Week 4 of the 2019 NFL season kicked off in Green Bay, Wisconsin where a revitalised Packers team was set to defeat a battered and bruised Philadelphia Eagles team coming off a bitter loss to the Detroit Lions. Coming into this game, the Packers were heavy favourites and they had every right to be. Under young hot shot head coach Matt LaFleur, Green Bay was 3-0 riding the wave of the most improved defence of 2019.
However, things did not go as planned. Green Bay succumbed to Philly 27 points to 34.
The Packers will look back on this game as a wasted opportunity to go 4-0 in an NFC that will tear itself apart due to the competitiveness of the conference. With 9 minutes left in the 4th quarter, the Packers were stopped at the goal line, throwing the ball all 4 downs, refusing to give the ball to Aaron Jones to punch it in. This whole series was emblematic of the Packers struggles with the running game on Thursday night which was a main factor in the loss. Aaron Jones mustered only 21 yards on 13 attempts. Compare that to the Eagles’ Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard who accumulated 159 yards between them.
The NFL may have transitioned to this high-flying, high octane, pass happy league but the need to establish a running game remains fundamental to football. The Eagles prospered in this game partly due to a strong performance from rookie half-back Miles Sanders and free agent acquisition Jordan Howard. A competent run game keeps the defence honest.
Packers head coach Matt LaFleur is from the same ilk of offensive geniuses such as Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan, two head coaches which utilise the running game any chance they get. Two head coaches whose teams are undefeated. San Francisco ranks fourth in the NFL in total team rushing yards. Aaron Rodgers led the Packers with 46 rush yards on TNF. Something that cannot happen again if the Packers hope to achieve anything this season.
A highlight on offence for the Packers was star wide-out Davante Adams enjoying a career night. Adams had 10 catches for 180 yards before his night ended on a sour note due to turf toe. Adams was absent for the Packers’ pivotal goal line faux pas. And again on the play that iced the game, with 25 seconds left, Rodgers threw a slant to Valdes-Scantling which was tipped and intercepted by Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham. One can’t help but think that this game may have had a different outcome if Adams wasn’t sidelined by injury.
There was a heavy indication of pass interference on the game deciding play, however, once again Green Bay elected to throw it on the goal line.
The Packers defence returned to earth after being labelled the most improved defence of 2019. Philadelphia played a mistake-free game on offence, they had no turnovers and ran the ball efficiently, effectively neutering the Packers pass rush. Blake Martinez had his worse game for the Packers being a liability in coverage and failing to stop Jordan Howard on a goal line touchdown conversion making it 34-27 Philadelphia early in the 4th quarter.
Hopefully this game will be nothing more than a bump in the road for the Green Bay Packers. A night where the Packers defence was exploited for the first time this season and Rodgers was not able to produce any red zone magic. The Packers got away from the run game and relied too much on Aaron Rodgers – a tired formula which can take you so far. This loss at Lambeau could be the difference between home field advantage in the playoffs or even in a competitive NFC North, a wildcard berth.