Rapid Reaction: Giants 37, Packers 20

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Some thoughts from a stunned Lambeau Field following the Green Bay Packers' 37-20 loss to the New York Giants:

What it means: The Packers saved their worst outing of the season for the playoffs, and it led to an unexpected and deeply disappointing end to a 15-1 season. The Giants outplayed them in every way imaginable, and the Packers didn't look much like a team that had won 21 of its previous 22. The result detracted again from the postseason mystique of Lambeau Field, where the Packers have now lost four of their past six playoff games. Two of those losses have been to the Giants, who also ended the Packers' 2007 season in the NFC Championship Game.

Rare mistakes: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said during the week that he didn't believe in the concept of "rust" for a team coming off a playoff bye. Call it whatever you want. The Packers made mistakes that simply didn't happen during the regular season. Fullback John Kuhn lost the first fumble of his career. Rodgers missed receiver Greg Jennings for what would have been an easy touchdown in the first quarter. Rodgers also lost a fumble, on a second-quarter sack by Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, for the first time this season. The normally sure-handed Ryan Grant fumbled for only the second time this season in the fourth quarter. And depending on how tough of a grader you are, the Packers dropped anywhere from four to eight passes. One was a third-quarter pass to Jennings, who had a step on safety Antrel Rolle in single coverage in the end zone.

Defense tightens up: The big fear surrounding the Packers this season was that a hot quarterback would knock them and their porous pass defense out of the playoffs. Things seemed to be headed in that direction after Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw for 274 yards in the first half, capped by a 37-yard pass to receiver Hakeem Nicks on a Hail Mary. But it's going to be tough to affix too much responsibility to the defense for this game. The Packers tightened significantly in the second half, and the Giants didn't have a single first down in the third quarter. Manning threw for 56 yards in the second half. That should have given the Packers' offense enough of an opportunity to even up the game if it was up to it. It wasn't. They couldn't get the ball downfield at all against the Giants defense, and their longest play of the game was a 29-yard run by James Starks in the third quarter.

Key play: Backed by a bit of momentum and hoping to tie the game early in the fourth quarter, the Packers faced a third-and-five at the Giants' 39-yard line. Tight end Jermichael Finley was wide open at about the 25-yard line, but Rodgers' throw was just off his outstretched fingertips. It wasn't immediately clear whether Rodgers overthrew Finley or if Finley stopped his route early. But it was one of the Packers' biggest missed opportunities in this game. Rodgers was sacked on fourth down, and the Giants converted the ensuing possession into a 35-yard field goal to make it a two-score game midway through the fourth quarter.

Injury report: Kuhn didn't return after injuring his right knee in the third quarter.

What's next: The Packers have a young and deep team set up for long-term success. They'll need to address the contract situation of Finley, who is a pending free agent. It will take some time to get over Sunday's disappointment, but the Packers' future should be bright.