Jason Pierre-Paul was Mr. Invisible before making the play of the game.
His interception and 24-yard return for a touchdown propelled the New York Giants to a 27-13 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
Making his first NFL start, Packers quarterback Scott Tolzien was productive – 24-of-34 for 339 yards. But he threw three interceptions in the second half. The first came on the opening possession of the third quarter and resulted in a field goal. The second was by Pierre-Paul, who looked like a wide receiver in making a leaping grab at the line of scrimmage. The third came in the final moments after shrugging off a potential sack.
The Packers fell to 5-5 and have lost three in a row since Aaron Rodgers sustained a broken collarbone on the first series against Chicago. They trail Detroit (which lost at Pittsburgh) and Chicago (which won at home against Baltimore) by a game in the NFC North. The Giants have won four in a row after a 4-6 start and trail Philadelphia (6-5) by a game-and-a-half in the NFC East.
The Packers fell into a 10-0 hole before the defense finally stiffened and allowed Tolzien and the offense to figure some things out and get into a rhythm. Mason Crosby’s 57-yard field goal on the final play before halftime made it 10-6 with Green Bay getting the ball to start the third quarter.
A 29-yard completion to Jordy Nelson got the ball across midfield but, on second-and-11, Tolzien didn’t see linebacker Jon Beason sink underneath a crossing route to James Jones. The interception doomed that drive and allowed the Giants to extend their lead to 13-6.
Coach Mike McCarthy rolled the dice on the next possession. Not unlike the game at New England in 2010, when McCarthy called for a surprise onside kick with Matt Flynn at quarterback, McCarthy dialed up a fake punt on fourth-and-7 from the Giants’ 43. M.D. Jennings, however, gained only 6.
The Giants capitalized for a key touchdown that made it 20-6 with 25 seconds to go in the third quarter. On third-and-4, Eli Manning threw a perfect pass between Micah Hyde and Morgan Burnett for a gain of 25. That was the key play on a drive that Brandon Jacobs punctuated for a touchdown when he ran over Jerron McMillian at the goal line.
Tolzien kept the Packers alive, though. Completions of 18 to Nelson and 52 to Jarrett Boykin put the ball at the Giants’ 13. Two plays later, Eddie Lacy rumbled through Cullen Jenkins for a 4-yard touchdown.
To that point, the Giants had allowed one touchdown in their last 47 defensive possessions.
Green Bay kept the momentum with a first-down sack by Brad Jones and a third-down sack shared by Clay Matthews and Datone Jones. The Packers took over at their 30 following a three-and-out punt. On the first play, Tolzien fired a pass to his left but Pierre-Paul made an incredible play and ran for the touchdown.
New York's defense allowed just 55 rushing yards, including limiting Lacy to merely 27 on 14 attempts. Green Bay's defense had a decent performance, with 334 yards allowed and four sacks. Tramon Williams' interception was the only turnover.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.