BARRY WILNER, AP Pro Football Writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The Packers don’t experience slumps like this too often. At least they know what’s causing the losing.
In the midst of their longest slide since 2008, the Packers pointed directly to the errors they made in a 27-13 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday. Green Bay’s third straight loss was built on three interceptions thrown by third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien, filling in for injured star Aaron Rodgers, a close miss on a fake punt, and inconsistency on both sides of the ball.
“It’s not good. It’s definitely new territory,” linebacker Clay Matthews said, noting he’d never been through a three-game losing streak. “It’s tough, because you go 10-5, 10-6, 15-1. You lose three, it doesn’t feel good. But right now, we’re just not playing very good ball.”
They could easily blame the loss of Rodgers and several other injuries. But as the Packers (5-5) plummet, they’re still only one game behind Detroit and Chicago in the NFC North.
But until Rodgers returns from a broken left collarbone, they need to get something going with Tolzien. No one knows that better than the third-year pro who made his first NFL start against the Giants (4-6).
He finished 24 of 34 for 339 yards and no touchdowns. The three interceptions made the difference.
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul scored on a spectacular, leaping 24-yard fourth-quarter interception return as the resurgent Giants won their fourth game in a row. Green Bay trailed only 20-13 at that point.
“He made a nice play, but that’s on me giving their team a freebie,” Tolzien said. “We had a chance at that point. That kills ya. It was a game-changer. You see the arms up in the air and you can’t throw it.”
Coach Mike McCarthy still believes these Packers can be a “special team,” but the roster he had on the field Sunday looked very ordinary. Rodgers can lift a team to an elite level, of course, and has done that for Green Bay. But his return date is uncertain.
So the Pack needs to play error-free ball. While Tolzien played well at times, the three picks set up 10 points.
“Turnovers are the most glaring stat,” McCarthy said. “You have one takeaway and three giveaways, do that and the ability to win on the road, you’re going uphill.”
The Packers got a 1-yard TD run by Eddie Lacy and two field goals by Mason Crosby, including a 57-yarder.
Eli Manning threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Rueben Randle, and Brandon Jacobs added a 1-yard run for the Giants.
New York’s winning streak following a 0-6 start improbably has moved the Giants within 1½ games of first-place Philadelphia (6-5) in the weak NFC East. They are a game behind second-place and idle Dallas (5-5), which will play here next Sunday.
The Giants never trailed, but they never put the Packers away until the interception by Pierre-Paul, who was questionable all week after injuring a shoulder against Oakland last week. He didn’t practice until Friday.
Pierre-Paul didn’t do much until the fourth quarter with New York clinging to a 20-13 lead.
On first-and-10 from the Packers 30, Tolzien, a practice squad player until a couple weeks ago, dropped back, turned to his left and tried to throw a quick out. Pierre-Paul, who has struggled this season after back surgery in June, jumped, snagged the pass and dashed all alone to the end zone.
The Giants had the better of the play in the first half, holding the ball for almost 20 minutes. They jumped to a 10-0 lead on Manning’s 26-yard touchdown pass to Randle and Josh Brown’s 40-yard field goal.
The touchdown reception was Randle’s sixth in the last six games, and he set it up with a 32-yard punt return. Manning finished 25 of 35 for 279 yard and an interception.
A 30-yard pass to Victor Cruz, who had eight catches for 110 yards, and a 5-yard run by Jacobs on fourth-and-1 at the Packers 36 set up the field goal.
Tolzien threw passes of 25 yards to Jordy Nelson and 45 yards to James Jones on consecutive plays to set up a 24-yard field goal by Crosby on the next series.
The Giants mismanaged the clock at the end of the first half, with a three-and-out series that started with an incomplete pass. Taking over at the Packers 37 with no timeouts, Tolzien hit on passes of 9 yards to Jarrett Boykin and 15 yards to Nelson, setting up Crosby for the 57-yard field goal on the final play.
It was a yard shy of his Packers record and the longest against the Giants.
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