Packers, Aaron Rodgers take too long to put away hapless Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Sometimes, it does matter how you win.

Some Green Bay Packers might try to tell you it doesn't after they escaped from New York with a 31-13, closer-than-it-looked win against the Giants on Sunday at a snow-covered MetLife Stadium.

But how can that kind of game infuse any confidence down the stretch?

A half-empty stadium shouldn't have impeded what the Packers wanted to do. Nor should a wintery mix that ought to feel like home and a playoff game.

And then there's a Giants team that had only slightly more reason to show up than their no-show crowd.

Remember, it after last Sunday's blowout loss at the San Francisco 49ers when quarterback Aaron Rodgers said the next two games - against a pair of two-win teams from the mediocre NFC East -- are "going to be games you guys are expecting us to win."

That first part of the expectation was met, thanks in large part to a couple of blown coverages that made for easy throws by Rodgers to Davante Adams (two touchdowns) and Allen Lazard (his first career 100-yard game with three catches for 103 and a touchdown).

But consider what else Rodgers said.

"We've got to go out and put good performances together and improve," Rodgers said at the time. "I think that's the thing, is we have to get that mojo going all the time and start to expect to win games -- and start to expect to win games against great opponents, and expect to win games against opponents with not as great a record."

This was still a game in the fourth quarter -- much longer than it should have been -- until Adams' second touchdown catch made it a two-score game and when Giants quarterback Daniel Jones threw his second right-to-the-defender interception of the game.

The Packers look like they're in a good spot at 9-3 and atop the NFC North, with only one game remaining against a team currently with a winning record, and that doesn't come until Week 16 against the Minnesota Vikings (8-3 heading into Monday Night Football at Seattle). At least they'll have another chance to convince everyone -- perhaps including themselves -- that they're better than what they showed against the Giants.

Pivotal play: With the Packers leading just 17-13 late in the third quarter, coach Matt LaFleur went for it on fourth-and-10 from the Giants' 35-yard-line. Rodgers found Geronimo Allison on a deep crosser for a 15-yard gain to set up Adams' second touchdown of the game. What's more, Rodgers was on his way down when he released the ball just as he took a hit from Giants linebacker Markus Golden.

Troubling trend: The Packers still can't seem to get their running game going on a consistent basis. Midway through the fourth quarter, Rodgers was their leading rusher with 24 yards on three scrambles. He had the only double-digit run -- a 15-yard scamper.

Jamaal Williams finally overtook Rodgers as the Packers' leading rusher in the game, but he managed only 40 yards on 10 carries. Aaron Jones rushed 11 times for just 18 yards. In the first half, Saquon Barkley outrushed the entire Packers' team with 57 yards on 13 carries, while Green Bay had 56 yards rushing on 10 carries (and that included two Rodgers' scrambles for 19 yards).

Promising trend: The Packers improved to 8-0 in games with at least one takeaway. They're 1-3 in games without one. They picked off Jones three times -- one each by Kevin King, Darnell Savage and Tramon Williams.