Green Bay Packers defense's fortunes turn with Michael Vick

Sep. 12, 2010
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick scrambles downfield in the second half of Sunday's game against the against the Green Bay Packers in Philadelphia. Mel Evans/AP

Best of times

Fewest yards allowed in the first half of a season opener since 1933**

Yds. Opp. Date
43* Cardinals Sept. 17, 1939
48 Bears Sept. 13, 1964
49 Eagles Sept. 12, 2010
54* Eagles Sept. 16, 1934
60* Redskins Sept. 17, 1933
62 Lions Sept. 3, 1978

Worst of times
Most yards allowed in the fourth quarter of a season opener since 1933**

Yds. Opp. Date
181 Oilers Sept. 4, 1983
156* Steelers Sept. 26, 1954
153 Eagles Sept. 12, 2010
145 Cardinals Sept. 2, 1984
144* Bears Sept. 25, 1949
143 Bears Sept. 6, 1981
138 Bears Sept. 1, 1997
*unofficial total
**excludes 1941 and 1948 for which numbers are unavailable


Green Bay’s defensive play Sunday in its 27-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles ranked among the best in season-opening history; it ranked among the worst in season-opening history.

That it went from rock solid to Swiss cheese in a matter of hours isn’t surprising considering Philadelphia’s tale of two quarterbacks featured one named Michael Vick.

Charles Dickens died a half-century too early to have witnessed an NFL game, but even the renowned author might have detected the considerable drop-off between the Packers’ defensive fortunes in the first half as compared to the fourth quarter. Green Bay yielded just 49 yards and a field goal to the Eagles in the opening two quarters, then surrendered 153 yards and 10 points in the final 15 minutes.

That turnabout touched off an Eagles rally that |didn’t end until linebacker Clay Matthews held Vick to no gain on fourth down at the Packers’ 42-yard line with |1 minute, 54 seconds left.

Through four preseason games, Green Bay’s offense generated headlines. But when it went three-and-out on its first possession in an eye-blinking 24 seconds, the Packers had to get defensive.

That they did. With Matthews, linebacker Nick Barnett, safety Nick Collins and defensive end B.J. Raji combining for 10 solo tackles, the Packers forced Philadelphia into three-and-outs on three of its five first-half possessions.

They limited quarterback Kevin Kolb to five completions in 10 attempts for 24 yards. In doing so, they held the Eagles’ without a first down passing.

Philadelphia’s only score came on a short field after cornerback Joselio Hanson intercepted quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Eagles moved 26 yards to set up David Akers’ 45-yard field goal with |4:23 to go in the first quarter.

With Kolb taking the majority of the snaps, the Eagles managed just 16 additional yards before halftime. Even in the final 2 minutes, when teams often move the chains, Kolb faltered, nearly getting picked off by Matthews then tossing a |6-yard completion to running back LeSean McCoy and a 1-yarder to guard Mike McGlynn on a deflected ball.

As openers go, the Packers defensed an opponent more effectively in the first half on only two other occasions. They held the Cardinals to 43 yards (unofficially) in 1939 and permitted the Bears 48 yards in 1964.

Vick authored Philadelphia’s longest gain in the first half with a 13-yard run. It was a portent of things to come.

With Kolb out (concussion), Vick led the Eagles to 17 second-half points. His arm and legs produced the majority of Philadelphia’s offensive output.

He gave Green Bay fits in the fourth quarter. The slippery signal caller ran for 26 yards and two first downs. He completed 10 of 15 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown (116.8 passer rating) to evoke memories of the top-flight quarterbacks who riddled the Packers a year ago.

McCoy’s 5-yard run was the only play by the Eagles in the last 15 minutes not to entail a scramble, sack or throw involving Vick.

As openers go, the Packers allowed more yards in the fourth quarter only twice previously. The Oilers amassed 181 yards in a 41-38 overtime loss in 1983 and the Steelers gobbled up 156 (unofficially) in a 21-20 loss in 1954.

Extra points

♦ With 103 yards rushing on 11 carries, Vick broke Bobby Douglass’ single-game, regular-season record for the most yards rushing by a quarterback against the Packers. Douglass ran for 100 yards in the Bears’ 31-17 win on Nov. 4, 1973. The Eagles’ Donovan McNabb had 107 yards on 11 attempts in a playoff game on Jan. 11, 2004.

♦ Green Bay’s first possession (24 seconds) was its shortest season-opening advance in terms of length of time in at least 50 years. Since 1960, the team had just twice held the ball for less than a minute to start a season: 28 seconds against the Vikings in 2003 and 42 seconds against the Browns in 1972.

Eric Goska is a Press-Gazette correspondent, a Packers historian and the author of "Green Bay Packers: A Measure of Greatness," a statistical history of the Packers. E-mail him at

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