EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Adam Merchant had a wish and a command for the New York Giants.
The 15-year-old fan from Barre, Vt., attended practice and then Sunday’s game with the Packers thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He wanted the Giants to snap their two-game slide and get out of their offensive funk.
“That was the theme of our meetings,” coach Tom Coughlin said.
“They have one wish,” Manning said after throwing for three scores to set a team record with 200 TD passes for his career. “It is sad when you think about it — they have one wish, what you want to do, and he wanted to come to Giants practice … and to a game.
“He said, ‘Go show everybody you are the world champions and why you are the world champions and play that way.’ Everybody got fired up and played the way we know we can.”
The Packers (7-4) certainly did not. The showcase game was decided early as the Giants outscored the Packers 31-10 in the opening half to end Green Bay’s five-game winning streak. While New York took a two-game lead in the NFC East, Green Bay fell out of a tie with Chicago atop the NFC North.
The Packers were missing such key starters as linebacker Clay Matthews, defensive back Charles Woodson and receiver Greg Jennings, and it showed. After being manhandled in last season’s playoffs by the Giants, who went on to win the Super Bowl, the Packers weren’t much more competitive this time. Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times, including twice by Mathias Kiwanuka, who spent much of the game at defensive tackle rather than in his usual linebacker spot.
“When your quarterback is under pressure like that, it affected me tonight,” coach Mike McCarthy said of his play-calling. “I probably didn’t call the best game I’ve called. You have to protect your quarterback. It’s your No. 1 responsibility. That’s not what we’re looking for.”
New York’s balanced attack was guided by Manning, who had his first strong game in a month with 249 yards passing.
“I never thought my arm was tired, never felt like it,” Manning said. “After a week off, you come back to practice, it felt good, alive, balls coming out with a little pop on it.
“After 10 weeks, it definitely needed a little rest.”
“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.”