Going into last Sunday’s showdown between NFC division-leading teams, optimism about the Eagles was soaring like Icarus did right before his wings melted. This game against Green Bay would define how great the Eagles really were. Talk of Philadelphia as a legitimate Super Bowl contender abounded, and one moron thought the tiff might be a preview of the NFC Championship Game.
That would all be hilarious now if the Eagles’ severe beating hadn’t been so painful. The Packers scored early, often, and without mercy while smothering Philadelphia’s faltering attack. With two minutes left in the first quarter, it was 17-0 Green Bay. At the two-minute warning for the first half, it was 30-3. With three minutes left in the third, 39-6. And then it got ugly.
Actually the Birds shaved the final score a bit to 53-20, but mostly because the Packers were exhausted from scoring and bored with kicking the Eagles’ butts. There were no silver linings here. Everyone played poorly, including the recently recovered front line (with four of last year’s five starters back in the lineup).
The recently dominant pass rush disappeared, Mark Sanchez was in a New York (Jets) state of mind, and even the vaunted special teams unit gave up a punt return touchdown (though they blocked two kicks and disrupted a third). Josh Huff playing gunner ran up in front of returner Micah Hyde and shimmied without actually tackling him. He later said he had been coached to do that, a misconception that Chip was quick to correct. (He had been told not to overrun the runner, as gunners often do.)
Huff later clarified his comments and seemed back on track with the good attitude he more commonly shows.
“I just haven’t been myself to be quite frank. I haven’t been myself at all. I’ve been trying to force everything, force my routes. I’ve been thinking too much about messing up, I haven’t just let it loose. The way I can fix that is just play balls out, play balls to the wall and just compete for myself and compete for my teammates and compete for the city of Philadelphia.
“I know what I can do and I’m just so impatient to show that and it’s caused me to drop balls, it’s caused me to not protect the ball that I know how to protect and just trying to do too much instead of letting the game come to me. I don’t know what else to say about how piss-poorly I’ve played so far this season.”
What he really needs to do, though, is add good playing to his good attitude. Huff had another terrible drop, one that popped up in the air off his hands and could easily have been intercepted.
Another ex-Duck, Brandon Bair, continued his strong season with a blocked extra point. This held the score to 39-6 late in the third quarter, which wasn’t quite enough to swing momentum Philly’s way.
As you might suspect, doom and gloom has replaced Super Bowl talk among Eagles fans, but the team seems surprisingly resilient. Chip Kelly follows the rule of allowing yourself 24 hours after a game to gloat or beat yourself up; afterwards you have to forget it and move forward. (Don’t worry, the coaches will have noted the various mistakes and will practice on fixing them all week.)
Green Bay is a very good team that is great at home, and has — at the moment — the quarterback who’s playing at the highest level in the NFL.
It’s hard to wrap your head around how well Aaron Rodgers is playing right now. He was 22 for 36 against Philly for 341 yards with two TDs and no interceptions for a QB rating of 120.3. Here’s what blew me away: that performance actually brought down his QB rating for home games over the last two years. The Packers score nearly twice as many points at home (41.5) as on the road (22.2).
My point is, losing to Green Bay at Lambeau Field is not a reason to despair. Losing this Sunday to the woeful Tennesee Titans? That would be an excellent reason to despair.
Feature photo: Micah Hyde runs a punt back 75 yards to break the game open. From video (courtesy of NFL Rewind)
Mark Saltveit’s newest book is “Controlled Chaos: Chip Kelly’s Football Revolution” (Diversion Books, NY) has been recently released. He is the author of “The Tao of Chip Kelly” (2013) and writes on science, religion, wordplay and political scandals. He is also a standup comedian and the world palindrome champion.
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