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What we learned from Eagles' victory over Packers

*"Thursday Night Football" delivered the goods in Week 4. In a back-and-forth affair between two great signal-callers and established NFC franchises, the Philadelphia Eagles (2-2) thwarted the Green Bay Packers (3-1) in the red zone twice in the fourth quarter to secure a 34-27 victory. Here's what we learned: *

  1. On a night when Green Bay outgained Philadelphia by 151 yards and ran 14 more plays than the Eagles, the Packers came up one touchdown short, one Green Bay had an easy opportunity to score twice in the final frame and one Matt LaFleur's squad failed to score on both occasions. The Packers finished the night 3-for-7 in the red zone, their last two failures the most glaring. After Philly went up 34-27 at the top of the fourth, Green Bay marched 79 yards to the Eagles' 1-yard line with an opportunity to tie. The Packers attempted passes on four consecutive plays, including two jump balls to Jimmy Graham. None were completed. When the Eagles punted the ball right back to Green Bay with just over five minutes to go, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers went on the march again, converting two third downs and reaching the 7-yard line with 66 seconds to go. Coming out of a prolonged stoppage after Eagles corner Avonte Maddox was carted off, the Packers finally ran Aaron Jones (once) before Rodgers attempted a slant to Marquez Valdes-Scantling in tight coverage. The ball popped up out of a sea of bodies and into the hands of Eagles LB Nigel Bradham, who ran the play out of the end zone and sent the Packers packing with their first loss of the season. Green Bay's offense moved the ball well all evening, the best it had all season, but without Davante Adams, who left in the fourth quarter with a toe injury, and with a tie game in their sights, LaFleur, the Packers and their undefeated season stalled.
  1. Alshon Jeffery's return to Philly's injury-depleted receiving corps paid dividends, especially early on and in the red zone; he was targeted by Carson Wentz nine times and recorded just three receptions, including Philly's first score. But the key to the Eagles' success against what was the league's second-best scoring defense was their running backs. Newcomers Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders were featured more on Thursday night than they had been all season, slicing through a swiss-cheese Packers front line to the tune of 159 combined rushing yards. While Sanders was the big-play threat on the ground (and in the return game), Howard punished the Packers on the goal line, scoring three touchdowns, including one through the air on a red-zone wheel route. Fox play-by-play analyst Joe Buck noted during the broadcast that Philadelphia leads the league with 31 consecutive games without a 100-yard rusher -- now it's 32. That's just fine for the Eagles, who saw two running backs go over 70 yards in the same game Thursday for the first time since Week 10, 2016. Howard and Sanders' showing Thursday portend a run-pass balance Philly has sorely needed since its Super Bowl run.
  1. With Ronald Darby sidelined and Sidney Jones (hamstring) out for most of Thursday's test, Philadelphia's secondary couldn't contain Davante Adams. The Packers receiver, whose usage had been under scrutiny after garnering just four targets last week, was Rodgers' go-to wideout on the night, especially in the first half when he nearly set a career-high in yardage (158 yards on eight catches). Adams eventually set his career-high in the second half, finishing with 180 yards. Maddox and Rasul Douglas took turns getting beat by the Packers wideout. That was until Adams injured his toe in the fourth quarter, forcing him to miss Green Bay's first blown goal-line possession and the Pack's ensuing comeback bid that again ended inside the 5-yard line. Green Bay appeared out of sync on those goal-line stands, and Adams' absence is partly to blame for that.
  1. The injuries came fast and furious on Thursday evening. The contest opened and closed with a player from each team getting carted off after sustaining a possible head or neck injury -- Packers RB Jamaal Williams, Eagles CB Avonte Maddox. (Both players are said to have movement in all their extremities.) Williams' loss hamstrung Green Bay's ability to run the ball, while Maddox's departure with the game on the line thrust special-teamer Craig James into the starting lineup; James was targeted on Rodgers' game-ending pick. Also lost to injury were the aforementioned Jones, Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga (spelled by Alex Light) and Packers defensive backs Kevin King, Tony Brown and Will Redmond. The long-term effect of Thursday night's triage could be a potential move by Eagles general manager Howie Roseman for another corner, possibly one from Duval County who has in recent weeks requested a trade...
  1. Is our problem with reviewing pass interference not the actual review but our definition of pass interference? That query was inspired by a third-quarter no-call on Maddox after the Eagles corner was not called for face-guarding and contacting Valdes-Scantling on a deep incompletion. LaFleur challenged the play by emphatically spiking his red flag to the turf, assured that upon review Green Bay would be granted a first down in Philadelphia territory. But the call stood upon review. LaFleur mused with a straight face after the game, "I don't really know what pass interference is anymore, I'll just leave it at that." Same, bro. It's worth wondering: If "clear and obvious" pass interference non-calls, as that one appeared, can't be corrected on replay review, then what's the point of reviewing them at all?
  1. Welcome back to earth, Green Bay defense. After entering Thursday night having allowed just 35 points and snagging a league-high eight takeaways in three games, Mike Pettine's unit gave up nearly as many points to Philadelphia and failed to force a single turnover. The Brothers Smith, who wreaked havoc against Joe Flacco last week, had no such success against Wentz; the Eagles quarterback was not sacked even once. Philly attacked Green Bay at its weakest point, not at the edges but right up the middle. The Eagles' inside ground game sustained drives and limited the role of Green Bay's excellent secondary and subsequent pass rush. A quarter into the season, that appears to be the best blueprint to beat the Pack.
  1. Welcome to the top of the NFC North, Detroit Lions. Thursday's loss drops Green Bay from the ranks of the undefeated and into the middle of the pack in a competitive division. The Packers have an opportunity to prove they belong back among the NFL's elite when they travel to Arlington next week to play the currently unbeaten Cowboys.

Philly, meanwhile, secured its first impressive win of the season. The Eagles' reward? Hosting the mono-ridden and winless Jets on a long week. It should be a get-right game for a roster that is winning wounded.

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