The key to the Green Bay Packers getting their first signature win of the 2014 season over the Philadelphia Eagles is their offensive line slowing the Philly pass rush.
The Eagles do not have a good defense. They rank 21st in the NFL giving up 366 yards per game and 12th in points giving up 22 points per game. Their point total is down because of turnovers created, but that will be every tough to accomplish against Aaron Rodgers at home.
They are extremely vulnerable in the back end. Safety Malcolm Jenkins is their only really good player back there, and the Eagles have given up the second most plays of 20 yards or more in the NFL. On the flip side, the Packers’ offense is second in producing plays of 20 yards or more. Rodgers is often times holding the ball longer to get those deep plays down the field.
The one good thing about the Philadelphia defense is their pass rush. They rank second in the NFL in sacks and have a great pair of outside linebackers in Connor Barwin (10.5 sacks) and Trent Cole (4.5 sacks).Mychal Kendricks also has great athleticism to rush from the inside linebacker spot. Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari have struggled at times this season with some of the top pass rushers they have faced.
The Eagles getting pressure on Rodgers is the only chance they have of slowing down the Packers offense. What is working in Baktiari and Bulaga’s favor is that the Packers are playing at home. Bulaga in particular tends to struggle against speed rushers on fast playing surfaces. Lambeau Field is a slow surface, and the tackles get the added benefit of knowing and hearing the snap count. Rodgers does a masterful job of keeping the opposing pass rushers off balance at Lambeau Field with his cadence.
The other good news for the Packers in terms of stopping the Eagles pass rush is that Eddie Lacy is peaking at the right time in the running and passing game. Lacy is averaging 4.5 yards per rush and has 201 yards receiving over his last three games. As the weather gets colder teams Lacy will continue to batter through defenses who might not have a big interest in taking him on.
Lacy has been a revelation in the screen game of late and it’s shocking that it took the Packers this long to utilize it. You might not think of Lacy as a good screen back because of his lack of breakaway speed and shiftiness, but getting him on the edge against corners and safeties is ideal because those players have a very hard time tackling him in the open field. He also has great vision in the open field to read the blocks.
The Green Bay offensive line is more of an athletic line than a powerful line, so using more screens makes sense. Also, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are two of the best blocking wide receivers in the NFL and give incredible effort. They will need to continue to utilize the screen pass to keep Barwin and Cole from relentlessly attacking the quarterback every down. According to Pro Football Focus, Lacy has 13 missed tackles on 24 receptions with no drops on the season.
Games like this will go a long way in determining if Bakhtiari really is the left tackle of the future and if Bulaga is worth big money to re-sign. How the defense will hold up against Chip Kelly’s offense is a major question, but if the Packers keep Barwin and Cole contained they should be on their way to a 7-3 record and their biggest win in the last three seasons.