Eagles Defense Fails Big Test

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers has a way of making opponents look foolish, particularly in his own backyard. In five games at Lambeau Field this season, he has completed 67 percent of his passes, thrown for over 1,400 yards and tossed 18 touchdowns and no interceptions for a sterling quarterback rating of 138.1. The Packers have made a habit out of throttling teams at home, outscoring their last four opponents 128-9 in the first half.

The Eagles, you could say, were just another victim.

But that’s not a particularly satisfactory answer for a team with high aspirations. Each of the other four teams that left Green Bay humbled currently have losing records. The Eagles are considered a cut above. Their defense was playing well of late and was coming off a dominant performance against the Panthers.

Billy Davis wanted to test his group against the best, and it failed across the board.

A lot of it is tied to the curious case of the disappearing pass rush. The Eagles entered Week 11 with the second most sacks in the league (32). Led by Connor Barwin’s 3 ½-sack outburst, the Eagles tormented Cam Newton a week ago today today, registering nine takedowns and 10 quarterback hits. Against Rodgers, they generated one sack and no quarterback hits.


“There’s some credit for him. He’s got a great hard count, he slowed us up at the line,” said Barwin of Rodgers. “I thought he got the ball off in certain situations pretty well, but there were other times when he held the ball and we have to be more disciplined, stay on our feet and have better rushes. That’s it. You have to get there.”

Added Davis: “The ball was out quick pretty early. He likes to get the ball out quick where the pass rush doesn’t get into effect and he got his rhythm throws going. We were trying to take that away and we didn’t. He threw it into some tight windows and made big plays on a couple vertical balls early that hurt us. Got in a hole.”

With the rush not getting home, the corners were in trouble. Davis deployed a lot of single-high safety, meaning Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams frequently had one-on-one matchups with the Packers’ talented receivers on the outside. With Rodgers unleashing precise downfield throws from a clean pocket, the overmatched cornerbacks had little chance of success.

“I knew coming into the game we were going to be in some single-highs, just have to make those plays when they come on the balls to the outside,” said Fletcher.

Davis chose to keep his base defense on the field against three-receiver sets early in the downs a good bit, a move that has worked against some opponents this year. But this quarterback was able to take advantage of the look.

“They stayed base versus our three wide-receiver set, they tried different things with that,” said Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. “We put the ball in Aaron’s hand and obviously he had a big day.”

The Packers offense had a monster outing in every way imagineable. They put up 475 total yards; went 8-of-14 on third down; scored on 60 percent of their drives. In all facets, they imposed their will.

“The plan is always to pressure the quarterback, the plan is always to smother the receivers and make sure he doesn’t have the windows, and we didn’t accomplish that today,” said Davis. “Give the credit: Aaron Rodgers is on fire right now and we gave it our best shot, and it wasn’t close to good enough today.”