If history means anything in game analysis, then this was a big victory for the Green Bay Packers. The win reminded me of the opening win over the Eagles in 2007 when CB Jarrett Bush made a big fumble recovery on special teams to set up the game winning field goal. The 2006 Packers would have never beaten a team like the Eagles, so it meant something was different that year, and obviously it was because the Packers returned to the NFC Championship game. Also, QB Aaron Rodgers's poor performance (by his standards) reminded me of his opening game in 2009 when he only threw for 184 yards against the Bears. He didn't have 2 INTs last season, but his play had the same lackluster feel.
I had been thinking about how the Eagles must be one of their toughest road opponents this season. But actually the Packers 2010 schedule is brutal on the road, and they have to play four road games against teams that made the playoffs last season (Eagles, Jets, Vikings, and Patriots) while only two 2009 playoff teams at home (Cowboys and Vikings). A win is always good, but the brutal road games will continue.
It was a strange game overall. I expected the offense would look great and they struggled. I thought the defense would shut down the run, but the Eagles ran for over 7 yards/carry (largely due to non-called scrambles by QB Michael Vick). The Eagles special teams, led by one of the best coaches in the NFL (Bobby April) should have shined, but they were out played by the Packers. And while the 2009 injured prone Packers only committed 2 penalties, it was the Eagles who committed 10 penalties.
If the Packers offense rebounds (a safe assumption), LB Clay Matthews continues to dominate his opponents, they keep the penalties to a minimum, and the special teams continue to excel, the Packers will remain on pace for an excellent season.
My selective play-by-play analysis is after the jump.
Play-by-play quotes from NFL.com:
(13:28) (Shotgun) 4-K.Kolb sacked at PHI 24 for -8 yards (52-C.Matthews).
Not only was it good to see Matthews get back into action, immediately, after his long preseason layoff, it also was a sign that QB Kevin Kolb was holding the ball a little too long.
(10:35) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass short left to 89-J.Jones to 50 for 7 yards (21-J.Hanson).
I digress on a nice third down reception by WR James Jones, but why do announcers start gushing about a player after one good play? Troy Aikman said Jones was good enough to be a No. 1 or No. 2 WR on many teams. Um, no. This could be a breakout season for Jones, but he's never played like a No. 1 or No. 2 WR so far in his career.
(8:33) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass deep middle intended for 88-J.Finley INTERCEPTED by 21-J.Hanson (27-Q.Mikell) at PHI 30. 21-J.Hanson to PHI 47 for 17 yards (88-J.Finley).
(3:41) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass incomplete deep middle to 88-J.Finley. PENALTY on PHI-55-S.Bradley, Defensive Pass Interference, 10 yards, enforced at GB 24 - No Play.
Well the Eagles came up with a good strategy to stop TE Jermichael Finley. When he lines up in the slot, just have the tight end in coverage run back and keep up (i.e. don't turn around to see the ball). That forced Rodgers to throw it over the linebacker, which gave SS Quintin Mikell enough time to run from one hashmark to the other and break up the pass. Unfortunately, the safety has to come over to help, because the linebacker isn't looking for the ball (which led to the pass interference call at 3:41) and it also creates another problem for the defense, which I'll get to later.
(15:00) 12-A.Rodgers sacked at PHI 36 for -7 yards (58-T.Cole).
Both LT Chad Clifton and RT Mark Tauscher looked bad during the 1st quarter, but this was the last sack of the game for the Eagles. Clifton and Tauscher are not elite players, but they're better than they played in the first quarter. They'll be fine as the season goes on.
(11:34) (Shotgun) 4-K.Kolb sacked at PHI 30 for -9 yards (90-B.Raji).
A small coming out party for NT B.J. Raji. He showed why they moved him to nose tackle. He was too much for the Eagles center to handle, and along with DE Cullen Jenkins and Matthews on stunts up the middle, the Eagles interior line was often schooled. However, their interior offensive line didn't play well during the preseason either.
(11:06) (Shotgun) 4-K.Kolb pass deep right intended for 10-D.Jackson INTERCEPTED by 21-C.Woodson (38-T.Williams) at GB 35. 21-C.Woodson to GB 45 for 10 yards (18-J.Maclin). Philadelphia challenged the loose ball recovery ruling, and the play was REVERSED. (Shotgun) 4-K.Kolb pass incomplete deep right to 10-D.Jackson (38-T.Williams).
That was a terrible decision by Kolb. Maybe he can improve with more experience, but all his pass attempts went towards receivers covered by CB Charles Woodson or CB Tramon Williams, with little success.
(8:53) 8-T.Masthay punts 48 yards to PHI 22, Center-61-B.Goode, fair catch by 10-D.Jackson.
A quiet victory for the special teams. P Tim Masthay had a couple great punts, and a couple bad ones, but he did a good job keeping WR DeSean Jackson near the sidelines, and the special teams were great in punt coverage.
(7:42) (Shotgun) 4-K.Kolb scrambles left end to PHI 19 for 1 yard (52-C.Matthews). FUMBLES (52-C.Matthews), ball out of bounds at PHI 19.
Kolb has got to get rid of the ball if he wants to survive in the NFL. Maybe QB Donovan McNabb, and certainly Vick, could have ran away from Matthews, but not Kolb.
(6:07) 25-R.Grant left end to PHI 37 for 18 yards (27-Q.Mikell). GB-25-R.Grant was injured during the play. His return is Probable.
Man! RB Ryan Grant injures his ankle right as he was getting warmed up.
(1:52) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass short right to 80-D.Driver for 6 yards, TOUCHDOWN. The Replay Assistant challenged the pass completion ruling, and the play was Upheld.
A great pass and a great catch. It seemed like a quiet day for WR Donald Driver, and this was his big play, but Rodgers targeted him 7 times, 2nd behind only WR Greg Jennings, and Driver caught 5 for 30 yards. He had the opportunities, but he didn't break any big runs.
(1:42) (Shotgun) 4-K.Kolb pass incomplete short right to 10-D.Jackson (52-C.Matthews).
And the Eagles trainers and coaches let Kolb come back on the field with a concussion. Somehow he managed to complete two attempts.
(:03) 2-M.Crosby 56 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-61-B.Goode, Holder-8-T.Masthay.
What a great kick, and the type he rarely made last season.
(14:53) 7-M.Vick scrambles left end ran ob at PHI 46 for 23 yards.
OK, the defense had a lot of problems with Vick, but as Williams said they didn't game plan for him either. And they couldn't make the adjustment at half because Kolb played the final series of the 1st half. I'm willing to give the defensive coaches a mulligan. It's a rare situation when you switch from a game plan involving a QB in Kolb who is rarely a threat to run to Vick. And I'd probably feel differently if Vick had completed the come back rally.
(11:34) 12-A.Rodgers pass incomplete short right to 80-D.Driver (22-A.Samuel).
The TD drive almost ended before it began. CB Asante Samuel is an aggressive player who will jump routes, which sometimes leads to big plays for the offense when he misses. That should have been an INT for him, but he couldn't hang on.
(10:08) 30-J.Kuhn up the middle to PHI 14 for 12 yards (42-K.Coleman).
(8:40) 30-J.Kuhn up the middle for 3 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
I've watched a lot of little handoffs to FB John Kuhn lead to nothing, so I was surprised they worked on this TD drive.
(4:29) 25-L.McCoy up the middle for 12 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
This one is going to get the defensive coaches fired up. Raji got blocked. LB Nick Barnett got blocked. Collins missed the tackle, and SS Morgan Burnett missed it to. At least four chances to stop him failed.
2-D.Akers kicks 72 yards from PHI 30 to GB -2. 87-J.Nelson to GB 49 for 51 yards (53-M.Fokou).
Nice return by WR Jordy Nelson, and surprisingly great special teams blocking. I'm stunned how much better the special teams played in this game vs. last season or even since the preseason.
(2:03) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass deep left to 85-G.Jennings for 32 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Remember back to the INT on the pass intended for Finley. On the replay, you can see the Eagles deep safety jump all over the route to Finley, which he did again in this play. And Rodgers told Jennings to change his route if the safety jumped towards Finley again. Which he did, and led to an easy TD after CB Ellis Hobbs did nothing to slow Jennings down, and failed to keep up with him deep. The safety eventually came back over into the play, but it was far too late.
(11:00) (Shotgun) 7-M.Vick sacked at GB 17 for -8 yards (58-F.Zombo).
(10:29) 7-M.Vick pass deep left to 18-J.Maclin for 17 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
A tale of two undrafted rookies. LB Frank Zombo was given a rare opportunity to replace LB Brad Jones, and he responded by running right past LT Jason Peters, and was able to wrap up Vick before he could escape. On the next play, CB Sam Shields was finally tested by the Eagles offensive coaches, and he responded with a circular coverage style that left WR Jeremy Maclin open by a couple steps in the end zone.
(9:25) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass deep middle intended for 80-D.Driver INTERCEPTED by 29-N.Allen at PHI 39. 29-N.Allen to 50 for 11 yards (80-D.Driver).
It's too bad because Driver appeared to be open. I can't remember Rodgers ever air mailing a pass that badly before. Maybe the wet ball was causing him some problems.
(5:56) (Shotgun) 7-M.Vick pass incomplete short middle to 10-D.Jackson (36-N.Collins).
The Packers defense is on its heels, and Vick fails to find any of the open receivers in time, and they settle for a FG. It had to have been a huge momentum changer.
(2:46) (Shotgun) 7-M.Vick sacked at PHI 46 for -3 yards (52-C.Matthews).
I thought Matthews was going knock another QB out of the game when he threw Vick to the turf.
(2:00) (Shotgun) 7-M.Vick up the middle to GB 42 for no gain (52-C.Matthews).
I'm in awe of Matthews on this 4th down stop. He shook off the block of TE Brent Celek, then RB LeSean McCoy, and then stuffed Vick for no gain.