The New York Giants were not in Miami, and there were no boats in sight.
But once again, Odell Beckham Jr. and several Giants wide receivers bared their chests, this time in defiance of the minus 10 degree temperature at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
The Giants players did it in early warm-ups, more than 2½ hours before their NFC wild-card game against the Green Bay Packers.
“You want to come and get used to the elements,” Beckham said. “We just kind of wanted to come out and say, ‘forget about the cold’.”
The show of toughness, however, did not carry over to the game. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes in a 38-13 rout, a loss that began with Beckham and his fellow wide receiver Sterling Shepard dropping four passes on the Giants' first two series.
The Giants dominated most of the first half, but they managed only two field goals by Robbie Gould before Rodgers invigorated the bundled-up crowd with two touchdowns in the final three minutes.
The second was spectacular, a 42-yard heave to Randall Cobb that six Giants in the end zone failed to knock down as time ran out on the half.
“As much as you want to pretend it doesn’t matter, that’s huge,” Beckham said. “That’s tough. You can kind of feel it. We didn’t come out and catch stride again. It’s unfortunate.”
Trying to finish the Giants off early in the third quarter, Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy gambled on fourth-and-one from Green Bay’s 43-yard line.
But the Giants stuffed Ty Montgomery for a one-yard loss, and Giants quarterback Eli Manning found Tavarres King wide open for a 41-yard touchdown to bring the Giants within one point, 14-13, with five minutes 16 seconds left in the third quarter.
Rodgers, who finished 25 of 40 for 362 yards, struck right back with a 30-yard touchdown throw to Cobb for a 21-13 lead. The Packers added two more touchdowns and a 32-yard field goal by Mason Crosby. Cobb’s three touchdown catches tied an NFL playoff record held by several players.
When it was over, Beckham cried in the locker room. He caught four passes for 28 yards in his first playoff game, and he said that the trip he and three other receivers made to Miami last Monday after a victory over the Washington Redskins had nothing to do with it.
“It put it in people’s minds that okay, if the Giants lose, it’s because you went to Miami,” Beckham said.
“At the end of the day, I went through practice, had zero drops, zero missed assignments. There was nothing that can connect seven days ago to today and how we came out and executed, nothing in the world. It’s not realistic,” he added. “It created a distraction for us. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way the world is. The connection is just not there, in my opinion, but everybody is going to have their own opinion.”
Giants coach Ben McAdoo found no fault in his team’s effort, including Manning, who was 23 of 44 for 299 yards. But the Giants, who by the second quarter had outgained the Packers 194 yards to 7, failed to open a large enough lead against the mercurial Rodgers, who led Green Bay to six consecutive victories to close the regular season.
Even without wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who left in the second quarter with injured ribs, Rodgers found targets all over. The Hail Mary before half-time was Rodgers' third in 13 months.
“I think we’re starting to believe any time that ball goes up there, we’ve got a chance,” Rodgers said. “I can throw it pretty good, but it’s got to happen on the other end as well.”
New York Times Service