After starting the season with a pair of division wins and a dominant defensive performance in a win over the Broncos, the Packers looked like the Un-Packers Thursday night, where everything outside of the passing game looked terrible.
The Pack was ineffective in the red zone, couldn’t run the ball, couldn’t stop the run, didn’t create turnovers and gave Carson Wentz and the Eagles a couple of short fields in the first half as special teams imploded.
Despite all of those shortcomings, the Pack was right there at the end, with a chance to send the game to overtime. The play that ended Green Bay’s hopes is probably still keeping Aaron Rodgers up at night. Had he waited a split second longer, he would have found a wide open Darrius Shepherd. Instead he tried to force it into MVS and threw it a bit high, where a deflection turned into a pick. To make matters worse, CB Craig James was mugging MVS, wrapping up his arms well before the ball arrived.
I have no idea whether the league reviewed that play. All turnovers are supposed to be automatically reviewed, so I don’t know how they missed that. We do know that the new rule allowing challenges on potential pass interference calls is officially a disaster. It was brought in as a one year test and it is clear that it’s a disaster. The league should cut bait on this and let the officials alone be responsible for pass interference calls.
Bad calls aside, the Pack took a giant step backward with this performance. Mike Pettine waited too long to insert BJ Goodson into the game, after watching the Eagles running game gash his defense for three quarters. This team misses Raven Greene and showed that when the defensive line is unable to cause havoc up front, disaster ensues. With the Eagles offensive line containing Kenny Clark, and the Northwestern twins unable to make anything happen, the next level of defense had no answers. It’s back to the drawing board, with Zeke up next. Maybe Montravius Adams will return, after missing the last two games to provide some assistance.
On the other side of the ball, things got off to an ominous start, when Jamaal Williams was taken off on a stretcher after the first play of the game. That left Matt Lafleur with just Aaron Jones to run the ball and the rookie head coach clearly was careful not to overuse him. Careful to a fault in my opinion. He called 54 pass plays and 14 running plays and that is not a formula for winning football. Fortunately, Rodgers was up to the challenge.
For the first time this season we saw the passing game operate at high efficiency. The Eagles assisted–they had given up nearly 400 yards to Case Keenum in the opener. Both Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford had productive games against them. And they were shorthanded, with CB Ronald Darby out and #3 corner Sidney Jones injured early in the game. Regardless, Rodgers looked much more comfortable. His one minute scoring drive to end the half looked just like the old days and his fourth quarter drives put the Pack in a position to win.
But the Pack continued to self destruct on this night, shooting themselves in the foot in the red zone (four passes from the one? Granted, one was an RPO, but you need to assert your manhood there and put the ball in Jones’ hands), turning the ball over and then compounding issues on kickoffs by electing to kick away from the returner after giving up a big return and kicking it out of bounds to give Wentz a short field.
The Packers had a chance to make a statement to end the first quarter of the season, by reeling off four wins and heading to Dallas with a ton of momentum. Instead, the come out of this one battered, unlikely to have Davante Adams, Bryan Bulaga and Jamaal Williams available and a defense that will face a Cowboys team that has been as explosive as anyone in the league that doesn’t play in Kansas City.
Before the season we all would’ve been thrilled if we knew the Pack would be 3-1 through four games, but this loss leaves a bad taste in our mouths. The offense is banged up, the defense has some serious adjustments to make and special teams needs to button things up. And here come the Cowboys.