McMullen’s Quick Hits: Rodgers Wreaks Havoc on the Eagles
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Sometimes you need to tip your cap to the opponent and Monday night was one of those instances as Aaron Rodgers’ greatness was too much to overcome in a game which seriously dampened any potential playoff hopes for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Rodgers, Green Bay’s All-Pro quarterback, was brilliant, completing 30 of 39 passes for 313 yards and two touchdowns as the struggling Packers ended a four-game skid by dominating the listless Eagles, 27-13.
Rodgers was facing a team that was one of only two remaining unbeatens at home (along with Seattle) and was giving up only 9.5 points per game at Lincoln Financial Field.
And the superstar needed the football just twice to shatter that number by setting the tone for the contest with consecutive scoring drives of 75 yards, the first accentuating Rodgers’ mobility skills and the latter showing off his amazing accuracy throwing the football.
"It's huge. We snowball off that," Packers receiver Davante Adams, who finished with five catches for 113 yards and both of A-Rod's TDs, said of the fast start. "The more we can score on the first drive and get our defense going and get the confidence built up early, we'll be able to keep rolling."
The Eagles, meanwhile, were devoid of playmakers on the offensive side of the football and just didn’t have the horses to win any kind of shootout especially with running back Ryan Mathews sidelined with a knee injury and wide receiver Jordan Matthews joining him on the bench after injuring his ankle in the game.
Carson Wentz finished 24 of 36 for 254 yards with one bad interception on an air-mailed ball over the middle to Packers’ safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix.
Rookie Wendell Smallwood paced the running game in the absence of Mathews but only touched it nine times for 37 yards.
With Nelson Agholor a healthy scratch, Dorial Green-Beckham excelled early before tapering off but still led all Philadelphia receivers with six catches for 82 yards.
NO TROLLING ZONE
It was almost 13 years ago that the Packers were the victims of one of the most famous plays in Eagles history: “4th-and-26."
On the play, Donovan McNabb fired a strike to Freddie Mitchell converting the almost impossible last chance which eventually set up David Akers' game-tying field goal. Akers hit another in overtime to send Philadelphia to the NFC Championship Game.
With the Pack in town for the for the first time in 2011, the good people running the scoreboard at Lincoln Financial Field made sure to remind Green Bay of one of its lowest points but it didn’t have the desired effect.
Doug Pederson didn't have his best night with challenges, first throwing the flag on a great Jacob Scum punt that was downed at the Eagles' 1-yard line. It appeared that one of Green Bay's cover team brushed the goal line and the fans gasped waiting for the red challenge flag, Problem is there was no clear evidence that he actually touched the football before Brett Goode did actually down it,
Pederson did actually win his second challenge late in the third quarter but it was on a two-yard completion to Jared Cook so he gave up his ability to challenge again for 15 minutes of game time for an extra two years that the Packers easily overcame en route to a Rodgers-to-Adams TD.
That's what it felt like for the Eagles defense on the game's most important down as Green Bay finished a gaudy 10-of-14 on third-down conversions after starting 6-of-6.
"It is very tough to win the game when we stay on the field for the majority of the game," Philadelphia cornerback Leodis McKelvin admitted. "It's hard to get off the field and it's hard to win games when you are playing bad technique. It's hard to win games when it becomes 3rd-and-5 and you jump offsides. We just beat ourselves."
Everywhere you turn around, someone is sick these days and the Eagles weren’t immune to that suffering another hit on the offensive line Monday when starting right guard Brandon Brooks was hospitalized with an illness and inactive.
Brooks’ absence from the lineup further muddied a unit already dealing with the suspension of Lane Johnson and the injury to his replacement Halapoulivaati Vaitai.
Rookie Isaac Seumalo got his NFL start at RG in place of Brooks while LG Allen Barbre kicked out to right tackle to replace Vaitai and veteran Stefen Wisniewski stepped in at left guard.
Considering O-Line play in the NFL is all about continuity, all the moving parts certainly didn’t help.
PRESS PAUSE ON NELSON
In a somewhat ominous sign for Agholor, the Eagles made the second-year receiver a healthy scratch. Rookie undrafted free agent Paul Turner, a natural slot receiver who was promoted from the practice squad leading up to this game, was dressed in Agholor’s absence.
Green-Beckham had the season-high six catches for 82 yards but Bryce Treggs had only one catch in three targets for 11 yards while Turner never got a look.
Meanwhile, with Matthews injuring his ankle, Agholor’s exile will likely not be a lengthy one.
"When the ball is thrown your way, you have to make opportunities," DGB said. "You have to come up with big catches. One thing that I came out here and did -- I played hard, came out here and fought and made the catches that were thrown my way."
Wentz looked very good in the first half dueling with one of the game’s best, completing 13 of his 17 passes for 147 yards and a 101.8 passer rating. He also hooked up with Matthews on a beautiful back-shoulder, Rodgers-like fade that got the Eagles off their own goal line and eventually set up a Caleb Sturgis field goal at the end of the half. The rookie also showed off his own mobility skills and recorded his first rushing TD but without legit playmakers, things really slowed in the second half.
There weren’t a ton of highlights tonight but Barbre absolutely leveled Clay Matthews on the Eagles’ opening touchdown drive during a Treggs end around. The versatile lineman caught Matthews unaware and sent him to the sideline for a bit with an ailing shoulder.
The lone disappointment in the game for the Packers may have been the fact that the Eagles’ impressive front did get to Rodgers on a number of occasions and banged the veteran QB up, so much so that you could see his impressive mobility begin to shrink before your eyes as the game progressed.
At one point Fletcher Cox drew a roughing-the-passer penalty with a lariat that would have made John Bradshaw Layfield envious.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen