Packers unstoppable again at home
The Philadelphia Eagles' complicated signals and innovative statistics were no match for an MVP-contending quarterback and a team playing its best football of the season.
Like their last three home victories, the Green Bay Packers started fast on both sides of the ball, turned Chip Kelly's state-of-the-art offense into a one-dimensional disappointment and let Aaron Rodgers do what he does best in a 53-20 rout in front of 78,270 Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field.
It was the first time in franchise history the team has scored more than 50 points in back-to-back weeks following last week's 55-14 win over Chicago and extended its franchise record of scoring more than 30 points in each of its last six home games.
The script didn't change much. Clay Matthews was still at inside linebacker, the Packers' defense stayed mostly in its subpackages and Rodgers was unstoppable in leading the offense on scoring drives on its four first-half possessions.
With the Eagles' offense grounded, the Packers continued their first-half dominance at home in grabbing a 30-6 halftime lead. Dating to last month's 42-10 win over Minnesota, the Packers have outscored their last four opponents 128-9 at home in the first half.
Rodgers built upon his MVP pace in completing 22 of 36 passes for 341 yards, three touchdowns and a 120.3 passer rating, and he still hasn't thrown an interception at home this season. He's thrown 31 touchdowns since his last pick at Lambeau Field against Minnesota on Dec. 2, 2012.
"He was as advertised," said Kelly, in his second year as Eagles coach. "I think he is playing as good as anybody in the league. You look at some of the balls he throws: extremely accurate, on target. If you blitzed him, he got it out quick. If you didn't, he held it until guys got open. He got it to everybody."
Conversely, Eagles backup quarterback Mark Sanchez turned the ball over four times with the Packers' defense scoring on two of them — a Julius Peppers' 52-yard interception return in the third quarter and Casey Hayward's 49-yard fumble recovery in the fourth.
For the first time in four years, the Packers scored in all three phases in the same game with Micah Hyde returning a punt 75-yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. It was the only first-half score on which Rodgers didn't have his fingerprints.
Philadelphia stayed true to its single-high safety defense and Rodgers made them pay in hitting Jordy Nelson on the opening series for a 64-yard completion off a go route over Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher.
The offense came up short on its first possession, ending in a Mason Crosby 27-yard field goal, but converted three third-and-long plays to keep a 13-play, 88-yard drive alive on its next opportunity. The series ended with a 7-yard touchdown to Davante Adams.
Rodgers went back to the Nelson well on a 27-yard touchdown off a tip-toe play in the second quarter. He continued Fletcher's long night on the next series when he drew an 18-yard pass interference call against the Eagles' cornerback, which set up a 1-yard Eddie Lacy touchdown run to give the Packers a 30-3 lead.
Nelson was one of seven receivers Rodgers completed passes to with Randall Cobb's 10 catches for 129 yards leading the way.
"That's what we knew coming into the game," said Nelson, who finished with four catches for 109 yards. "Teams are going to, for the most part, play their defense, and that's what they feel and that's what they've been successful at throughout the year. They're not going to come in here and completely change what they do and think they can't handle us. They've got confidence in their guys that they can match up outside and get pressure on Aaron.
"Whenever we get that one-high and you get the opportunity to have one-on-one opportunities, you've got to win them."
The Eagles tried to speed up the tempo during their possessions. Kelly could be seen waving his arms for Sanchez to operate faster throughout the game. His team succeeded to a certain extent. They ran more plays than Green Bay (78-64) and produced 429 total yards, but sacks on later downs and turnovers were the Eagles' undoing.
The Packers' offense fumbled twice, but never lost the ball. They also won the penalty battle with Rodgers drawing the Eagles' front offside twice in the first half.
One of those calls moved the Packers up 5 yards to create a third-and-18 opportunity on the series on which Adams eventually scored. The Eagles shaded Nelson's side and that opened up the middle of the field for Rodgers to hit tight end Andrew Quarless on a 24-yard completion.
"That was a big play for us to kind of continue to get things going," Rodgers said. "That's a situation where, as a defense, they're obviously thinking it's going to be a punt, but we keep that thing going and those are like little back-breakers, and when you add up a lot of those in a row — third-and-longs you're converting — that's when you can really put a team away."
The Eagles were able to pad the stat sheet with some extra yardage in the second half, but never threatened a comeback. Some of that production was aided by poor special-teams play. The Packers missed two extra-point opportunities, and Tim Masthay had a fourth-quarter punt blocked.
It was tough to find fault in much else in the Packers' performance. The offense, which entered Sunday 12th in total yards compared to the Eagles' fourth, boomed for 475 total yards. The onslaught made for another short night for Rodgers, who was removed for backup Matt Flynn early in the fourth quarter.
For everything that's been made of Kelly's up-tempo scheme, the Packers were able to beat them at their game.
"We always know what the offense is doing and how that relates to us," center Corey Linsley said. "Tempo is a huge thing. We knew we were going to run a lot of plays tonight. If they were going to go three-and-out, it was going to be 30 seconds. If they were going to have a drive, it was going to be 2 minutes. We knew we were going to run a lot of plays. We were prepared for it."
The race for the NFC North opened a little with the Carson Palmer-less Arizona Cardinals topping Detroit 14-6, pulling the Packers into a tie with the Lions at 7-3 for the division lead.
They'll see if they can build upon those home successes on the road Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, who fell to 4-6 following a 21-13 loss to the Bears. With the playoff race starting to take form, the Packers have won six of their last seven.
"The formula to get to the playoffs is always to win your home games and try to play .500 or better on the road," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "We have a great home-field advantage, probably the best in football. It's a special place to play. Obviously, we enjoy playing here. This is our element. This is where we live. This is where we train. So we're obviously comfortable."