That's One Small Step for Pack, One Giant Leap...Posted:Nov 29th, 2016 2:51 pm
It wasn't quite as world changing as setting foot on the moon, but the Packers' dominant 27-13 win in Philadelphia reminded us that that they do have enough healthy bodies to compete in a tough environment.
Aaron Rodgers played flawlessly from the first snap, leading the Pack on a vintage opening drive that set the tone for the game. Finally, we saw a game plan that fit the Packers' talents, allowing Rodgers to get rid of the ball quickly to neutralize a tough Eagles pass rush, and giving the receivers a chance to pick up yards in chunks after catching short passes. And when Rodgers didn't see anything, he tucked the ball in his arm and took off running.
The defense predictably surrendered an opening drive touchdown itself, but who would have thought that would be the last time Went and company would reach the end zone? The defense was still pretty mediocre overall, but benefited from facing an average offense that lacks playmakers. The game turned on Ha Ha Clinton-Dix's interception with the Pack leading by four and the Eagles driving. Rodgers and Davante Adams hooked up immediately on a 50 yard play and Mason Crosby's field goal bumped the lead to seven. The Eagles would get no closer.
Adams has been a revelation over the last six weeks or so, developing into the team's top receiver one year later than Rodgers and McCarthy predicted. Clearly he wasn't ready to handle that role last season, with Jordy Nelson out. The team's patience with him has been rewarded and his chemistry with Rodgers is carrying this offense right now.
The most impressive and unexpected stat of the night was Green Bay's third down efficiency. Their 10-14 performance was the best on third down in the NFL this season, and the Eagles entered the game as the league's third best defense on third downs.
A tip of the cap to the Pack's offensive line, which allowed zero sacks against Jim Schwartz' aggressive defense. Playing without two starters, they didn't miss a beat, keeping studs Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham at bay all night. Jason Spriggs has been a revelation at right guard--he may be the starter there next season.
The only buzzkill of the night was Rodgers tweaking his hamstring early in the second half. It obviously removed his ability to run with the ball, as well as playing from under center. We'll find out over the next few days the severity of the injury. He downplayed it after the game, but it's a short week and those types of injuries can get much worse, if you're not careful.
The announcement 90 minutes before kickoff that Jake Ryan would be inactive was a surprise, based on news reports over the last 48 hours. It meant Clay Matthews had to return inside and help man the middle of the field. For the most part, the unit did its job holding the Eagles to 81 yards on the ground and not allowing the electric Darren Sproles to make any back-breaking big plays.
The secondary still has issues, and will throughout the remainder of the season. But they got a shot in the arm with the return of Damarius Randall and were able to keep Wentz and company from extending drives, holding them to 5-11 on third down and 0-1 on fourth down. The Packers won't face any more dynamic passing attack until week 17 in Detroit.
If the Pack can duplicate Monday night's effort over the last five games, they may be playing for a division title in Motown on January 1st. For now, we'll be happy to know that the Packers have the ability to look like the Packers again. And now they return home for December games against the Texans and Seahawks. If they can get that Lambeau mojo back, Rodgers' declaration of 'running the table' may not be as far-fetched as it sounded last week.