Despite loss to Eagles, Packers remain in first place

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GREEN BAY – This one hurts.  And this time it was the opposing defense that made the difference in a tight game.

The Green Bay Packers—collectively—most certainly did not play their best football Thursday night at Lambeau Field.

The good news for Green Bay Nation is that the Packers still remain atop the NFC North Division standings after weekend NFL action.  The 3-1 Chicago Bears took care of business at home and beat the 2-2 Vikings, 16-6, with a dominant defensive performance.

The surprising 2-1-1 Lions are in second place after losing a heart-breaker to the Kansas City Chiefs, 34-30, in the final minute at Ford Field.

The Philadelphia Eagles, desperate to avoid a 1-3 start, played inspired and error-free ball in a wild 34-27 victory.  The game was televised in Western Wisconsin on FOX 25/58.

“We had a lot of chances down the stretch,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who had a monster game with 422 passing yards and two touchdowns for a 93.4 quarterback rating.  “We moved the ball well all day long.  We just struggled in the red zone.”

The Eagles and quarterback Carson Wentz did not, scoring four touchdowns in four trips into the red zone, against Green Bay’s vaunted defense.  Wentz was efficient, completing 16 of 27 passes for 160 yard and three touchdowns for a 113.2 quarterback rating.

The Packers scored three times (two field goals and a touchdown) in seven trips to the red zone.  The last two trips, with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, doomed Green Bay to its first defeat of the 2019 season.

Trailing 34-27, the Packer turned it over on downs after four consecutive passes from the Eagles 1-yard line with 9:08 remaining.  Just over four minutes later, Rodgers marched Green Bay to the Philly 3-yard line with 28 seconds left, but his short pass over the middle bounced off Marquez Valdes-Scantling and into the hands of middle linebacker Nigel Bradham to seal the victory in the final 28 seconds.

77,509 fans went home disappointed, especially with a Green Bay defense that was gashed for 176 rushing yards.  Jordan Howard (15 carries 87 yards and two touchdowns and another receiving) and Miles Sanders (11 carries, 72 yards) were an effective 1-2 punch that Mike Pettine’s unit simply could not stop.

“Until I go back and look at the film, I can’t tell you right now (about the defense),” head coach Matt LaFleur said.   “But I know we’d better fix it, otherwise for teams that’s going to be their blueprint, to run the football and grind it out.”

The Packers put the football in Rodgers’ hands as the Eagles shut down Aaron Jones and the Packers running game, as Jamaal Williams suffered injuries on a late hit to his head/neck early in the game.

The Packers won the toss and deferred.  After the Green Bay defense forced a punt, Rodger directed the offense 89 yards in five plays for a 7-0 lead at the 10:31 mark.  Aaron Jones scored from three yards out, his third rushing touchdown of the young season at  Lambeau Field.

The Packers game plan was to incorporate Davante Adams into the offense early in the game, and Adams burned the Eagles defense with six catches for 107 yards in the quarter alone, the best since Javon Walkers’ 121 yards in the first quarter at Indianapolis in September 2004.

After a Mason Crosby 30-yard field goal made it 10-0, Philadelphia was sparked by a 67-yard kickoff return by Miles Sanders.  Four plays later, Wentz hit Alshon Jeffery with a 6-yard touchdown pass to close within 10-7.

The Packers answered with a 31-yard Crosby field goal on a 63-yard drive that was highlighted by Rodgers catching the Eagles offside for a free play.  He took full advantage, hitting Adams with a 40-yard pass down the right sideline.

The Eagles enjoyed another short field when Crosby kicked the ball out of bounds.  Starting at their own 40, Wentz directed another impressive drive 60 yards, capped by his 3-yard touchdown strike to tight end Dallas Goedert for a 14-13 lead.

The Philadelphia defense then made a big play.

Defensive end Derek Barnett beat Bakhtiari around the right edge and he swatted the ball out of Rodgers hand from behind.  Four plays later Howard bulled over from the one for a 21-13 lead with 59 seconds left in the half.

That was too much time for Rodgers.  He marched Green Bay 70 yards for a score, hitting Geronimo Allison with a 19-yard touchdown pass with nine seconds remaining.

The Eagles extended their lead to 27-20 in the third quarter as Wentz capped a 76-yard drive with an easy 20-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Howard, who waltzed in after Blake Martinez was picked on the play.

Like heavyweight boxers trading punches, the teams each scored on their next possessions.

Rodgers then directed a 8-play 72-yard drive that he finished with a 14-yard pass to Geronimo Allison to tie the game at 27 with 3:16 remaining in the third quarter.

The Eagles appeared to wear down the Green Bay defense on an eight-play, 75-yard drive, with Howard totaling  yards and finishing it off with a 2-yard touchdown rush to take a 34-27 lead.

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