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Game notes: Christian Watson's speed proving to be asset for Packers' offense

Defense can’t corral Jalen Hurts; Keisean Nixon ignites kickoff returns

Green Bay Packers WR Christian Watson
Green Bay Packers WR Christian Watson

PHILADELPHIA – The big plays keep piling up for Christian Watson.

The Packers' rookie receiver caught four passes for 110 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's 40-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, including a 63-yard TD in the fourth quarter that marked Green Bay's longest play of the season.

According to NFL NextGenStats, Watson achieved a top speed of 20.97 miles per hour on the touchdown. That's the fastest max speed by a Packers ball carrier on a TD this season. His score also made Watson the first Packers rookie to register receiving TDs in three straight games since Billy Howton in 1952.

"I was just able to show obviously the type of player I am, obviously the things I can do with the ball in my hands," Watson said. "Be able to create mismatches out there, win one-on-ones. It's hard to say after a team doesn't get it done but obviously I think I've been able to show who I am a little bit the last couple games."

All four of Watson's receptions Sunday went for at least 15 yards and contributed to scoring drives for Green Bay's offense. As impressive as his 63-yard touchdown was off a deep crossing pattern, Watson made perhaps his most contested catch of the season when survived a big hit from C.J. Gardner-Johnson to hold onto a 21-yard reception in the first quarter.

On the next play, Randall Cobb caught an 11-yard touchdown pass to put Green Bay on the board. Coincidentally enough, it was Watson's deep crosser on the play that caused the safety to bite and free the middle of the field for Cobb's first score of the season.

"I think it really just comes down to scheme (and) getting those safeties to play how we want them to play," Watson said. "I think it starts with our run game, and being able to get those safeties to come down and play that run game a little bit more opens up the deeper crossers. They obviously have to respect the deeper shots (and) those low crossers are going to be open. I think as we string together some consistent drives on offense, they have to respect it a little bit more."

Watson's 11-yard catch over the middle in the third quarter drew an unnecessary roughness penalty from Eagles safety Reed Blankenship to create a 26-yard gain to kickstart another scoring drive. In total, Watson was responsible for four of Green Bay's nine longest offensive plays against the Eagles.

His 63-yard touchdown also bested his 58-yard score against Dallas two weeks ago for the Packers' longest pass play of the season. Now, in the span of a fortnight, Watson has caught 12 passes for 265 yards and six touchdowns.

Prior to the Packers' last three contests, the 6-foot-4, 208-pound receiver had 10 receptions for 88 yards in his first six outings of the season. As good as it feels to put some early injuries behind him, Watson would feel better about his strides if they came with Green Bay getting back in the win column.

"First off, it's a team game. I'm not happy about anything unless we're being successful as a team," Watson said. "It may sound cliché but I'm passionate about competing. I'm passionate about winning football games. I'm passionate about football in general. If we're not winning, everything else doesn't matter."

The Hurts business: The Packers' defense knew it wasn't going to be easy containing Jalen Hurts and that proved to be the case as the Philadelphia quarterback scrambled 17 times for 157 yards to power a huge day on the ground for the Eagles, who finished with 363 rushing yards and three TDs as a team.

It started from the jump, as Hurts slipped through the Packers' defensive front with a 24-yard run on third-and-10 and a 28-yard scramble on third-and-6 during Philadelphia's opening scoring drive. Hurts finished the first quarter with 103 rushing yards alone and his ability to extend plays factored heavily into the Eagles' eight third-down conversions.

"He has a great awareness in the pocket. He's just a great player," linebacker Justin Hollins said. "It's kind of hard to contain him all the way. They got a couple on us. Again, hat off to him."

In addition to throwing for 153 yards and two TDs, Hurts' ground production helped ease the Eagles' entire backfield into rhythm. Miles Sanders rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns, while Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott combined for another 63 yards and a TD on 11 carries.

The Packers know they need to find an answer, as they could be facing another scrambling quarterback next week in Chicago's Justin Fields.

"Getting (Hurts) running, it opens up the running back running as well, the threat with him and the zone read," safety Adrian Amos said. "We got a running quarterback next week. We gotta be better against a scrambling quarterback."

See scenes from the Sunday night matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Nov. 27, 2022.

Nixon ignites special teams: The Packers had their best day on kickoff returns in seven years due in large part to the tenaciousness of Keisean Nixon.

The Packers' cornerback broke a pair of 50-yard returns against the Eagles en route to averaging 34.4 yards on his five returns, which is Green Bay's highest mark on five or more returns since Dave Hampton averaged 37.8 on Nov. 28, 1971.

Both of Nixon's 50-yard returns – a 52-yarder at the start of the second half and a 53-yard effort in the fourth – came after he chose to take the ball out from the end zone. They also were Green Bay's first kickoff returns of 50-plus yards since Jeff Janis's 70-yard return against the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 25, 2015.

"I love the guys on kickoff return," Nixon said. "They put me in position to win and I'm not scared to hit it. I'm going to hit it for them. If they hit a good block, I'm gonna reward them with a return."

Nixon also served as the Packers' slot cornerback, registering three tackles (one for a loss).

First impressions: It took less than a week in Green Bay for Hollins to find the opposing quarterback.

Claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday, the fourth-year linebacker keyed a three-and-out stop for Green Bay's defense when he sacked Hurts for a 5-yard loss in the second quarter. Both of his tackles against the Eagles were for a loss.

"Part of the game plan, try to keep him in the pocket," Hollins said. "I knew the guys rushing inside, I had to go speed to power. I got a little lift on the tackle, and it was all hustle from there."


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