GREEN BAY, Wis. — Booed off the field at halftime by their own fans, the collapse of the once-perfect Green Bay Packers was as swift as it was complete.
The defending Super Bowl champions looked anything but in Sunday's 37-20 playoff loss to New York, dropping passes, fumbling the ball and letting Eli Manning and the Giants rule every inch of Lambeau Field. Whether it was the bye last weekend or the shocking death of offensive coordinator Joe Philbin's 21-year-old son days earlier, the Packers were sloppy and sluggish.
And all the talk about Aaron Rodgers having one of the finest seasons in NFL history? Check with Manning on that. He's the one getting it done in the postseason.
The Giants now advance to next weekend's NFC championship against the San Francisco 49ers. The Packers, meanwhile, will be cleaning out their lockers for an offseason that came unexpectedly early. As the final seconds ticked down, chants of "Let's Go, Giants!" echoed throughout Lambeau.
The Packers have no one to blame but themselves for the dismal finish to a season that started with such promise, when they stretched the winning streak they started last year to 19 games. Their defense, maligned all season for its penchant for giving up big plays, was even worse than advertised. It was powerless to stop Manning, who threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns and coolly moved the Giants down the field drive after drive. Hakeem Nicks made the secondary look downright silly with 165 yards receiving and two touchdowns, one of which he plucked out of the air above a scrum of Green Bay defenders just before halftime, prompting Packer fans to boo as their team trotted of the field.
The Green Bay offense has usually been more than enough to make up for the defense's shortcomings, scoring a franchise-record 560 points during the regular season. And offensive players had vowed to win the game for Philbin, who was away from the team all week to mourn the death of his son Michael. Michael Philbin's body was recovered from an icy river in Oshkosh on Monday; a preliminary autopsy found that he drowned.
But the offense wasn't any better than the defense. The Packers lost three fumbles and the receivers may as well have had rubber on the tips of their fingers for as many balls as they dropped. Despite having their regular starting offensive line in place for the one of the few times this season, Rodgers was sacked four times.
Rodgers was off his game, too. He overthrew an open Greg Jennings in the end zone on the very first drive, and lost his first fumble in a year when he was sacked in the third quarter by Osi Umenyiora. He did put together a nice drive on Green Bay's next possession, connecting with Donald Driver on a 13-yard catch and James Starks on a 12-yard reception as the Packers marched to the Giants 17. But he failed to connect with Jennings in the end zone again, and the Packers had to settle for a field goal when they really needed a touchdown.
Rodgers finished 26-of-46 for 264 yards, and his quarterback rating of 78.5 was well off his 122.5 for the regular-season, an NFL record.
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