ESCANABA - The defense fell apart, which was not surprising Sunday, at Lambeau Field.
The surprise was the pedestrian performance by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the likely MVP in the National Football League this season.
His superb play saved the defense and the Green Bay Packers during a brilliant 15-1 season. When both entities hit basically the same depth in the same game, there was no chance the Packers could extend their playoff life and get at a Super Bowl repeat.
The New York Giants were definitely the superior team Sunday, and the stunning 37-20 victory was well deserved.
Rodgers was uncharacteristically off target with many of his passes, and his frozen-fingered receivers were unable to help. Officially there were eight dropped passes, while several passes had no chance to be caught.
Rodgers had an interception and lost a fumble and was sacked four times by a New York defense that rose to the occasion against a team that was perhaps a little over confident.
The bye week may have served as a speed bump to the prolific offense, but other teams have handled that R & R week in the past with much better results. Perhaps having Rodgers sit the bench in the season-finale victory over Detroit was a factor as well as the emotional effect created by the drowning death of Michael Philbin, the son of Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, earlier in the week.
But that just sounds like excuses. Give credit to the Giants for seizing control of the game and blame the Packers for not playing up to the standards they had set against an admittedly weak set of opponents this season.
There were also some key plays that obviously had a major part in the outcome, with consecutive plays to end the first half probably the most damaging.
First running back Ahmad Bradshaw was allowed to run virtually unchecked from the left sideline all the way across to the right sideline with a simple screen pass. Had anyone on the inept defense - Charlie Peprah, where were you? - tackled him somewhere in that vast expanse of field maintained so capably by fields manager Allen Johnson of Bark River, the half would have ended.
The Packers miserably compounded that mistake by failing to prevent a Hail Mary pass on the next play, with Hakeem Nicks catching the 37-yard touchdown prayer as time expired while four puzzled defenders inexcusably watched as the Giants expanded their lead to a momemtum building 20-10 margin.
Don't forget some of the play-calling by coach Mike McCarthy, such as the failed onside kick after tying the game 10-10, getting stopped on fourth-and-five at the Giants' 40 to open the third quarter, a surprisingly heavy rushing emphasis that helped limit the normally potent arm of Rodgers, and a failure to use more short passes against the seven-man drops used by the Giants.
The heart-wrenching performance was totally unexpected from a team that appeared ready - other than the defense - to bid for a second straight Super Bowl championship.
That is a shame because people remember what happened most recently, which erases the impressive regular season highlighted by 13 season-opening wins. That is similar to what happened to the New England Patriots when the dynasty-destroying Giants ruined their shot at perfection by winning the 2007 Super Bowl.
It would be an injustice to forget those accomplishments, however. Rodgers was magnificent in all but the loss at Kansas City, Jordy Nelson became a go-to receiver, the cliff-hangar victory over New Orleans in the Thursday night opener, the last-second victory against the Giants in week 13.
It was a superb season, one to be celebrated once everyone gets over the stunning and unexpected butt-kicking dismissal in the playoff opener.