The Green Bay Packers faced a tough test against the (now 7-3) Philadelphia Eagles and delivered a near-flawless performance that mimicked last week’s blowout victory.
For the first time in franchise history, the Packers scored 50-plus points in consecutive weeks as they pulverized the Eagles, 53-20. Green Bay dominated in all three phases of the game and it once again led to strong positional grades.
Let’s take a look at how each unit stacked up.
Aaron Rodgers stepped onto the field to start the game in the running for the league’s Most Valuable Player award. He left the NFC matchup after three quarters played, still in the lead through 11 weeks. While he didn’t throw six touchdowns in a half (this time), Rodgers diced up the Eagles’ secondary for 341 passing yards and three touchdowns.
And while his stats weren’t as eye-popping as last week’s, he made one impeccable throw after another. Rodgers made a habit of dropping the ball right over the hands of opposing cornerbacks to Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb, resulting in big plays. He worked the middle of the field and short passing game when the Eagles brought pressure, then went deep when facing a single-high safety.
Aaron Rodgers at home now has 322 consecutive attempts & 29 TDs in a row w/out an INT. Both are @NFL records
— Randall Liu (@RLiuNFL) November 17, 2014
Through 10 games, Rodgers is second in passing touchdowns (28), first in interceptions (3) and first in yards per attempt (8.8). While he is sixth in passing yards (2,748), he has a 120.1 QB rating on the season which would be the third-highest mark in a single season. This was another phenomenal performance by Rodgers and should carry over next week against the Vikings, a team he shreds nearly every time he faces them.
Just over a month ago, there were scattered discussions about Eddie Lacy’s effectiveness and whether or not he was a one-hit wonder. Now, Lacy has strung together four strong consecutive performances. He went over 100 total yards and two touchdowns for the second time this season, delivering in numerous ways.
The offensive line opened up some holes this week against an Eagles defense that entered the week allowing 115 yards per game versus the run. While Lacy found the holes, his best work came when he ripped through arm tackles and carried defenders on his back for extra yards. He only had 10 carries, but finished with 69 rushing yards and a 1-yard touchdown.
The biggest improvement Lacy has made this season pertains to him as a pass-catching back. He ripped off another big receiving touchdown this week, taking a short pass from Rodgers and trucking through tackles, forcing his way to a 32-yard score. It marked the third straight week Lacy surpassed 40-plus receiving yards in a game and third week with a catch and run over 30 yards.
This is what makes Green Bay’s offense lethal going forward. They can pound opposing defenses with the running game and eat clock or let Rodgers sit back and attack the defense. It allows them to play well in a dome or in cold weather, scheming their offense to adjust to whatever the game flow should warrant.
Wide receiver/tight end:
Everything is easier when you have an elite quarterback. As a wide receiver, you know exactly where the ball is going to be and when it’s going to be there. Of course Rodgers gets credit for the success of the wide receivers around him, but they have played at a high level as well.
Nelson once again showed why he is an elite wide receiver—torching Bradley Fletcher deep on the first drive of the game and on several other occasions. He finished with 109 yards and a touchdown, but also had two uncharacteristic drops. Cobb attacked the aggressive Cary Williams all game—finishing with 10 receptions for 129 yards, slipping past the defensive back off the line and getting open over the middle.
While tight ends Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers didn’t put up big numbers, they each delivered in key situations. Quarless got open on 3rd and 18, hauling in a 24-yard pass. And Rodgers followed through with a 19-yard reception on 3rd and 10. (Richard) Rodgers also bailed out Aaron Rodgers on a strip-sack, recovering the ball and running for four yards.
Facing a defense that sacked Cam Newton nine times with 10 hits the previous week, Green Bay knew they would be facing pressure from Philadelphia’s defensive front. They were prepared. Rodgers had all week to sit back and throw, at times remaining in the same spot before eventually throwing to Cobb or Nelson.
11/12/14 The kid is all right: Thrust into the starting lineup unexpectedly, rookie center Corey Linsley had t… http://t.co/52V2URVuwZ
— Jason Wilde (@jasonjwilde) November 13, 2014
While Josh Sitton continues to play at an All-Pro level, the man to his right doesn’t get enough credit. The rookie has started every snap this season, which is more incredible when you consider the fifth-round pick was the backup for most of the preseason. Now he has turned into one of the best rookies in the league and one of the best centers as well.
The entire offensive line played well and the blowout led to J.C. Tretter and Lane Taylor getting additional snaps once again in the fourth quarter. Everything is clicking for Green Bay and that makes them a scary opponent going forward.
An issue that has hurt Green Bay this season is their inability to win at the line of scrimmage and take away the run. For half the season, they allowed the opponent’s offensive line to push to the second level, take away the linebackers and open up big lanes for the running backs.
Things are starting to improve. Letroy Guion has made tremendous improvements in his ability to create interior pressure and eat up blocks, while Mike Daniels is developing into a consistent, great player. Daniels pushed 2013 All-Pro OG Evan Mathis around multiple times on Sunday, getting into the backfield and forcing LeSean McCoy to dance around on the outside where the linebackers took him down.
Things seemed bleak when B.J. Raji was lost before the season started, but players are gaining more experience and taking steps in the right direction. While they aren’t racking up the sacks, they are allowing the pass rushers to come free off the edge and create havoc. If this group can keep it up, it will certainly help the linebackers find more success.
After struggling all year to find the right grouping for their 3-4, Dom Capers has discovered (what seems to be) the perfect combination at linebacker. It comprises Nick Perry and Julius Peppers on the outside, with A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews on the inside.
Clay Matthews starting this game at inside backer. Perry gets start OLB opposite Peppers
— Wes Hodkiewicz (@WesHod) November 16, 2014
After Clay’s brother came out and said he wasn’t sure if his brother liked the move inside, Matthews had no problem with it on Sunday. We saw the same quickness and aggressiveness that helped him take away Chicago’s running game last week and put pressure on the quarterback. The move inside has also helped Matthews in passing situations when he goes back outside, bringing unaccounted pressure with the blitz.
Peppers didn’t bring down Mark Sanchez. But he deflected a pass and caught a pass, taking it 52 yards to the end zone for his second pick-six this season. Ted Thompson’s decision to sign Peppers has paid off in a big way and he has given this defense a much-needed leader as well.
While Morgan Burnett, Sam Shields and Tramon Williams have returned from injuries, this secondary just doesn’t seem to be playing up to its ability. While Sanchez’s 346 passing yards is inflated by yards in “garbage time”, he left plenty of yards on the field throughout the game.
Riley Cooper slipped past Sam Shields and was wide open deep in the middle of the field, but Sanchez overthrew the easy touchdown. There were also throws on the edges of the field where Sanchez had Darren Sproles or Jeremy Maclin open and overthrew them. This doesn’t even account for some key drops that would have moved the chains. Green Bay is getting away with blown assignments and leaving receivers open because they are facing bad quarterbacks.
This is a talented group and it’s very possible Burnett and Shields are still limited by their injuries. But with Tom Brady just two weeks away and currently playing at an MVP level, this is a group that must improve if they want to keep opposing offenses at bay.