Insider: Thumbs up to resurgent Rodgers
The Packers pumped some life back into their dying NFC playoff hopes with a desperately needed 27-13 victory at Philadelphia that snapped a four-game losing streak and boosted their record at 5-6. They still trail the Lions (7-4) by two games in the NFC North with five to play, but just need to pick up one more game on Detroit before their regular-season finale in the Motor City. A season sweep of the Lions would give them the tiebreaker edge, and there are multiple ways they could leap-frog the second-place Vikings (6-5), whom they host on Christmas Eve. After a grueling three-game road trip, the Packers finally return to Lambeau Field for their first home game since Nov. 6 when they host the Houston Texans at noon Sunday.
The Eagles had trimmed the Packers' lead to 17-13 midway through the third quarter, and appeared to be getting the ball back quickly on a three-and-out after Aaron Rodgers threw a third-down incompletion. But Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was flagged for roughing the passer, allowing the Packers to keep their struggling defense off the field. Rodgers proceeded to engineer a 13-play, 75-yard drive that burned 6:28 off the clock and culminated in an Aaron Ripkowski 1-yard TD run that boosted the Packers' lead to 24-13.
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Rodgers declared last week he still thought the Packers could “run the table” and salvage a playoff berth despite a four-game losing streak. For that to happen, the Packers’ quarterback needed to extend his string of solid performances Monday night. And he came out on fire, directing touchdown drives on the Packers’ first two possessions. Rodgers completed 17 of 21 first-half passes for 142 yards and two TD passes to Davante Adams. With no running game to rely on, the Packers used the dink-and-dunk to perfection, keeping drives alive and taking time off the clock to spare their beleaguered defense. In the second half, Rodgers shook off a hamstring injury that limited his mobility and kept on completing clutch passes. Rodgers finished 30 of 39 for 313 yards, with 2 TDs, no interceptions and a passer rating of 116.7.
Green Bay’s pass defense remains a major cause of concern. A week after being embarrassed by Washington’s Kirk Cousins, who torched the unit for deep bombs of 44, 70 and 53 yards on consecutive third-quarter possessions and 375 total yards, the Packers fared better against rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. Getting cornerback Damarious Randall (groin injury) back in the lineup helped, but the Packers' secondary still allowed too many big passing plays by an offense that lacked the kind of dangerous receivers possessed by Washington The Packers did finally generate some pass-rush pressure, with Clay Matthews getting his first sack since Oct. 9 vs. the Giants and Mike Daniels dropping Wentz for a big first-half loss.
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RANTS AND RAVES
RAVE: The Packers’ receiving corps got a boost from the return last week of tight end Jared Cook, the big target in the middle of the field that coach Mike McCarthy covets. On Monday night, Adams was the main man with two first-half TD catches, a 50-yard reception that set up a third-quarter field goal and a clutch 23-yard catch on third down that carried to the Eagles' 3 and led to Green Bay's final TD. Adams finished with five catches for 113 yards and 2 TDs. Jordy Nelson contributed eight catches for 91 yards, including a nifty 21-yard sideline grab on fourth down late in the fourth quarter that put the game away.
NFL: Scoreboard | Standings
BOX SCORE: Packers 27, Eagles 13
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RANT: A big question Monday was whether newly acquired Christine Michael could join with James Starks to give the Packers’ running game the kind of 1-2 punch it has lacked since the loss of Eddie Lacy. The answer was no – Michael didn’t see the field in the first half as the Packers stayed with Starks and Ty Montgomery. Starks rushed for a workman-like 41 yards on 17 carries and caught five passes for 27 yards as Rodgers again was Green Bay’s most effective runner (28 yards on four carries, all in the first half, including an option run). Michael finally got in on the Packers’ first drive of the second half and gained four yards on his first carry. Leave it to Aaron Ripkowski to give the Packers their first rushing TD of the season by someone other than Rodgers, a John-Kuhn-style, one-yard plunge early in the fourth quarter that put Green Bay ahead 24-13.
RAVE: The Packers’ offensive line, missing right guard T.J. Lang (ankle) and center JC Tretter (knee) and with rookie tackle Jason Spriggs pressed into service at guard, needed to be stout to give Rodgers time to throw and open holes for the running backs. Against the Eagles’ sixth-ranked pass rush featuring Cox, Brandon Graham, Connor Barwin and Vinny Curry, the line delivered a big-time effort. Spriggs more than held his own early on against Cox, who (perhaps out of frustration) committed a costly roughing-the-passer penalty that kept a Packers drive alive. Rodgers wasn’t sacked as the line protected him well and gave him plenty of time to throw even after a hamstring injury restricted his mobility.
RAVE: Seems like eons ago that the Packers’ run defense was ranked first in the NFL. Without injured inside linebacker and leading tackler Jake Ryan, Green Bay got bulldozed by Tennessee’s DeMarcoMurray and Washington’s Robert Kelley in successive weeks. The Packers again were without Ryan against the Eagles and also were missing rookie ILB Blake Martinez (knee), forcing them to move Matthews back inside. Then, when Matthews was sidelined by a shoulder injury on a brutal first-quarter hit by former Packers guard Allen Barbre, the Packers shifted safety Morgan Burnett to ILB in a nickel formation. Despite the difficulties, the Packers limited the Eagles to 81 low-impact yards on 18 carries.
DID YOU NOTICE?
» The Packers now have won 29 straight games when leading after three quarters.
» Adams’ two first-half TD catches gave him eight for the season. He had only four total in his first two seasons.
» With 313 passing yards, Rodgers became the first quarterback this season to exceed the 300-yard mark against Philadelphia, according to ESPN.
» The Packers evened their all-time MNF record at 31-31-1 by winning their third straight appearance.