GREEN BAY, Wis. – Officially, 74,440 people navigated Lambeau Field's neighborhood front-yard parking lots and side-street traffic snarls Saturday night, hoping to glimpse just a little Aaron Rodgers magic.
In a way, they did.
No. 12 for the Packers did not play, something that had been foreshadowed during the week, but No. 7 for the Eagles seemed to be channeling his spirit. Sam Bradford completed all 10 of his passes, for 121 yards and three touchdowns, in three series of work, doing a good bit of the heavy lifting in the Eagles' 39-26 preseason victory over Green Bay.
These were not completions where receivers leaped for overthrown balls or picked wounded ducks off the tops of their cleats. Receivers turned, balls floated into their hands, in stride.
Bradford's passer rating of 156.7 was 1.6 points short of perfect, because his average yardage was just a tick below the top of the scale. Still, just about any quarterback on the planet would be happy to have thrown the football the way Bradford threw it Saturday, in only his second live action in a year, his third exposure to game conditions since the middle of the 2013 season.
"I felt really good today. Even before the game, I felt like we had a great week of preparation. I thought that we were ready to go tonight," said Bradford, who took what he agreed was a "huge" step forward in his comeback from successive left ACL tears.
"We just found a rhythm, a real one. It was nice to come off the field, go back on, keep that rhythm, keep firing.
"Obviously, it was nice to get out there last week and play the one series, but today, to be out there for three series and have three touchdowns, to be able to come to the sideline and communicate with the offensive line, talk to Chip (Kelly) about where we're going and what we're thinking, I think that was big, too."
"I thought Sam played well," Kelly said after the Eagles made it 115 points in three preseason games, 38.3 points per game, if you're scoring at home. "I thought he was really poised out there, had a really good command of what we were doing, really located the football. I thought he played really well."
Someone suggested to Bradford that this might be the standard he would want to set going forward. Bradford gently suggested that might be difficult, even if things go really, really well this season.
"I think it would be a little unrealistic to think you're going to have that type of game every time out," Bradford said. "It was good to see the work we put in during the week pay off tonight. I thought our guys up front did a great job of not only pass protection, but in run blocking as well. It seemed like we were firing on all cylinders tonight."
"The guy can throw the ball," left tackle Jason Peters noted. Peters and just about every Eagle who was asked about Bradford Saturday night said this is what they see in practice all the time. No one seemed surprised that Bradford approached perfection.
Last week against the Ravens, he'd completed 3 of 5 for 35 yards in leading a touchdown drive, but several of his throws were wild. Bradford missed a wide-open Riley Cooper for what should have been a long touchdown.
There was nothing like that from Bradford in Green Bay. All those pesky questions about rust and comfort level seemed to fade into the Lambeau brickwork. The Terrell Suggs hit was not repeated, the Packers did not seem to be targeting any knees, not that they spent a lot of time in Bradford's face.
Yes, it's the preseason, teams don't gameplan, they play subs here and there, the Eagles' tempo can distort the game much more easily than it will in Week 13. But Kelly's offense hasn't looked like this in either of his previous preseasons.
"I think this is the best we've looked since he got here, in the preseason," Peters said. "The first year we were just getting adjusted. The second year we didn't look too good in the preseason, but we did OK during the season. I think this is the best we've looked … We've been together longer, got the system down. Everybody kind of knows what's expected, knows what to do, and is playing a little faster."
Walter Thurmond's 28-yard pick-six of Packers rookie QB Brett Hundley, plus Bradford TD passes to Darren Sproles, Trey Burton and Brent Celek, gave the Eagles a 25-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. (Two Tim Tebow two-point attempts misfired, as did Kip Smith's first extra point try.)
Mark Sanchez wasn't as smooth as Bradford but he kept the rout going; the Eagles led 39-14 at halftime, and their quarterbacks were 23 for 29 for 271 yards, 5 touchdowns, no interceptions and a 145.2 passer rating.
Matt Barkley (5 for 9 for 28 yards) and Tebow (2 for 2 for 15) were much less impressive. They didn't complete a pass longer than 12 yards, and the deep subs on defense – including some who might not be so deep, such as rookie corner Eric Rowe and veteran nickel corner E.J. Biggers – really struggled as Hundley and Matt Blanchard led a face-saving comeback.
Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson suffered what Johnson called a minor MCL sprain early and left in favor of Matt Tobin. Kelly said he wasn't concerned about Johnson being ready for the Sept. 14 opener at Atlanta. Ditto kicker Cody Parkey, who apparently suffered a minor groin injury in Tuesday's practice.
Inside linebacker Kiko Alonso had been scheduled to make his Eagles debut, but Kelly said Alonso felt bothered by a nagging leg injury in warm-ups – nothing to do with his repaired ACL, Kelly said – and Alonso did not play.
Alonso's fellow ILBs, Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans, did see their first action of the preseason. Kendricks looked really rusty.
In all, 14 Eagles caught passes. Josh Huff traveled to Green Bay but sat out, Huff still dealing with the death of a close friend in Houston.
Kelly must cut the squad from 90 to 75 players by 4 p.m. Tuesday, but there have been indications at least some of his cuts might come sooner. The Eagles conclude their preseason Thursday at the Jets.