On a beautiful night in Wisconsin, if only for a moment in time, the Green Bay Packers looked like Super Bowl contenders again.
Aaron Rodgers was doing things only Aaron Rodgers can do, DaVante Adams was having a career night and the defense was stifling a Carson Wentz-led Philadelphia Eagles offense. Thursday Night Football looked to be a statement game rather than a competitive one.
Then the second quarter came and all hell broke loose.
With the Packers leading 10-0, special teams gave up a 66-yard kickoff return to Eagles running back/return man Miles Sanders, putting the team in position to score their first touchdown of the game.
Not long after that drive, another special teams blunder with Mason Crosby kicking the ball out of bounds and drawing a crucial penalty put the Eagles into favorable field position to score another seven points.
Then came the Rodgers strip sack with less than two minutes left in the half that put the Eagles in the red zone, where they would go on to score their third touchdown in the quarter.
After dominating early in the game, the Packers looked up at the scoreboard to see they were suddenly behind 21-20.
Rodgers and the offense were stalling and settling for field goals on too many drives, and for the first time in the season, the Packers defense was getting bludgeoned by an elite offensive team.
By the end of the game, with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter, the ball was in Rodgers’ hands at the three-yard line with an opportunity to tie the 34-27 score. What more could you possibly ask for if you’re the Packers?
Yet, on second down, Rodgers dropped back to pass in a play eerily reminiscent of the play-call that cost the Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLIX with the same ending result—an interception at the goal line to close out the game.
Is that you, Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson?
This could be the game the Packers look back on as the one that got away. Instead of being 4-0 on the season, they have fallen to 3-1 with a tough road game against the Dallas Cowboys slated for next Sunday. More importantly, however, they left the field with some key personnel losses after a physical football game.
Adams, Rodgers’ favorite receiving target, left the game late with what he claims to be a turf toe injury. It’s a serious ailment that could cause him to miss games, depending on the grade of the injury. Running back Jamaal Williams was also carried out on a stretcher earlier in the game with a head and neck injury after absorbing an ugly late hit by Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett.
Cornerback Kevin King left the game with a groin injury, along with corner Tony Brown (hamstring), safety Will Redmond (concussion) and right tackle Bryan Bulaga (shoulder).
The Packers have essentially gone from potentially being unbeaten to a banged-up team preparing for a showdown with arguably the best team in the NFC on the road over a week from now. Perhaps they can glean some hope from the latter part of that statement.
While many detest the Thursday Night Football setup, it will give the team a longer period of rest, which the Packers hope speeds up the recovery process for their injured players.
They initially looked to be running away with the NFC North division after already taking back-to-back wins over the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings.
However, things have quickly changed after losing to the Eagles and being hit with the injury bug, while facing a tough road ahead. That “bad man” Rodgers might have to be badder than he’s ever been to keep the ship from sinking.
Hold onto your cheese hats, Packers fans, this ride could be bumpier than expected.