailing 13-6 and facing a fourth-and-seven at the Giants 43-yard line, McCarthy ordered a fake-punt play. M.D. Jennings ran for six yards and the Giants took over at their 37-yard line.
Eli Manning then engineered a workmanlike drive that included completions of 25 and 14 yards to Victor Cruz, a third-and-five completion to Brandon Myers at the Packers 3-yard line, and a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Brandon Jacobs.
"The fourth-and-seven fake punt was my call. It's too long. I pressed the envelope there and we did not get it done," said McCarthy, who expressed regret for the bold call.
Green Bay's defense gained momentum after a slow start, but when asked if the defense played well enough for the Packers to win, McCarthy said: "We did not play well enough as a football team to win. We need to get better. We know what the issues are. We don't need stat sheets."
Most would agree the Packers need Rodgers to return. When will he return? It might be the greatest of the Packers' issues.