A quick glance at the 27-13 score would tell you this one wasn’t pretty for the Packers. Their offense turned the ball over. Their defense failed to take the ball away and completely melted down in the fourth quarter amid a 9 min. and 32 sec. Philadelphia Eagles’ drive to close out the game.
What the final score won’t tell you, however, is that the Packers were in the game until the very end, and they had a legitimate shot in pulling off the upset, even without their MVP quarterback. In fact, I’d like to take a close look at some of the key plays in the game that really could have changed the outcome if they fell Green Bay’s way.
Just to be clear. I am not making excuses for the Packers’ loss. A close review of the game would tell you the Packers failed to capitalize on opportunities time and time again. The loss completely rests on their shoulders. Not the officials. Or injuries. Or bad luck. This game can be simply summed up by missed opportunities by the Packers players. They had plenty of chances to get back in this game and even get out to an early lead, but they failed to do so.
The good news is that even without Rodgers, Jermichael Finley, Randall Cobb, a healthy offensive line, and a two-handed Clay Matthews, the Packers stayed competitive. This should encourage us that if this team can just make a few more of these plays then they’ll have a legitimate chance in pulling off a win in coming weeks.
Now, let’s take a close look at some of the key plays in the game that didn’t go the Packers way.
The Packers opened up the game by halting the Eagles offense near their own 40-yard line, forcing them to punt. The Packers offense then drove the ball 44 yards downfield on 11 plays before being stopped at the Eagles’ 35-yard line. Here was a chance for Green Bay to get out to an early lead and put the first points on the board. Unfortunately, Mason Crosby missed the 53-yard field goal to cap off the drive.
On the Eagles’ second play of the following drive, Nick Foles threw a 55-yard bomb to DeSean Jackson. Both Tramon Williams and Morgan Burnett were in position to intercept the ball. Williams got there first, got position in front of Jackson, and got both hands on the ball before Burnett collided with the veteran corner and knocked the ball into the hands of Jackson for the Eagles’ first touchdown of the game.
The Packers only have three interceptions this season and have been desperate to take the ball away. Unfortunately, neither Burnett nor Williams were able to make the play, and it led to six points for Philadelphia.
Down 7-0 and with Seneca Wallace sidelined with a groin injury, the Packers offense took the field late in the first quarter with Scott Tolzien under center. On their third drive of the game, Tolzien marched the offense downfield on to Philadelphia’s five-yard line on an impressive 16-play, 91-yard drive. Tolzien was really moving the ball and keeping the Eagles defense on their toes and had a chance to tie the game up seven-all halfway through the second quarter. But then on third-and-three, Tolzien under-threw a corner route to Jordy Nelson in the end zone that led to a Brandon Boykin interception.
Once again, the Packers failed to put any points on the board. The interception completely killed the momentum they had going on offense.
After another Crosby miss from 43 yards on the following drive, the Eagles marched downfield and kicked a field goal to go up 10-0 with just a little over a minute left in the first half.
Tolzien then ran the Packers two-minute offense and got Green Bay back into scoring position. On a second-and-four from the Eagles 39-yard line, Nelson caught a great pass near the sideline and almost tip-toed his way into the end zone. Nelson was inches away from keeping his feet in bounds and scoring the team’s first touchdown. However, he was ruled down at the nine-yard line.
A few plays later James Jones failed to keep both feet in bounds on an impressive catch in the end zone. This is a catch we’ve seen the veteran receiver routinely make. The Packers missed two opportunities to score a touchdown just before half by literally inches. Instead, they settled for a field goal and headed to the locker room down 10-3.
Things would only get worse for the Packers in the third quarter. Rather than coming out and opening the second half with a scoring drive, the Packers offense went six plays for 15 yards and punted from their own 39-yard line.
Things only mounted when the Eagles capped off their first second-half drive with a 45-yard touchdown pass to Riley Cooper. The ball was underthrown and both M.D. Jennings and Davon House were there in coverage, but both players failed to make a play on the ball.
After another Tolzien interception, the Eagles kicked a field goal to go up 20-3 midway through the third quarter.
To the Packers credit, they continued fighting, despite things looking dire at this point in the game. With a 22-yard Brandon Bostick touchdown, Green Bay put together a 7-play, 86-yard drive to come within two scores near the end of the third quarter.
The Eagles responded to Green Bay’s touchdown with a scoring drive of their own. They marched 79 yards downfield and scored a touchdown on a 32-yard Cooper reception to go up three scores once again. However, this touchdown could have been prevented by the Packers defense.
Early in the Eagles’ drive, Williams let a interception slip through his hands as Jason Avant crossed over the middle of the field and turned the Packers missed opportunity into a 23-yard reception for a first down. A few plays later on a 3rd-and-6 near midfield, the Packers allowed Foles to scramble for 16 yards and the first down. This would have been a great stop for the Packers defense. They could have forced the Eagles to punt and would have gotten the ball back down only 20-10 late in the third quarter. But alas. It was only two plays later Foles threw the touchdown to a wide open Cooper. Burnett completely bought the inside fake and wasn’t even close to Cooper as he crossed the goal line.
The Packers responded to the Eagles touchdown by marching downfield, but then being halted at the 35-yard line when Newhouse gave up a sack on first down and committed a false start the following play. The Packers settled for a field goal and remained down two scores with 13 minutes left in the game.
Things seemed to be going the Packers way on the following Eagles’ drive when Foles was sacked on third down and fumbled the ball. Williams recovered at the Eagles 13-yard line and Packers were set up for the quick score. With 11 minutes left in the game this seemed like a great opportunity for the Packers to get back into it.
However, on four plays the Green Bay offense failed to capitalize off the turnover and get into the end zone. After an incomplete pass on third down, the Packers went for it on 4th-and-4. On a corner fade route in the end zone, it appeared Nelson hauled in the catch with one hand, but the officials ruled it an incomplete. The Packers turned the ball over and failed to score any points.
The game ended with the Eagles driving the ball downfield and soaking up the remaining nine-and-half minutes on the clock. The Packers had plenty of opportunities to stop the Eagles and get the ball back. Brad Jones missed a tackle on a 3rd-and-7 that allowed James Casey to get the first down and keep the drive alive. The Packers also allowed Foles to scramble for nine yards on second down to get the first and close out the game.
The Packers simply failed to capitalize off opportunities in the game. Despite all the injuries to key players, they could have pulled this win off if they made even half of these plays.
Although it’s tough to sit here and go through all their missed opportunities, it should encourage you to see how close they came to getting the upper hand in this game. Injuries and officiating cannot be an excuse when players on the team fail to make this many plays during a game. I expect this team to clean their game up, do a better job taking advantage of their opportunities, and pull off some wins going forward.