A journey of a million miles starts with the first step.
On Wednesday, quarterback Aaron Rodgers said the Green Bay Packers could “run the table” – a million-mile sweep of their final six regular-season games to seize a playoff berth.
The Packers took the first step on Monday night, upsetting the Eagles 27-13 in Philadelphia.
“Winning is hard,” McCarthy said. “Winning’s very difficult in this league and we haven’t had the feeling in five weeks. We missed it. It felt good. But it’s a product of December football. We’re getting ready to go into the toughest days of the season and you need these wins. I think any time you have adversity in life, there’s a learning experience. I think we’ll be a much better football team because of what we went through. But the fact of the matter is this is one win. We’re 5-6. We need to stay the course. We look at this as a launching pad. Definitely a game we can build off of.”
The Packers (5-6) snapped a four-game losing streak and pulled within two games of the Detroit Lions (7-4), who beat the Minnesota Vikings (6-5) on Thanksgiving.
Rodgers and his receivers were sensational, a porous defense thrived with the return of cornerback Damarious Randall and the move of Clay Matthews to inside linebacker to help cover for injured starters Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan, and the Packers’ beleaguered special teams outplayed the Eagles’ powerhouse kicking units.
The key drive came bridging the third and fourth quarters and Green Bay nursing a 17-13 lead. First, on third-and-3, Rodgers threw incomplete but star defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was flagged for roughing the passer. Next, on another third-and-3, Jordy Nelson made a juggling catch, securing the ball while falling to the turf for another first down. On third-and-5, Rodgers, battling an injured left hamstring, moved to his left and checked it down to running back James Starks for a gain of 8. Then, on third-and-10, receiver Davante Adams turned cornerback Nolan Carroll inside-out on a slant, which Adams turned into a catch-and-run gain of 23 to the 3. Moments later, fullback Aaron Ripkowski pounded it in from the 1, the Packers’ first touchdown of the season that wasn’t delivered on the arm or legs of Rodgers. That made it 24-13 barely a minute into the fourth quarter.
The Eagles (5-6) badly needed an answer and moved the ball into the Packers’ territory. But Matthews sacked Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and Randall broke up an errant third-down pass to force a punt.
The Packers put away the game on the next possession with a clock-killing, eight-plus-minute drive that featured two big plays to Nelson. The first was a 22-yarder on third-and-5 in which the offensive line gave Rodgers a month of Mondays to find an open receiver. The second was a 21-yard, back-shoulder connection on fourth-and-5. Mason Crosby’s 32-yard field goal made it 27-13 with 1:57 to play.
Rodgers finished 30-of-39 for 313 yards. The Packers won time time of possession by 10 minutes thanks to a 10-of-14 conversion rate on third down, didn't turn over the ball and outsacked the Eagles 4-0.
In losses at Tennessee and Washington the past two weeks, Green Bay was outscored by a total of 28-0 after the first quarter and 48-26 in the first half. The Packers, however, came out firing on offense en route to a 14-10 halftime lead. Rodgers peppered the Eagles with a series of quick-hitting passes to motor the Packers to a pair of 75-yard touchdown drives to start the game.
Rodgers punctuated both of those drives with touchdown passes to Davante Adams. The first was a 12-yard slant against the Eagles’ top corner, Leodis McKelvin. The second was an incredible 20-yard touchdown pass in which Adams was covered like a blanket by Nolan Carroll. Carroll, however, never saw the ball coming and Adams caught it at the back of the end zone on the first play of the second quarter. That gave Green Bay 14 points. Philadelphia had allowed 9.5 points per game in its first four home games.
Rodgers and Adams struck again to open the second half. After Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix ruined the Eagles’ opening possession with an interception – the Packers’ first takeaway since Clinton-Dix had a pair of picks against Indianapolis three weeks ago -- Rodgers threw a pinpoint-perfect 50-yard bomb to Adams. The drive stalled but Crosby booted a 33-yard field goal to make it 17-10. Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis’ second long field goal, a 50-yarder, brought the Eagles within 17-13.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.