Defense Fails To Pick Up Slack

With the Packers' offense decimated by injuries, the defense gave up too many big plays to Eagles. In fact, by one key measuring stick, it was Green Bay's worst defensive performance since a last-play loss to Pittsburgh in 2009.

Despite an offense that resembled a preseason lineup by game's end — with a practice-squad quarterback, undrafted receivers, and guards playing center and tackles playing guard — it was a mostly healthy and nearly full-strength Green Bay Packers defense that disappointed the most in a 27-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

Green Bay's defense, which ranked fifth against the run, 15th in total defense and 14th in points allowed entering the game, carried the extra burden of picking up the slack for an Aaron Rodgers-less offense. Instead, the unit struggled for its second home game in a row, giving up 228 passing yards and three long touchdowns to Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, along with 155 yards on 25 carries to running back LeSean McCoy

"We take full responsibility for this loss," defensive tackle B.J. Raji said. "Us losing at home like this … in my tenure here, I've never been a part of something like this where we just got our behinds whupped two weeks in a row at home. We're all men in here and everything has a consequence and we're going to accept it and move on."

In Monday night's loss to the Bears, Green Bay gave up 242 yards and two passing scores to backup Josh McCown and let Matt Forte run for 125 yards and a touchdown. This week featured the Eagles' fast-break, quick-strike offense that first-year coach Chip Kelly made famous at the University of Oregon. Philadelphia entered the game with a league-leading 53 plays of 20 or more yards — 13 ahead of the Denver Broncos, who were in second. While Eagles quarterback Nick Foles isn't the type of athletic, dual-threat passer and runner that Kelly had with the Ducks, he did tie an NFL record with seven touchdowns a week ago and clearly has fit the system at the pro level.

Three touchdowns were more than enough points against a Packers team that saw Scott Tolzien — elevated from the practice squad days earlier — come in for Seneca Wallace on the second series of the game, and center Evan Dietrich-Smith and right tackle Don Barclay leave with injuries.

"I think he really runs that offense well," linebacker A.J. Hawk said of Foles. "It's obviously pretty unique in the way they stop and look to the sideline and everything they do. But I think he runs it very well. He has a great handle of the defense and he threw the ball really well all day and didn't see him rattled too much by pressure. I give him a lot of credit."

Green Bay kept things close through the first half, holding McCoy to 41 yards — 20 of which he earned on one play — and giving up just one touchdown on a tipped pass in which Packers cornerback Tramon Williams and safety Morgan Burnett ran into each other while trying to make a play. Instead of intercepting the ball or breaking up the pass, DeSean Jackson caught the ball that bounced off Williams's arms and facemask and walked backward the final yard into the end zone.

"I saw the ball, I didn't see Morgan, but it was just two guys competing for the ball, and it came out and went to the guy," Williams said. "There's no explanation for that."

It would be that kind of day, as Philadelphia added to its gaudy totals with eight more plays of 20-plus yards. Despite two early sacks of Foles by rookie defensive end Datone Jones, he was rarely under pressure. Linebacker Clay Matthews returned to the lineup with a club cast on his right hand after missing four games with a broken thumb, but it lacked the cinematic quality of Thor returning from Asgard to save the day. Matthews finished with just two tackles.

Foles, of course, was only part of the problem. When he handed off to McCoy, the speedster looked every bit like one of the best backs in football as he consistently got the edge for big gains.

If McCoy was sapping the defense's strength with his 6.2 yards per carry, Foles was sucking its spirit with two long third-quarter hook-ups to receiver Riley Cooper that broke open the game. On first-and-10 from Green Bay's 45, Foles hit Cooper with a bomb that he caught at the 1 as defenders Davon House and M.D. Jennings continued into the end zone, seemingly losing sight of the ball. Cooper roled into the end zone for the touchdown.

While Cooper limped to the sideline after that play, he returned on the Eagles' next series and scored again — a 32-yarder at the end of the third quarter in which he fooled Burnett with a double move. Despite a 30:17 to 14:43 edge in time of possession, and 22 more offensive plays, Green Bay trailed Philadelphia 27-10 heading into the final 15 minutes.

The Packers made it interesting in the fourth quarter with a strip-sack of Foles by Williams, who hit him along with defensive tackle Mike Daniels. After officials ruled Foles down by contact, replays showed he had lost the football before he was down and Green Bay took over at the Philadelphia 13-yard line.

"I was hoping that it would be a turn of events," Williams said. "It gave us a chance. At the end of the day, that's all you can ask for. It gave us a chance to try to make a run. "

But Green Bay did not get the call overturned on a fourth-down touchdown pass from Tolzien to Jordy Nelson in which Nelson appeared to keep his hand between the ball and the ground. The Eagles took over on downs with 9:32 remaining and went against their up-tempo nature by grinding down the clock, ending the game with three kneeldowns by Foles.

The final stat line had Philadelphia averaging 7.2 yards per play to Green Bay's 5.3. But it's even higher at 7.6 yards per play if you back out the final kneeldowns. The last time they gave up more than 7.6 per play was Dec. 20, 2009, when they yielded 7.7 yards per play in a loss to the Steelers.

"Every time we were in a critical situation, we didn't make the plays we needed to make," Raji said, expressing equal parts disbelief and disgust.

"They just outexecuted us and played well and at times. It looked like they were playing harder than us, and that's something we never stand for. We haven't been playing up to our standards the last two weeks, particularly today, and the only people that's going to help us is ourselves and we have to move on and learn from this."

With no help for the offense on the horizon, the learning curve had better be quick.

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W. Keith Roerdink has covered the Packers since 1992. E-mail him at

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