EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- What the Green Bay Packers urgently needed and didn't receive Sunday were more superlative performances like that put forth by Tramon Williams.
It was back to 2010 for Williams, when he played as well as any cornerback in the National Football League.
He tackled magnificently in one-on-one situations, twice upending the strapping Hakeem Nicks on hitch routes he has been killing the Packers on for five years and cutting down jumbo running backs Andre Brown and Brandon Jacobs when all they had was open FieldTurf ahead.
Williams also made a diving interception, only the team's second in the last seven games, and covered effectively despite having to play the entire game outside after Sam Shields couldn't go on a bad hamstring.
"Me being a young player, you see an older guy making plays like that, you definitely want to do your part and whatever you can for the team to help us win," safety Chris Banjo said.
"Since I've been here it was the most complete game I've seen him play. Play in and play out, he kept denying them."
When a team plays without its franchise quarterback, five other starters and Randall Cobb, it must follow a narrow formula to win.
In simplistic terms, many individuals must elevate their games, the team has to minimize mistakes and the head coach must imbue feelings of emotion and togetherness that can collectively overcome deficiencies in personnel.
Once again, coach Mike McCarthy, his staff and his players failed to measure up. The result was the Packers' third straight loss for the first time in five years, a 27-13 defeat administered by the New York Giants on an unseasonably warm, bluish-gray afternoon at MetLife Stadium.
"It's about winning," McCarthy said simply. "We need to win games. We're not doing enough of the little things, from top to bottom."
Now an unsightly minus-6 in turnover differential for the season, Scott Tolzien's three interceptions loomed large. Yet, in three games less one series without Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have not been overmatched at the position, at least by the standards of NFL backup quarterbacks.
Tolzien's first interception was the result of an exceptional drop and catch by Jon Beason, similar to a pick that his predecessor at middle linebacker, Chase Blackburn, once made on the same field against Rodgers.
Tolzien's second came on the very same flat pass to a tight end that Rodgers made a living on all season. This time, the incredibly athletic Jason Pierre-Paul caught the ball in his hands at point-blank range and returned it 24 yards for a clinching touchdown.
Tolzien's third pick came at the 2-minute warning with the Packers down by 14. Hit and then flushed by Justin Tuck's hard rush against Marshall Newhouse, Tolzien flustered for perhaps the first time in 71/2 quarters and, on the run, overthrew Jarrett Boykin and the ball went to safety Antrel Rolle.
Not only did Tolzien not lose the game, he kept the Packers afloat amid the melange of slovenly play everywhere else.
"(Tolzien) played well...he played with a lot of poise...he threw the deep ball well...he threw the ball over our heads a couple times," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "We knew the quality of the game that he had played (against Philadelphia) and the type of worker that he is. He certainly has accepted that responsibility."
If others had accepted responsibility as readily, the Packers would have won a game or two without Rodgers.
Instead, they find themselves in third place in the NFC North at 5-5, a record worse than eight teams in the conference and tied with another.
"We pride ourselves on being fundamentally sound," wide receiver James Jones said. "Not having penalties, especially when you've got to waste a timeout. That's not us. We're better than that as a team."
On Sunday, McCarthy had his team so well-prepared that the Packers drew not one but two penalties for 12 men on the field in the first six minutes.
What were some of the other little things that McCarthy might have been alluding to?
Yes, Mason Crosby bombed a 57-yard field goal, but other than that the special teams didn't raise their play to assist the beat-up offense.
There were at least two missed tackles on Rueben Randle's 32-yard punt return that enabled the Giants (4-6) to score a touchdown 91/2 minutes in for a lead they never relinquished.
There was the failed decision by McCarthy to go on fourth and 7 from punt formation that he conceded was a lapse in judgment on his part.
And there were penalties against Jamari Lattimore and Davon House on second-half returns that backed up the offense.
Perhaps the most critical down for the defense came late in the first quarter when Coughlin elected to go on fourth and 1 at the Green Bay 36.
Coordinator Dom Capers rushed in his 4-4 "jumbo" package and packed the box as Coughlin inserted the 264-pound Jacobs and his large lineup.
Maybe you've seen a chasm over center between Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji like the one that Jacobs slammed through for 5 yards. Jacobs, who entered the league in 2005, has not.
"Fourth and 1, it's the largest hole I've ever seen as a running back," said Jacobs. "Against a goal-line. Is it supposed to be that way? Hell, no. I was happy I got it but, as a back, I never get it that easy."
The Packers did defend the run better than in their twin collapses against the Bears and Eagles, but showing absolute lack of resistance in that situation was like committing a defensive football team's cardinal sin.
For the third game in a row, the Packers were beset by what might be labeled blown coverages. The result was three completions worth 91 yards in drives that accounted for 13 points.
Micah Hyde showed momentary indecision, and Randle took advantage for a 26-yard touchdown pass.
When Capers blitzed Eli Manning, a wise decision given Manning's ineptness against pressure all season, Clay Matthews botched the coverage and Victor Cruz got loose for 30 yards.
Finally, Morgan Burnett was out of position on a seam route that was a ridiculously easy 35 yards for Nicks.
The offensive line pass-protected better than it had the past two games. Tolzien wasn't sacked, and the pressure was never oppressive.
New York coordinator Perry Fewell overloaded the box to neutralize Eddie Lacy and held him to a paltry 27 yards in 14 carries. Moving eight people is challenging enough, but when the blocking unit isn't on the same page in the 10th game, failure becomes inexcusable.
"At times our communication wasn't really with us up front," guard T.J. Lang said. "Guys were kind of going the wrong way and missing assignments."
So the Packers find themselves with their poorest record after 10 games since 2008, the season they finished 6-10 in Rodgers' first year as starter.
"No, it's not all Rodgers," said wide receiver Jordy Nelson. "Obviously, he makes a big impact on our team. He is who he is. You can't deny that.
"But, to be honest, the frustrating thing is we've had opportunities in each of these games to make a play here and there."
Tolzien has completed 10 passes for 20 yards or more, a 5.0-average that exceeded the Packers' mark of 4.1 (29) in the first seven games. The kid can air it out.
Now the Packers' only real chance, as long as Rodgers remains out, is to get some more players following the example of Williams and playing to the peak of their capability.
What's left of their season depends on it.
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