TODD McMAHON, Associated Press
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Missed opportunities kept Eli Manning and the New York Giants from another postseason victory at Lambeau Field.
Squandered scoring chances early; a botched kickoff return in the second half; and a number of dropped passes in between contributed to the Giants’ 38-13 loss to the Packers in an NFC wild-card game on Sunday.
This wasn’t the kind of night that star Odell Beckham Jr., and fellow receivers Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard envisioned after taking heat from some fans and media for a trip to Miami on their day off to celebrate a regular-season-ending win over Washington.
“There was nothing that could connect seven days ago to today and how we came out and played and executed,” Beckham said. “There’s just nothing in the world. That’s not realistic.”
There were plenty of other reasons why the Giants exited the playoffs quickly in their first postseason appearance in five years. After trudging to a 6-0 lead, the Giants never recovered from a 14-6 halftime deficit.
Beckham had just four catches for 28 yards on 11 targets. Manning was 23 of 44 for 299 yards and connected with Tavarres King for a 41-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.
But the Giants’ top three receivers were shut out of the end zone by a banged-up secondary.
The Giants had defensive lapses, too, most notably on Aaron Rodgers’ desperation pass to Randall Cobb, who somehow was left open in the back of the end zone for a 42-yard catch at the end of the first half.
Asked if Cobb pushed off a defender, coach Ben McAdoo said: “It’s a boxout-type play. Who’s more physical, who’s lower, so you can keep your feet on the ground and box each other out and go up and make a play on the ball.”
New York’s last postseason loss was to Philadelphia in 2008. Its last playoff loss on the road was against the Eagles in 2006.
The defeat at chilly Lambeau Field snapped a two-game playoff winning streak for the Giants at the Packers. When the Giants last played in the postseason, Manning led a 37-20 upset of the Packers, who were 15-1 in the regular season, in the divisional round of the 2011 season. That propelled New York to the Super Bowl title over the Patriots.
The Giants also outlasted New England in the Super Bowl for the 2007 season, two weeks after they stunned the host Packers 23-20 in overtime in the NFC championship game. That was Hall of Famer Brett Favre’s last game with the Packers.
The third shot for Manning to end another Green Bay season faded quickly after the touchdown throw to King pulled the Giants within 14-13 with 5:16 left in the third quarter.
Rodgers needed only four plays to complete a 63-yard drive in Green Bay’s next possession. A 30-yard touchdown pass to Cobb finished it as the wide receiver broke free from cornerback Trevin Wade inside the Giants 15.
On Mason Crosby’s ensuing kickoff angled toward the sideline, returner Bobby Rainey caught the ball with his feet barely inbounds. Rainey’s momentum took him out of bounds at the New York 3.
The Giants were in Green Bay territory on four of their first five possessions, but managed only two field goals by Robbie Gould for the 6-0 lead.
Matched up against young cornerback LaDarius Gunter with Green Bay banged up in the secondary, Beckham had a key drop on third down that forced the Giants to punt in the opening series.
“It’s just football. Obviously, the first drive had a drop and after that could have made better throws, didn’t have to make it so tough for him,” Manning said about Beckham’s tough night.
On the Giants’ next possession, rookie Sterling Shepard couldn’t come up with the football on two catchable throws from Manning.
The first came on a fade in the back corner of the end zone. The second came at the Green Bay 5 that could have been a Giants first down, but instead forced them to kick a field goal.
They were simply missed chances that didn’t have anything to do with the receivers’ trip to Miami, McAdoo said.
“That didn’t have anything to do with the ball game,” he said. “We’ve talked about it. It’s over.”
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