Thursday night games are the worst when it comes to injuries and rotating personnel, and the Green Bay Packers had to deal with a few significant problems on the injury front in this week’s 34-27 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Most significant is the foot injury to wide receiver Davante Adams, who sat out almost the entire fourth quarter and had to miss a pair of goal-to-go series with the game on the line. Adams provided the bulk of the Packers’ offense through three quarters, out-gaining the entire Eagles offense in the first half and the Philly passing game over the course of the entire 60 minutes. Without him, the complexion of the Packers’ red zone offense changed, as young receivers had to step up and find ways to get open with space compressed in the end zone.
Meanwhile, Bryan Bulaga’s injury forced Alex Light into extended action and the Packers’ defense — the line in particular — struggled to keep the Eagles’ running game in check with a limited rotation.
Here’s a look at how playing time broke down on Thursday night.
OFFENSE (81 snaps)
Aaron Rodgers 81
After a magnificent start, Rodgers’ numbers tailed off a bit when the Packers were forced into a bit of a catch-up mode in the second half. Through 30 minutes, he was 16-for-22 with 241 yards and a touchdown, for a passer rating of 123.5. The second half saw him go just 18-for-31 with 181 yards, a touchdown, and a tipped interception. Rodgers added five carries for 46 rushing yards as well, more than doubling the next-highest rushing total for a Packers player.
Aaron Jones 68, Danny Vitale 20, Jamaal Williams 1
Philadelphia’s Derek Barnett knocked Williams out of the game with a dirty, late hit on the Packers’ first offensive play, a reception for no gain by the Packers running back. With Dexter Williams inactive, that left Jones and Vitale as the only remaining backfield options.
Jones had to play a bigger role in the passing game as a result, catching six of seven targets for 37 yards. Against Philadelphia’s excellent rushing defense, Jones had a tough go with just 21 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
Vitale had one carry for three yards and two receptions for 15.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling 70, Geronimo Allison 64, Davante Adams 57, Darrius Shepherd 15, Allen Lazard 14
Packers fans everywhere expected the Packers to feed Davante Adams in this game, and they absolutely did so. He saw 15 targets after getting just 21 in the first three games combined, and caught ten of them for 180 yards. However, odds are good he would have had a few more targets and perhaps a touchdown if he had not injured his right foot early in the fourth quarter on a reception that gave the Packers a first-and-goal from the 8-yard line.
With Adams unavailable for the rest of the game, the Packers’ red zone offense stalled out. That drive ended with four straight incompletions from the one-yard line and a turnover on downs. Then with a chance to tie the game, Rodgers threw to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, whose arms were wrapped up before the ball could arrive. The ball bounced off his chest and into Nigel Bradham’s hands for the game-sealing interception.
Without Adams and because Jake Kumerow was inactive with a shoulder injury, the Packers turned to Lazard and Shepherd in those situations. Lazard did draw a pass interference penalty before the ugly sequence from the one, but neither player officially received a target in the game.
MVS had a few nice plays, but overall caught just three of seven passes for 47 yards. Allison had a magnificent two-play sequence at the end of the first half, hauling in a leaping grab for 31 yards to convert a third down and bringing in a 19-yard touchdown with just seconds left in the half. He ended the day with three catches on four targets for 52 yards and the score, plus a seven-yard run on a jet sweep.
Jimmy Graham 57, Robert Tonyan 19, Marcedes Lewis 18
Graham had a true Jekyll-and-Hyde game on Thursday night, as he finally made a handful of nice plays in the passing game. Coming into the game, he had just three receptions for 30 yards and one touchdown after being shut out of the last two contests. However, Graham caught six of nine balls thrown his way for 61 yards and a score, and he had a couple of nice pickups over the middle to move the chains.
However, those three targets that went incomplete will hurt for a long time. Two of them were catchable balls on the series from the one-yard line, exactly the type of jump balls that Graham was brought in to catch.
Meanwhile, Tonyan had one tough catch for 11 yards to set up the Packers with goal-to-go before the game-clinching interception, while Lewis had a great hurdle for a first down and finished with two catches for 19 yards.
David Bakhtiari 81, Elgton Jenkins 81, Corey Linsley 81, Billy Turner 81, Alex Light 51, Bryan Bulaga 30, Lucas Patrick 2
One of the big stories coming out of this game was Bryan Bulaga’s injury, which struck just before halftime and cost him the entire second half. Light came in and largely pass-protected well, or at least well enough to allow Rodgers to make plays.
All told, the Packers kept Rodgers relatively upright, as he was sacked only once — a strip-sack by Derek Barnett, the player who took out Jamaal Williams early in the game. In total, the Eagles only registered two quarterback hits in the game, both by Barnett.
The run-blocking was a very different story. The Eagles’ rushing defense is exceptional, sitting at third in the NFL by DVOA coming into the game. Whether due to game-planning (likely) or the Packers’ most physical runner going out after one play, the team just did not prioritize the run, which ended up being a good call overall. However, trying to get some push on the goal line would have been a welcome sight.
DEFENSE (62 snaps)
Kenny Clark 60, Dean Lowry 54, Tyler Lancaster 30, Kingsley Keke 7, Fadol Brown 2
With the Eagles running the ball effectively all night, Clark and Lowry were almost constant presences on the field. Clark, in fact, took only two snaps off, and was almost certainly worn down after the short week. It is surprising at first to not see Keke’s snaps higher to take a load off the two veterans, but with him being more of a pass-rushing lineman at this point, that probably was not a great option.
Preston Smith 52, Za’Darius Smith 47, Rashan Gary 18, Kyler Fackrell 13
The short week probably contributed to the Packers keeping the Smiths’ snap counts in check a bit more on Thursday night, however. There were a handful of instances where Gary and Fackrell were on the field as the two edge rushers on likely running downs, and neither Smith hit 85% of the team’s snaps after both being on the field almost constantly in the first three weeks.
However, this group barely ever sniffed Wentz, recording just one hit from Preston Smith and a highly disappointing three total tackles (two for Preston and one for Gary).
Blake Martinez 62, B.J. Goodson 7
This is where the Packers’ run defense seemingly struggles the most. With the Eagles having a pair of very talented tight ends in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, Mike Pettine elected to keep a safety on the field instead of a second inside linebacker. That helped contribute to the Packers getting gashed for 176 yards total and 5.3 yards per carry. Martinez did his part with 15 total tackles, but the run defense has clearly become a problem, even for those who believe that it is a secondary concern to defending the pass.
Adrian Amos 62, Darnell Savage 62, Will Redmond 26, Josh Jackson 10
As usual, the Packers used a combination of Amos and Redmond (and a little dose of Tramon Williams) at that nickel safety spot, at least until Redmond left the game with an injury. At that point Jackson entered in that spot.
Redmond had eight total tackles, while Amos had seven and Savage three. However, none recorded another stat on the day.
Jaire Alexander 62, Kevin King 55, Tramon Williams 48, Chandon Sullivan 5
King had a nice bounce-back game after an ugly performance against the Broncos. His two tackles and two pass breakups were encouraging, and he played physically on Alshon Jeffery all game. Alexander kept Nelson Agholor off the scoreboard, as the Eagles primarily ran their passing game through the tight ends — Ertz in particular.
SPECIAL TEAMS LEADERS
B.J. Goodson 21, Josh Jackson 19, Danny Vitale 17, Ty Summers 17, Robert Tonyan 16, Tremon Smith 16, Chandon Sullivan 15, Allen Lazard 13