Clarity hard to come by for Packers

What matters is where both sides of the ball go from here

190926-editorial-2560
QB Aaron Rodgers

GREEN BAY – The offense got some things figured out. Now the defense has questions to answer.

Welcome to the ebbs and flows of an NFL season.

One quarter of it is in the books and the Packers are 3-1. That's the good news, and the most important news of all, really.

The Packers' defense needed the offense to carry the load Thursday night, just as Aaron Rodgers predicted earlier this week could happen at any time. The 34-27 loss was filled with what-ifs, and the Eagles as expected proved to be far better than their 1-2 record suggested coming in.

"This is one of those games where their offense is playing really well, they're moving the ball and scoring points," Rodgers said. "We can't have the two turnovers and we have to score in the red zone.

"It's one of those games we have to pick them up. They've been picking us up the first three weeks."

It almost worked out, but not quite, though a steady, 491-yard offensive output was the best sign yet after repeated lulls through the first three games. Scoring 27 points against another NFC contender isn't bad, but the opportunities were there for 40-plus, with two field goals kicked from inside the Philadelphia 15-yard line, and a pair of goal-to-go sequences squashed with an injured Davante Adams sidelined.

The defense has to get back to the basics of stopping the run, because that's three weeks in a row now opponents have ground out chunks of yardage. Elite quarterbacks like Carson Wentz aren't going to just give the ball away, and when they don't, breakdowns up front prove more costly.

Really what matters most is where both sides of the ball go from here. They've each experienced their share of ups and downs now, typical of any season's first month, and they get some extra rest before traveling to Dallas to face another NFC contender in 10 days.

One thing the Packers can't count on moving forward is any clarity with regard to replay reviews for pass interference. This game was filled with unpredictability surrounding calls and challenges, and Head Coach Matt LaFleur expressed his frustration with the process.

"I really don't know what pass interference is anymore," LaFleur said. "I'll just leave it at that."

Here's a rundown of the situations that arose:

The Eagles initially had a touchdown nullified by an offensive pass interference penalty, only to have the replay review kill the penalty called on the field, so it was a touchdown after all.

LaFleur challenged a sideline shot to Marquez Valdes-Scantling and was so sure there was defensive pass interference, he spiked the red flag in front of the sideline official. No dice.

Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson was similarly convinced Alshon Jeffery was interfered with later in the third quarter, but no dice for him, either.

In between those, Eagles running back Jordan Howard ran all alone down the left sideline for a 20-yard TD reception when Packers linebacker Blake Martinez got picked in the middle of the field, but the automatic review turned up nothing.

There seemingly was little thought given to all the contact at the goal line on Valdes-Scantling on the game-deciding deflected interception, either, because by rule the turnover had to be reviewed. Yet there was no delay in the Eagles taking a knee to end the game.

"Clear and obvious" is the language in the pass interference review rule, but one could argue the standard applied in this game instead was "blatant" or "flagrant," because the instances of uncalled obstruction were numerous, if consistently ignored.

"It was clear and obvious to me, but I'm not the one making the decision," LaFleur said of his failed challenge, though he also alluded to an Eagles TD without specifying which one.

Lambeau Field hosted a Thursday Night Football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4 of the 2019 NFL season.

So how coaches and players are supposed to have any idea what constitutes a penalty and navigate when it's best to use challenges is up for debate, and it appears it'll be a season-long struggle.

Given that, it's best to not get caught up in it to avoid distraction that could reach the point of detriment. The Packers have plenty of other issues that deserve their attention and about which they can actually do something.

Red-zone and goal-to-go situations. Ground game. Run defense. Special teams.

The Packers have enough flaws they could easily be worse than 3-1. They were also darn close to being 4-0.

"We have a lot to build on," Rodgers said. "It's a frustrating thing. A home game, a winnable game, against a good opponent. We just didn't execute the way we should have to win that football game.

"I think we're a building football team. We're a good football team. To be a great football team, you have to win these kind of games."