EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The Green Bay Packers had better hope they don’t see the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants again anytime soon.
The Packers’ five-game winning streak came to an embarrassing end as Eli Manning threw three touchdowns and Giants routed Green Bay 38-10 in a nationally televised game Sunday night.
Coming on the heels of last season’s loss in the NFL semifinal, it was the Packers’ second straight lopsided loss to New York (7-4) and this one seemed worse than the 37-20 setback. It also left them a game behind Chicago (8-3) in the NFC North.
The Giants dominated in all phases on a night that Manning set a franchise record with his 200th career touchdown pass.
“I think this is a game that makes everybody look inside and find out what you’re about,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “I haven’t felt like this since the first game I coached as a Green Bay Packers head coach. Beaten very thoroughly tonight. It doesn’t taste good. It doesn’t feel good.”
The 38 points were the most given up by Green Bay this season and it came in a game in which Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times and hit at least as many times.
“You win five in a row and everyone is happy, but like I said last year during the run, there are things that go under the radar that need to be handled,” said Rodgers, who finished 14 of 25 for 219 yards, a touchdown, an interception and a lost fumble. “Sometimes it takes a loss. ... We need to remember this feeling and not have this kind of embarrassment happen again.
“We have games and we have to make the most of them,” Rodgers said. “We have three at home and four in the division. It all lays out right in front of us.”
The only way they would face the Giants again this season would be in the playoffs.
The win allowed the Giants to snap a two-game losing streak, open a two-game lead in the NFC East and end all the negative talk that has surrounded the team in its bye week, starting with Manning’s tired arm.
Manning’s arm looked fine and the Packers certainly can attest to New York’s turnaround following a week off. The showcase game was decided early as the Giants outscored the Packers 31-10 in the opening half. Manning reached 200 career TD passes by throwing for three scores.
“Play like world champions,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “That was the theme of our meetings this week and Saturday.”
The Packers were missing such key starters as linebacker Clay Matthews, defensive back Charles Woodson and receiver Greg Jennings, and it showed.
“I feel when your team performs that way, it starts with the head coach,” McCarthy said. We had mental errors, penalties. It was out of character for our football team. It’s a very disappointing loss on Sunday Night Football, a big NFC battle.
New York’s balanced attack was guided by Manning, who had his first strong game in a month with 249 yards passing.
“There was no doubt he was going to come back and play well,” Coughlin said. “I think the rest really helped him. ... Eli said he felt as if he was coming back for the start of the season. I was very confident he would come back and be Eli.”
Ahmad Bradshaw gained a combined 119 yards and scored a touchdown. He had the first big play of the night to begin the offensive onslaught.
New York struck early with a brilliantly conceived screen pass to Bradshaw off a fake reverse to Victor Cruz. Bradshaw sped down the field before being caught at the Green Bay 2, a 59-yard pickup that led to Andre Brown’s scoring run.
Brown later broke his leg; Coughlin did not say which leg after the game.
Green Bay didn’t flinch, with Jordy Nelson getting behind Corey Webster in single coverage down the right sideline for a 61-yard TD reception from Rodgers.
The scoring flurry went back in the Giants’ favor — and pretty much stayed there — when Manning hit Rueben Randle in the back of the end zone for a 16-yard TD. It was the first score for the rookie and Manning’s first touchdown throw in four games, and he set it up with, of all things, a scramble in which he laid his shoulder into Packers cornerback Tramon Williams for a 13-yard gain.
“It sparked our sideline,” Coughlin said. “It would not be the recommended way. To see him do that kind of sent the message to the rest of our team: Whatever you have to do to succeed, do it.”
Webster’s interception led to Lawrence Tynes’ 43-yard field goal late in the first quarter for a 17-7 lead, and the Giants weren’t nearly done. Manning’s 9-yard connection with Cruz tied him for the club record with 199 career TD passes, and after Osi Umenyiora’s strip-sack of Rodgers was recovered by Jason Pierre-Paul at the Green Bay 23, Bradshaw scored from the 13.
The 31 points were the most New York scored in a half all season and nearly equaled the 33 it scored in its two losses before the bye.
And the Giants had more offense in them. Manning threw his 200th TD pass to move ahead of Phil Simms, a 13-yarder over the middle to Hakeem Nicks, who stretched the ball over the goal line as he was tackled.