The Green Bay Packers suffered their first loss of the season during week 4. It was the Philadelphia Eagles who triumphed 34-27 in the Thursday night matchup. Here is the recap of this Packers vs Eagles game.
Run > Pass
All game, the Eagles found more success running the football than they did passing. It was perhaps most apparent on their opening drive of the game. Miles Sanders gained 4 rushing yards on the first play from scrimmage. On the very next play, Jordan Howard broke off a 19-yard run, his longest of the night. Suddenly, Philadelphia was driving at their own 48-yard line. 4 plays later they would punt from there as Carson Wentz threw 3 incomplete passes, mixed in with a rare rushing attempt for no gain.
On the first two runs of the game, the Eagles offensive line was creating massive holes for the running backs. The third run was only stuffed because Preston Smith made a great inside move on Jason Peters, not something that occurred often. Pass protection was more difficult, especially when the Packers brought the pressure. On 3rd-and-10, Adrian Amos came in a safety blitz. To his credit, Wentz managed to move around (more on that later) and throw an attempt to Zach Ertz. It was an interesting sight as Jaire Alexander and his 5’10” stature was successfully able to cover the tight end. He arguably had the most success neutralizing the Eagles primary passing threat. Although he was not tasked with covering him all that often.
After struggling to put up his typical passing totals through 3 weeks, Aaron Rodgers started off hot. The Packers opening drive included a 58-yard pass to Davante Adams who was left in 1-on-1 matchups early in this game. Adams blew by Sidney Jones and Rodgers put a beautiful throw right on the money. The pass itself traveled roughly 30 air yards and Adams was able to gain yards after the catch in stride.
That play set up an Aaron Jones TD to make the score 7-0. The one good thing about Jones is this game was his decisiveness to take the ball north-south instead of running east-west like he did last week. Still, outside of the TD run, in which his spin move made 2 defenders miss, Jones was held in check. For the 2nd consecutive week, his yards per carry was under 2.0. That cannot continue.
Aaron Jones carried the football on 13 of the Packers 20 rushing attempts. And that includes 5 Rodgers scrambles. Part of the reason for his dominance of touches was because on the Packers opening play from scrimmage, Jamaal Williams caught a screen pass and took a hit to his helmet. He stayed down and actually had to be taken off on a stretcher. The good news is that he had movement in his extremities, but nonetheless he was taken to the hospital for further evaluation.
Later in the game, Eagles defensive back Avonte Maddox also suffered a similar fate and needed to be taken off on a stretcher. Both Williams and Maddox wee hit by a Philadelphia player. Obviously, their game plan on defense was to be physical, but certain players did cross the line with some hits to opposing players helmets. On the Williams hit, Derek Barnett was flagged for unnecessary roughness.
Regardless of football outcomes, the hope is that both Avonte Maddox and Jamaal Williams can avoid life-altering injuries.
Great Design Poor Execution
Matt LaFleur may get some flack for this game result, but I believe that he actually called a pretty good game. On the Packers 2nd drive of the game, there were several great plays including receptions by Davante Adams and Marcedes Lewis for first downs.
However, there were also examples of poor execution on some good play designs. On a run play with Aaron Jones, Marquez Valdes-Scantling came across the formation in motion. It was meant to be a fake end-around, but Valdes-Scantling arrived to quickly. This disrupted the timing of the play and made it very obvious that they were running a fake. The Eagles sniffed it out and Jones was stuffed for no gain.
The motion was used several more times including bringing Jones outside in motion on one of Aaron Rodgers’ scramble runs for a first down. On a side note, left guard Elgton Jenkins did a great job on that particular play of sealing a lane for Rodgers to escape out of the pocket. The game does not look too tough for the 3rd-round rookie pick.
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While the left side of the offensive line appears to be solid, there is now a question mark along the right side. Later in the game, right tackle Bryan Bulaga left the game with a shoulder injury. Alex Light was brought in and actually performed quite well. The hope is that Bulaga will not be out long term. Regardless while he was beat at times, Light demonstrated that can be an adequate replacement at least in a short period.
Back to the drive, the miscues continued as Rodgers overshot Valdes-Scantling on a 3rd down pass. Rodgers managed to scramble to find space to throw on the run. He succeeded but put the ball too high for Valdes-Scantling to come down with it. Mason Crosby then kicked a 30-yard FG to make it 10-0.
The ensuing Eagles drive ended in a TD. However, the highlight for Philadelphia occurred on the kickoff return. Miles Sanders got the ball on his own goal-line and returned it 66 yards to put the Eagles in FG range. But they obviously had other ideas. They started off with a quick first down to Zach Ertz with Adrian Amos in coverage. Next, Kevin King forced an incompletion with his tight coverage on Alshon Jeffery. Considering King’s 6’3″ frame it made sense to have him cover the 6’3″Jeffery. Two plays later Jeffery used his towering frame to catch a TD with Jaire Alexandre in coverage. Suddenly, the Eagles found life in a 10-7 game.
After another Packers FG, on a drive that included a 39-yard free-play completion to Davante Adams, the Eagles answered with a TD. It was a case of close calls on that drive as Za’Darius Smith almost sacked Carson Wentz. The quarterback did a pretty good job of escaping the pocket and managed to find space to throw. While it was an incomplete pass, Kenny Clark hit him late, which resulted in a roughing the passer penalty. It was a rough night for Clark who was often beat by Jason Kelce 1-on-1 in the running game.
Back to Wentz’ mobility, he converted on a pair of 3rd-and-1s on this drive by using the QB sneak. Shortly after, he threw a TD pass to Dallas Goedert. Will Redmond was late getting to Goedert and it allowed an easy reception. As the game went on, it became apparent that Wedmon was the weak link in the secondary and Wentz recognized that.
With the score now 14-13 for the Eagles, the Packers got the ball back right around the 2-min warning. Unfortunately for Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers fumbled the football and it was recovered by Brandon Graham on the 17-yard line. Jordan Howard had 4 rushing attempts in a row and covered all 17 yards for a score. This capped off 3 straight drives by the Eagles that ended in TDs.
Back and Forth
Now down 21-13, the Packers got the ball back with 58 seconds left in the half and no timeouts. Aaron Rodgers orchestrated a possession that ended with a Geronimo Allison TD. It was a masterful drive as Rodgers found receivers who were able to get out of bounds and get first downs. For some reason, the Packers chose not to attempt a 2-point conversion. Instead, they kicked the point after to go into halftime down 21-20.
After the break, Green Bay got the ball back but was forced to punt it. Then, the Eagles scored on their 4th consecutive possession (not counting a kneel-down at the end of the 2nd quarter). Jordan Howard scored his first receiving TD of the season on a 20-yard swing pass. Blake Martinez was in coverage but, in an example of excellent play designing, he got picked by another defender covering a slant route. The Eagles went for 2 but the pass to Alshon Jeffery was incomplete. At that point, the score was 27-20.
After consecutive possession ended in punts, the Packers tied the game at 27 on a Jimmy Graham TD. The play was another good design by Matt LaFleur. Devante Adams ran a deeper route which cleared out the intermediate section. Graham’s route started as a flat out, but then he sharply cut it upfield. It was beautiful execution by Graham and Rodgers found him for the score.
The Eagles regained the lead on another Jordan Howard TD. It was his 3rd of the day as the Eagles ground game dominated the Packers defense. All in all, Philadelphia ran the ball 33 times for 176 yards (5.3 yards per carry) and 2 TDs.
After a great run-stopping performance in week 1, the Packers have gotten in trouble on the ground. Over the last 3 weeks, they have allowed opponents to produce 523 rushing yards, 5.3 yards per attempt and 5 rushing TDs. This is quite concerning for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations.
With all of the investments that were made on the difference, the only spot that was neglected was the inside linebacker next to Blake Martinez. Perhaps Oren Burks can make an impact when he returns from an injury he suffered during the preseason. However, it still asking a lot for a 2nd-year player to completely turn around a unit that will likely be on the low end of the league after week 4 concludes. Maybe the answer is not yet on the roster and the Packers will need to make a trade.
B.J. Goodson did play, and registered a tackle but the Packers have not always had a second inside linebacker on the field. They did run a lot of 5 and 6 defensive backs which left them somewhat exposed in the middle.
End Zone Problems
With the score at 34-27 early in the 4th quarter, the Packers still had plenty of time to win the game. After driving down the field, Green Bay’s drive stalled at the goal-line. A Devante Adams reception managed to make it 1st-and-goal, but it came at a cost. Adams appeared to injure his right foot on the play and did not return to the game.
After a defensive penalty made it 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line, the Packers threw 4 straight pass attempts. All were incomplete and they turned the ball over on downs. Not having Aaron Rodgers favorite red-zone target in the game, one would think that at least one running play was in order. I even figured we would see a Dan Vitale full back run. But he was only in the game to fool the Eagles defense into thinking that they would run. Philadelphia’s secondary held up as none of the Packers receivers could get open.
The Packers defense did their job and forced a punt. Once again Green Bay’s offense got into the red zone. Perhaps learning a lesson from last time, they gave Aaron Jones the football on 1st-and-goal from the 7. He brought it to the 3-yard line and it appeared to set up a favorable situation for the Packers.
However, on the next play, Rodgers targeted Marquez Valdes-Scantling on a quick slant. The Eagles had him well covered and the pass was tipped. Nigel Bradham came up with the INT. This is perhaps fitting considering that Packers got game-sealing INTs in week 1 and in week 2. The loss puts Green Bay’s record at 3-1, while Philadelphia returns to .500 at 2-2.
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