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Eagles left questioning everything

The Packers outperformed them in every way, leaving the Birds to try to forget the 53-20 loss and remember they're 7-3.

Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)Read more

GREEN BAY - If you wondered how Carolina Panthers fans felt last Monday night, now you know.

Losing ugly leaves you questioning everything. The Eagles faced their first big, cold-weather, second-half-of-the-season test, and they failed it miserably yesterday, falling 53-20 to the Green Bay Packers on a biting, bitter afternoon, when the Lambeau Field lights struggled against a seeping gray gloom.

The lights, weak as they seemed, fared better than the Eagles. The ugly red welt that adorned cornerback Bradley Fletcher's forehead, after Green Bay receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson combined for 14 catches and 238 receiving yards, will fade in a few days. It isn't clear that the marks Aaron Rodgers left on the Eagles' psyche will vanish as easily.

"Sometimes the ball was out quick . . . He got his rhythm throws going. We were trying to take that away and we didn't. He threw it in some tight windows and made plays, and then a couple of vertical balls early hurt us," Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "The third downs were probably the most disappointing, because we had 'em in third-and-manageable for us, and he kept executing on 'em and we didn't . . . Give the credit to the Green Bay Packers and what they did. We had a horrible day today, and didn't execute on any level."

Yeah, that pretty well sums it up.

Rodgers quarterbacked the kind of game Eagles fans generally only see from opponents named Peyton Manning. When Rodgers sat down midway through the fourth quarter in favor of backup Matt Flynn, he had completed 22 of 36 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns, for a 120.3 passer rating. There was no column marked "stripped away defense's illusions of competency," but if there had been, Rodgers could have checked that off, too.

Just 6 days earlier, the Eagles' defense had forced five Carolina turnovers, sacked Cam Newton nine times. The Birds came up with no turnovers yesterday, while giving the ball away four times. They sacked Rodgers once.

"Every game is completely different, it really is," Davis said, after the Packers, 5-0 at home, became the first NFL team to score more than 50 points in back-to-back home games. Ever. "Aaron Rodgers is on fire right now, and we gave him our best shot, and it wasn't close to good enough today."

Eagles coach Chip Kelly said Rodgers was "as advertised."

"Billy was trying everything," Kelly said. "When we were blitzing, [Rodgers] got it out quick. Threw hot a couple of times, and put the ball exactly where it needed to be. When you dropped into coverage, he had enough time to [pick you apart] . . . Right now he's playing as good as anybody in the league. The game got out of hand real early, so we became a little bit one-dimensional. We moved the ball [429 total yards] but didn't execute."

"I'm going to look at the tape and see what happened, but I know we weren't getting there," said outside linebacker Connor Barwin, who did not add to his total of 10 1/2 sacks. "When they play at home, they do a great job slowing the rush down with the cadence. I think some of us up front had a little problem with the field [several Eagles changed cleats early on a slick surface]. At the end of the day, we just didn't get it done."

The tough task might be figuring out exactly what this game says about the 7-3 Eagles. There will be no shortage of people eager to declare them frauds and imposters, forever discredited by falling so hard on such a big stage. And maybe we'll look back in a few months and conclude this was the day the 2014 Eagles showed us who they were.

But 3 weeks ago, the Packers went to New Orleans and lost, 44-23. The Saints are 4-6 now. Were the Packers exposed as fatally flawed that day, when Mark Ingram ran for 172 yards on them and Drew Brees compiled a 138.4 passer rating? Or did they just need to recalibrate?

"I know these guys always come to work, so they'll be ready to work when we come back on Tuesday," Kelly said, when asked how his team might be affected by its most lopsided loss since he took over, one point worse than last season's debacle at Denver (52-20).

Fletcher was the face of the blowout for many Eagles fans.

"He did a lot of good things," Fletcher said of Rodgers.

Fletcher's manner was matter-of-fact. If he was thrown into a crisis of confidence, he did a very good job of hiding that from questioners. "Give credit to him for what he was able to do tonight."

Fletcher said he would welcome the chance to face the Packers again, in the playoffs.

"We just gotta be better next time."

Rookie receiver Jordan Matthews was a bright spot for the Eagles, catching five passes for 107 yards and a touchdown. Matthews has at least one touchdown in each of the three games Mark Sanchez has played. Matthews seemed to have a veteran perspective as he headed for the bus yesterday evening.

"You can't look at any loss like it's tougher than another," Matthews said. "You just gotta continue to go back, look at the film and try to correct it. You gotta learn from the good and the bad. In a sense, you let it go, but you can't ever just say, 'OK, it doesn't matter.' You gotta make sure . . . You look in the mirror and say, 'What plays could I have made to help the team out today?' I think everybody's going to do that, everybody's going to do a self-evaluation. Then, after 24 hours, we put that behind us and move on to the next game."

Maybe the biggest surprise was the way the Eagles' proud defensive front was stymied. Rodgers, sacked just the one time, was seldom pressured. Eddie Lacy ran 10 times for 69 yards and a touchdown.

"It's just a loss," defensive end Cedric Thornton said. "We're still the same team that came in 7-2. Now we're 7-3, we just got one loss. A loss is a loss. It doesn't matter if you lose by two or lose by 30 . . . Come back and be prepared for the Titans."

Barwin suggested the loss would bring some clarity to the self-evaluation process.

"Take a real look at yourself and get it corrected," he said.

Sanchez, 26-for-44 for 346 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and a fumbled snap that was returned for a touchdown, sounded a similar theme.

"I'm proud of our effort. I'm proud that nobody was out there quitting, nobody was pointing fingers at each other. We are a family, and things aren't ever perfect in a family. So it wasn't our night, and that's just the way it goes," Sanchez said. He said the rebound process is "going to start by how we bounce back in the film room, how we're going to take to the coaching. And there should be some hard coaching, myself included. There are plenty of things that we need to clean up, and it starts with the quarterback."

There were plenty of awful moments to chew over until next Sunday, when the Eagles host those Titans (2-7 going into tonight's matchup with the Steelers). What was your favorite? Call-in lines are open.

* The 64-yard bomb from Rodgers to Nelson down the right side on the opening drive, that opened the floodgates on the picking apart of Fletcher?

* The way the Packers, on their next drive, went from third-and-23 at their 36 to first-and-10 on the Eagles' 35, thanks to Trent Cole jumping offside and Nate Allen getting beat across the middle by tight end Andrew Quarless?

* The way the Eagles' previously fearsome special teamers got their heads handed to them on a 75-yard punt-return touchdown by Micah Hyde? Especially statue-imitator Josh Huff, who was standing flatfooted in front of Hyde when he caught the ball and seemed paralyzed.

* The way the Birds left Clay Matthews unblocked for an easy sack when they still had a chance to make a game of it, down 17-0 but facing third-and-2 at the Green Bay 5 early in the second quarter? A 33-yard Cody Parkey field goal there didn't exactly shout. "Look out Green Bay, we're coming back!"

* The 27-yard Rodgers-to-Nelson touchdown over Fletcher that made it 24-3 right after that?

* Either of the two Green Bay defensive touchdowns - the 52-yard Julius Peppers pick-six or when Casey Hayward picked up a snap that went through Sanchez's hands and ran it in 49 yards for a touchdown?

We could go on, but we won't, since your eyes probably glazed over several paragraphs ago.

Rodgers noted, with a straight face, that the Packers scored 30 points in the first half.

"That really puts the opponent in a tough spot," he said.