The Green Bay Packers walked out of Philadelphia with a 40-33 loss to the Eagles in a game that would have boosted their odds to make the playoffs significantly to 16% (more on that later). Aaron Rodgers left the game in the third quarter with a rib injury, receiving x-rays at the stadium and being held out of the rest of the game.
He finished the game with 140 passing yards, two touchdown passes, and two interceptions that were completely avoidable. Jordan Love took over in the fourth quarter and threw one touchdown and tried to lead the team to at least a tie in regulation but it was not enough.
Rodgers recently stated that he would push through the injury as long as they still mathematically had a chance to make the postseason. That’s significant, not only for the team as they have a chance to assess what they have with Love, but also for the veteran quarterback’s short and long term health considerations. It may not be wise for Rodgers to continue the season.
There is a playoff scenario with the Packers still mathematically having a chance to get in, but just how hopeful should Packers fans be about a possible playoff scenario involving the Packers though is another matter. This offense simply made too many mistakes that would suggest they could make a playoff push and another loss anywhere on the schedule all but ensures they will be eliminated.
In the end, the Packers missed opportunities to score points on two drives that ended with interceptions and two that were ended with sacks on third down.
Rodgers’ first interception came on Green Bay’s first drive of the game after already being down 7-0. The interception put them in a 13-0 hole early in the first, a lead which they came back on by the end of the first. Still, these are the kinds of opportunities they cannot squander so early.
First interception, 1st quarter, 3rd and 4 @ GB 15, 10:32 remaining
The first interception occurred after Rodgers was flushed from the pocket and tried to force a throw downfield to Allen Lazard that deflected off the defender’s helmet into the air into the arms of an Eagles defender.
The pass protection is jet pass protection with a half slide to the most dangerous two outside defenders, which should be to the left, especially with three defenders aligned on the line of scrimmage to that side. If executed correctly, the center, left guard, and left tackle should all slide right and pick up the defenders to their left.
But center Josh Myers slides to the right while Jenkins and Bakhtiari slide to the left to the two widest. This gives defensive tackle Javon Hargrave a free run up the middle as soon as Rodgers catches the snap, which flushes him to the right.
The play call for the Packers is a double dig concept coming from the right versus the Eagles cover-1 man coverage. Rodgers might have had a tight window throw to Watson on the inside dig route but had to escape. The receivers went into a scramble drill and Lazard broke back outside to the sideline but Rodgers did not get enough on the pass to get it there where it was deflected and intercepted.
Second interception, 2nd quarter, 1st and 10 @ PHI 28, 11:20 remaining
On Rodgers’ second interception, he mis-read the safety when he tried to fit a pass in over the deep middle to tight end Tyler Davis.
The play call is “double go Y reader” or “989,” which is go routes on the outside and middle read route by Davis, who has the option of bending flat across the middle versus middle of the field closed (MOFC, cover 1 or cover 3) or splitting the safeties versus middle of the field open (MOFO, cover-2, quarters, etc).
The defense is playing “quads.” Quads is a rush four, 4-deep, 3-under split-safety match quarters zone structure with man-to-man principles. This allows them to handle any formation presented and match any typical zone-beating concept. Defenders are keying inside releases and matching accordingly with proper depth & leverage.
Quarters coverages like this are vulnerable to leaving the space in the middle of the field open to dig routes and deep crossers because any well-timed in-cut is able to take advantage of safeties trying to stay on top of their man deep. Eagles have taught their safeties to “vision” techniques where they are allowed to read the quarterback drop, the route distribution, and attack the catch point aggressively like Reed Blankenship does here.
The safety rotation is not meant to confuse Rodgers but it appears it likely confused Davis who broke his route off too flat instead of splitting the safeties. Where Rodgers is at fault is he uncharacteristically did not read the safety’s drop correctly. Blankenship starts driving on the pass before Rodgers even throws. Instead the throw was late and he led Davis too much.
The loss to the Eagles dropped the Packers to 3% odds to make the postseason. If somehow they were to win out the rest of their games, they’d have a 45% chance to make it and would need some tie-breakers to go their way.
This could potentially be significant for a team that has to make a decision soon on Jordan Love and what they plan to do at the quarterback position. Aaron Rodgers left the game on Sunday night with an injury to his ribs and Jordan Love filled in, bringing the team within a touchdown of tying it but the hole they faced was simply too big to overcome.
In part two, we’ll look at the sacks that Rodgers took that ended other drives in this game and prevented them from mounting a serious comeback until late.