Entering Week 12, the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles found themselves in strikingly similar situations. Both teams got off to solid starts before tapering off, with the Packers losing four straight games and the Eagles dropping five of their last seven.
In the NFC playoff picture, it was about as close to a must-win game without technically being a must-win game as you can get, with both teams clinging to postseason hopes.
The high-stakes matchup looked like it could quickly turn into a shootout after the game’s first quarter, but it was Green Bay who was able to pull away and improve to 5-6 with a 27-13 victory in Philadelphia.
Aaron Rodgers continued his recent string of impressive performances, throwing for 313 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Davante Adams. He added 28 yards on the ground as he guided the team to its first victory since Week 7 against the Bears.
In what was a nice change of pace from recent weeks, Green Bay finally got off to a hot start. Rodgers completed five of his first six passes for 47 yards and a touchdown on the Packers’ 75-yard opening drive.
The Eagles quickly shredded a still-beleaguered Green Bay defense, matching the Packers with an 81-yard scoring drive of their own. Carson Wentz completed all six of his passes and capped off the possession with a 1-yard rushing touchdown. It would prove to be Philadelphia’s only touchdown of the game as the Packers’ defense was able to buckle down the rest of the night.
But while Wentz and the Eagles were able to be slowed, the Packers’ offense put together lengthy drive after lengthy drive and came away with points on five of its six drives, not including a kneel-down to the end the first half.
The Packers went 75 yards yet again on their second drive, and Rodgers connected with Adams on a perfect throw from 20 yards out to put Green Bay up 14-7 and stake the visitors to a lead they would not relinquish.
Philadelphia tacked on a field goal in the final minute of the first half and looked to be driving to take the lead to open the third quarter. Wentz drove the Eagles into Green Bay territory before a Ha Ha Clinton-Dix interception put an abrupt end to the possession. The Packers and Eagles would trade field goals on the following two possessions before the Green Bay offense really took control of the game.
Clinging to just a four-point lead entering the fourth quarter, the Packers needed the offense to stay on track to put the game away. Rodgers and the team did just that. Green Bay utilized a methodical offense en route to running an astounding 30 plays on its final two drives, holding the ball for 14:49 and, most importantly, scoring 10 points to put the game out of reach.
The Packers final touchdown came courtesy of Aaron Ripkowski, the fullback’s first career rushing score and the first rushing touchdown by someone not named Aaron Rodgers of 2016.
The defense looked shaky at times, leaving many receivers open and missing a few crucial tackles, but overall the Packers looked solid in all three phases of the game. Dom Capers’ used creative blitzes and heavy pressure to keep the Eagles’ rookie signal-caller out of rhythm. Green Bay got sacks from Clay Matthews, Mike Daniels, Julius Peppers, and Nick Perry and forced a number of errant or hurried throws.
But while the defense was serviceable, it was the offense that shined brightest on Monday night. Rodgers had his third straight 300-yard passing game and the team played a turnover-free contest. Eight different receivers caught passes, with Adams (113 yards, including an impressive 50-yard over the shoulder catch, 2 touchdowns) and Jordy Nelson (8 catches for 91 yards) leading the way.
The Packers picked apart Philadelphia all night. Green Bay held an 11 minute advantage in time of possession, including holding the ball for almost an entire quarter’s worth of time late in the game. While the banged-up offensive line couldn’t help spring the running game, they did keep Rodgers from being sacked. Most impressively, the Packers were 10/14 on third down conversions and added a successful attempt on fourth down as well.
Green Bay still has a long way to go if they want to sneak into the postseason, but coming away with a convincing win on the road is a big step in the right direction.
The Packers now sit two games back of Detroit with five weeks left in the season. Next week Green Bay returns to Lambeau Field for the first time since November 6 to take on the Houston Texans.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .