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By CHRIS HAVEL
Green Bay rides Rodgers’ arm, defense’s return to 27-13 win
Clay Matthews might be right.
Green Bay’s versatile Swiss Army knife-of-a-linebacker made a bold statement after the Packers’ 27-13 victory at Philadelphia in what was a must-win Monday Night Football matchup.
“This is where it starts,” he proclaimed.
Well, it’s definitely where it would’ve ended with a loss.
Instead, Aaron Rodgers’ virtuoso performance and Matthews’ unselfish but entirely necessary move inside lit the fuse. Now we’ll see if the Packers can be dynamite down the stretch.
The Packers, Reborn
The Packers, at 5-6, still have life.
If Green Bay’s rather convincing victory generates momentum the Packers have the quarterback, the offensive line and the weapons to put up points. Now it appears the Packers may have an NFL defense, too.
Green Bay trails both Detroit (7-4) and Minnesota (6-5) in the NFC North Division. However, the Packers play the Vikings and the Lions in the final two weeks. They have time to make up ground and atone for poor play.
“You have to believe in yourself and believe in your teammates,” Rodgers told reporters after the game, “And not let doubt or fear or failure cripple you.”
Rodgers was amazing, which is to say, he was his old self.
The Packers’ quarterback hit 30 of 39 passes for 313 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. His touchdown strikes went to Davante Adams to put Green Bay up early. His precision passes later in the game sealed it up with a clock-killing drive.
Rodgers’ 116.7 passer rating was more Rodgers-like. It came against an Eagles’ defense that is known for a devastating pass rush while being beaten and beat up in the secondary.
Rodgers wasn’t sacked and he was hit just twice on 39 attempts. He had high praise for his offensive linemen after the game.
It was a great example for all those idiots who wonder, “What’s wrong with Aaron?” What’s wrong is trying to play quarterback with no running game, inconsistent receivers and a flimsy offensive line.
A Team Effort
On Monday night, Rodgers had the necessary supporting cast. It was a team effort with David Bakhtiari, Bryan Bulaga, Lane Taylor, Jason Spriggs and Corey Linsley. The Packers’ o-line was without T.J. Lang and J.C. Tretter but played well anyway.
The Packers also got some mileage out of the running attack. It wasn’t much, but it was enough.
Rodgers targeted nine passes to running backs (James Starks, Aaron Ripkowski and Ty Mongtomery) for nine completions, 54 yards and chain-moving, time-killing efficiency.
Adams emerged as the Packers’ play-maker (five for 113 yards and the two touchdowns) while Jordy Nelson was his consistent self hauling in eight catches for 91 yards, including a nifty game-clinching grab to essentially kill out the clock.
McCarthy took the win with satisfaction.
“We’re getting ready to go into the toughest days of the season,” he said. “We need these wins. But the fact of the matter is this is one win. We’re 5-6, and we look at this as a launching pad we can definitely build off of.”
The Packers’ outlook is improved not just because of the victory, but because of how it came about.
Green Bay’s offense opened with an impressive touchdown drive. The Eagles answered with one of their own. Undaunted, the Packers and Rodgers responded to make it 14-7.
The Pack plays D
Then a funny thing happened on the way to the track meet: The Packers defense decided to play defense.
With Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez both out with injuries, Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers went with a blast from the recent past. He moved Matthews back inside to fortify the run defense and tighten up the communication.
It worked. Matthews had four tackles and a sack. Beyond that he was a presence in the heart of the defense.
Mike Daniels stepped up with three tackles and a sack, and Damarious Randall’s return in the secondary – coupled with good play from Quentin Rollins – shored up the sieve.
Offensively, Rodgers persevered despite a pulled left hamstring that isn’t expected to keep him sidelined.
“There’s a big difference between 4-7 and 5-6 for sure, but I hope there’s not a ton of relief setting in because we still have a lot of things in front of us we’d like to accomplish,” Rodgers said. “It’s a step in the right direction in a game we needed.”
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games. Also check out our new Podcast: Between the Lines for more Packers insights. New episodes every Wednesday.