Five reasons the Eagles lost to the Packers
Aaron Rodgers was sacked 24 times in the first 10 games, and 41 times last season. I mention this because Monday night's game might have given you the impression that sacking Rodgers is almost as difficult as scaling Mt. Everest. It isn't.
The Eagles got some occasional pressure on Rodgers, but not nearly enough. They failed to record a sack for just the second time this season and have just six sacks in their last five games.
In the Eagles' defense, Rodgers, who completed 30 of 39 passes, didn't hang onto the ball very long, particularly in the first half. A good many of his passes were quick throws – bubble screens, hitches, slants – that made it difficult for the Eagles' pass rush to get to him before he got the ball out.
In the first half, the ball was often out of his hand within 1.2 seconds of the snap from center.
When he did hold onto it longer, the front four didn't do a very good job of taking advantage of it. Brandon Graham allowed Rodgers to break containment on a third-and-1 play on the Packers' first possession and pick up 16 yards.
A little later on the same drive, Connor Barwin made the same mistake on a second and 6, and Rodgers ran for another first down. Rodgers ended up with three rushing first downs in the first half.
Jim Schwartz blitzed, but not a lot and not very effectively. Rodgers is as good as any quarterback in the league at deciphering blitzes.
Schwartz's pass rush is, was and always will be fueled by his front four, but they just didn't seem to have much gas in their tank Monday night. The Packers' offensive line did a very good job of keeping them away from their bread-and-butter quarterback.
The lack of pressure enabled Rodgers and his receivers to take advantage of Eagles cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll. McKelvin gave up the Packers' first touchdown when Davante Adams beat him on a slant for a 12-yard score. Early in the second quarter, Adams lined up on the other side and beat Carroll on a slant for a 20-yard touchdown.
Adams, who had five catches for 113 yards and two TDs, later caught a 50-yard pass against McKelvin and burned Carroll for a 23-yard catch that set up a fourth-quarter touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, on a third and 12 on the Packers' clock-eating 17-play, 78-yard touchdown drive, Rodgers' line gave him more than five seconds to throw the ball. Tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga completely neutralized Barwin and Vinny Curry, while center JC Tretter and right guard T.J. Lang effectively doubled Fletcher Cox, who hasn't had a sack since the Eagles' fourth game. Rodgers eventually found Jordy Nelson wide open in the middle of the field for a 22-yard gain and a first down.
That's the kind of night it was.
Most of the Eagles' third-down problems this season have been on offense. Schwartz's defense actually has been very effective at getting off the field on third down. They went into Monday's game ranked third in the league in third-down defense.
But Rodgers and the Packers converted 10 of 14 third-down opportunities against the Eagles, which enabled them to control the football, particularly in the second half.
The Packers ended up with a nearly 11-minute time-of-possession advantage. Their final two scoring drives ate up 30 plays and nearly 15 minutes. The Eagles had the ball for just 11 plays in the fourth quarter.
In the first 10 games, opposing quarterbacks had completed just 53.5 percent of their third-down passes against the Eagles and completed just 31(of 99) third-down passes for first downs, the fewest in the league.
On Monday night, Rodgers was 9 for 10 against the Eagles on third down, with seven of those nine completions resulting in first downs.
Eight of the Packers' third downs were five yards or fewer. They converted seven of those eight. In the Eagles' first 10 games, opponents had converted just 52 percent of their third downs of five yards or fewer against them.
But the Packers also converted third downs of 7, 10 and 12 yards. The third-and-12 play was the aforementioned 22-yard completion to Jordy Nelson on their final touchdown drive. On the third and 10, Davante Adams beat Eagles corner Nolan Carroll on a slant for a 23-yard gain to set up Aaron Ripkowski's 1-yard touchdown run.
The Eagles were only flagged seven times for 42 yards. But what their infractions lacked in quantity they more than made up for in game-costing quality.
There was Fletcher Cox's roughing-the-passer penalty on a third and 4 in the third quarter shortly after the Eagles had closed to within four points on a 50-yard Caleb Sturgis field goal.
We could spend an hour debating whether the call was justified. While it wasn't a very hard hit, there is no disputing that Cox's arm touched Aaron Rodgers' neck, and contact with a quarterback's head and neck is a no-no in the NFL.
Cox's penalty gave the Packers a first down, and they made the most of it, driving 75 yards on 13 plays for a touchdown that put them up by 11 early in the fourth quarter.
There was Dorial Green-Beckham's dumb fourth-quarter offensive pass-interference penalty, which wiped out a 41-yard gain by running back Darren Sproles on a screen pass. It's the second one in as many weeks on Green-Beckham, who seems to be slow in understanding the concept that a receiver can't start blocking a guy on a screen pass until the pass-catcher has the ball.
There was the third-and-5, neutral-zone infraction on Brandon Graham that gave the Packers a first down on their final scoring drive, which ate up nearly 8 ½ minutes of the clock.
And then, later in the same drive, the Eagles inexplicably got called for having too many players on the field when the Packers were going to punt. After the penalty, Packers coach Mike McCarthy rethought his decision to punt, and Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson on a 21-yard completion and another first down. It allowed the Packers to not only move into field goal position, but also eat up another minute of the clock. By the time the Eagles got the ball back for the final time, they were down by 14 with 1:57 left.
The Packers limped into the Linc Monday night with an injury-ravaged defense that had given up a whopping 153 points in the previous four games.
The Eagles hadn't scored more than 24 points in a game since their 34-3, Week 3 win over the Steelers. But their chances of snapping out of their offensive funk against the Packers seemed pretty good.
The Packers were 32nd in the league in yards allowed per pass attempt (8.6), 31st in opponent passer rating (105.5) and tied for 28th in touchdown passes allowed (22). They had given up nine pass plays of 40-plus yards, fifth most in the league.
In the previous four games, opposing quarterbacks had a collective 127.3 passer rating and a 9.6 yards-allowed-per-attempt average to go with 12 touchdown passes.
But you need the ball to score. Because their defense couldn't get Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense off the field on third down, the Eagles had a season-low seven possessions Monday. And the last of those was with 1:57 left in the game and the Eagles trailing by 14 points.
The Eagles scored on three of their other six possessions, but two of those three scores were Caleb Sturgis field goals, rather than touchdowns. Their only touchdown came on their first possession of the game.
This is an offense that still has training wheels on. The unit had four rookies playing prominent roles Monday: quarterback Carson Wentz, right guard Isaac Seumalo (filling in for ill Brandon Brooks), running back Wendell Smallwood, and wide receiver Bryce Treggs, who played a season-high 44 snaps.
Wentz played OK. He completed 24 of 36 passes for 254 yards. But for the third time in the last four games, he didn't have a touchdown pass. And in a game with so few scoring opportunities, he wasted one of them when a third-quarter pass for Zach Ertz sailed over the tight end's head and was intercepted by Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Another drive was squandered when, after getting down to the Green Bay 36, center Jason Kelce had a poor snap that Wentz fumbled. The result: a 10-yard sack.
Jordan Matthews has been the Eagles' most productive receiver this season. The 6-4, 212-pound slot receiver leads the team in just about every pertinent pass-catching category.
In the previous four games, he had been targeted by Wentz 45 times and had 28 catches, 14 for first downs. Had a 17-yard catch on the Eagles' second possession, and made a terrific play on a back-shoulder throw by Wentz later in the second quarter that gained 20 yards on second and long.
But Matthews injured his right ankle on the play, and the Eagles offense never was the same. He returned for the first series of the second half, but was used strictly as a decoy and left the game shortly after.
Without Matthews, the Eagles played a lot of two-tight-end sets with Ertz and Trey Burton. When they did use "11'' personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers), it was with Dorial Green-Beckham and rookies Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner. Talk about inexperience. Treggs has just three catches. Turner was promoted from the practice squad just last week.
Green-Beckham is a second-year player, but is at a rookie learning level right now, which was evident when he was called for his fourth offensive pass-interference penalty of the season.
Green Beckham had a season-high six catches for 82 yards. But four of those six catches came before Matthews got hurt. After Matthews left, the Packers defense focused more on him.