By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
Green Bay’s defense nets seven sacks as QB throws for 3 TDs to reach milestone
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The game began with Green Bay’s defense forcing Philadelphia to settle for a field goal. It ended with Aaron Jones refusing to settle for anything short of a touchdown on his 77-yard dash.
In between, it was all Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers’ quarterback led Green Bay to a 30-16 victory over the Eagles on Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field. In the process, he threw three touchdown passes to eclipse 400 for his illustrious career.
Rodgers is the seventh player in NFL history to reach that milestone, and he did it in just 193 games, faster than Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Dan Marino and Philip Rivers.
Rodgers, who has 36 touchdowns to just four interceptions this season, also became the first player to throw for at least 35 touchdown passes in five different seasons.
“Those are fun milestones for sure,” he said afterward. “I’m not sure how long I’m going to be able to hold on to the second one. There are some really good young quarterbacks who I’m guessing are amassing some numbers in that vicinity.”
Rodgers completed 25 of 34 for 295 yards for a 128.9 passer rating. He was sacked twice, but mostly had all day to throw.
The Packers started Lucas Patrick at left guard and had erstwhile left tackle Billy Turner slide inside and replace him at right guard. Rick Wagner lined up at right tackle, with David Bakhtiari (left tackle) and Elgton Jenkins (center) staying put.
Patrick struggled early, but after he settled down the line functioned well enough to slow down the Eagles’ above-average pass rush.
Rodgers completed passes to eight different targets. It would have been nine different receivers, except Marquez Valdes-Scantling dropped what would have been a huge gainer.
Davante Adams, who seldom drops anything, hauled in 10 of 12 targets for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Adams tied NFL Hall of Famer Don Hutson by catching a touchdown pass in seven straight games. Hutson did it twice. Adams goes for a record eighth straight this week at Detroit.
“To be breaking or tying records that have been around for 60-70 years, it’s special, man,” Adams said. “I’m just trying to play ball. I’m just trying to do whatever it takes to win these games.”
The Packers’ offense converted 5 of 12 third downs and racked up 437 yards in total offense.
Rodgers tossed a pair of second-quarter touchdowns – a 1-yard pass to Adams on fourth-and-goal, and a 25-yarder to Robert Tonyan. His 400th touchdown came on a 9-yard completion to Adams in the third quarter.
The Eagles (3-8-1) sliced a 23-3 deficit to seven points when Jalen Hurts, who came in after Carson Wentz was benched, completed a 32-yard touchdown pass to Greg Ward on fourth-and-18. The Packers’ defensive backs were twisted into a pretzel on the play.
The Eagles followed that up with Jalen Reagor’s 73-yard punt return for a touchdown to make it 23-16 with 6:30 to play.
The Packers’ punt coverage unit has allowed two touchdown returns this season and needs to figure it out.
Green Bay (9-3) did get a strong effort from its defense.
Coordinator Mike Pettine’s unit registered seven sacks with Kingsley Keke racking up a pair. Rashan Gary also had a strong game and posted 1 ½ sacks, while Za’Darius and Preston Smith looked more like their old offense-busting selves.
Wentz finished 6 of 15 for 79 yards and a 57.4 passer rating before giving way to Hurts. While Hurts moved the chains with his legs, he completed just 5 of 12 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown.
Darnell Savage, Jr. picked off Hurts late for his third interception in two games. Raven Greene had a half-sack and two passes defended before being forced to leave with a shoulder injury. Also, return specialist Tyler Ervin exited with an ankle injury.
It is possible newly-acquired Tavon Austin will be in uniform this week.
Speaking of speed, Jones flashed his on the 77-yard touchdown gallop.
“We ran a similar play the play before, and I felt like I was close to breaking it, somebody just got a hand on me,” he said. “A-Rod called a similar play in the huddle, and I knew if I see a little crease, I’d be able to break it.”
Jones broke the run and the Eagles’ backs in the process.
Jones’ determination was a thing of beauty.
“If it’s up to me, I’m taking every one to the house,” he said. “That’s my goal on every run. I know if I’m able to get a crease or break an arm tackle or something like that, it can turn into a big run.”
It appears the Packers are on their way to another big run: A playoff run, perhaps all the way to the Super Bowl.
If the defense continues to progress and the line continues to open creases for Jones and close out would-be pass rushers, it could an unprecedented run during an unorthodox season.