PHILADELPHIA − For 12 games, the Green Bay Packers have shown they’re going nowhere this season. So Sunday night’s 40-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles didn’t reveal much about this team.
The Packers lost because their defense couldn’t stop a thing. From the start, they were overmatched against Jalen Hurts and a talented Eagles offense. The Packers offense had one of its best games this season, reaching 33 points for the first time in 2022.
That production didn’t stop after Aaron Rodgers left the game with an oblique injury in the third quarter. Jordan Love came in and engineered a quick touchdown drive to temporarily pull the Packers back into the game.
They ultimately lost because defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s unit is a disaster. Given the nature of Rodgers’ injury, added to his already broken thumb on his throwing hand, the Packers reached a pivotal moment in their lost season Sunday night. And it’s not just because of their 4-8 record.
Rodgers jogged into the locker room after a field goal late in the third quarter. He was initially listed as questionable to return because of an oblique injury. Rodgers made good pace on his way off the field, but he didn’t return. An oblique injury is tricky to heal, especially for someone who throws a football for a living. The oblique is located on the side near the rib cage, and it can be very painful for a quarterback who must torque his body to throw. The injury came on the same day the NFL Network reported Rodgers likely will need surgery to repair an avulsion fracture on his throwing thumb, something the quarterback refuted during the week. Either way, this is one battered quarterback who will turn 39 years old Friday. Jordan Love entered and completed the Packers’ initial third down of the game with a 7-yard pass to Allen Lazard. He hit Christian Watson in stride for a 63-yard touchdown to pull the Packers within a touchdown at 37-30. The Packers never considered putting Rodgers on injured reserve after he broke his thumb. Time will tell whether that was the right decision for this season. At this point, the team’s decision makers have a big choice to make whether it’s time to give their aging, battered quarterback rest next week against Chicago.
It’s stunning how quickly Watson has become the Packers’ best receiver. In a matter of three games, the rookie has turned a corner. Watson couldn’t stay healthy earlier this season, with hamstring injuries and a concussion keeping him off the field, but he’s been dynamite the past couple of weeks. Watson already was impressive before his long touchdown, catching a clutch 21-yard pass from Rodgers on fourth-and-5 in the first half. It was a gritty catch, Watson turning his back to a pair of Eagles defenders, knowing he would be hit. The long touchdown was another example of just what kind of explosive athleticism he has. Watson, who runs a 4.3 40, raced past two Eagles defenders on his way to the end zone. It was his sixth touchdown catch in the past three weeks, and proof he can break off a long touchdown from anywhere on the field. At this point, it’s hard to see him slowing down.
It’s difficult to adequately describe just how bad the Packers run defense played. Where to start? Jalen Hurts. The Eagles quarterback crossed 100 yards rushing in the first quarter. By 10 minutes to go in the second quarter, Hurts had a career-high 120 rushing yards on just eight carries. He wasn’t the only Eagles ball carrier to cross 100. Running back Miles Sanders crossed 100 yards in the third quarter. It was Sanders’ second 100-yard game this season. It shouldn’t be surprising Hurts and Sanders had productive nights. Both are dangerous on the ground. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry had no effective plan to stop them. By the third quarter’s midway point, the Packers had allowed 256 rushing yards on 29 carries. The Eagles finished with 363 rushing yards.
Before getting the ball to start the second half, Matt LaFleur decided to empty his timeouts at the end of the second quarter instead of keeping them in his pocket. It was a fair idea, in theory. Especially after a Preston Smith and Jarran Reed sack forced the Eagles into third-and-14 with 1:10 left in the second quarter. The score was tied at 20, and the Packers should have expected to get the ball back with enough time to mount a drive before halftime. Instead, safety Adrian Amos whiffed on an open-field tackle against Eagles receiver DeVonta Smith, and the Eagles got 13 yards on the play. They converted fourth-and-1 and scored a go-ahead touchdown three plays later on a 30-yard pass from Hurts to Quez Watkins. It’s a snapshot of where this team stands after 12 games. A defense must reward the head coach’s faith better than that.