Game Review: Eagles' Quick Strikes Doom Packers


PHILADELPHIA - The Packers kept the Eagles' big-play offense relatively quiet for 2 1/2 quarters on Monday night.

But all it took was a couple of quick strikes in the third quarter for Philadelphia to take control.

Donovan McNabb hit Greg Lewis on touchdown passes of 45 and 30 yards just 1 minute, 17 seconds apart, and the Eagles dropped the Packers to 1-3 with a 31-9 decision in front of 69,222 at Lincoln Financial Field.

"I really felt the second half came down to big plays," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "Big plays equal points. That was a key factor in the way the game got away from us in the second half."

A tight game unraveled quickly in the third quarter, which opened with the Eagles kicking a field goal to turn a 9-7 halftime deficit into a 10-9 lead. The Packers countered with their own field goal try to re-take the lead, but Dave Rayner was wide left from 54 yards.

That's when the Eagles' offense took flight.

They took just two plays to go 56 yards, with Lewis beating Ahmad Carroll for a 45-yard TD pass to make it 17-9.

A costly turnover two plays later, as Brett Favre's short pass bounced off the hands of Vernand Morency and was intercepted by defensive tackle LaJuan Ramsey, set up the Eagles for another quick score.

A pass interference penalty on Carroll was followed by Lewis' second TD catch. He came across the middle wide open and took it the rest of the way himself to give the Eagles a 24-9 lead and two touchdowns in less than 80 seconds.

Carroll didn't shirk responsibility afterwards, laying the blame on his struggles for letting the game get away.

"The plays I gave up swung the game around and gave them the momentum to win," Carroll said. "I take this loss and I put it on my shoulders, and I admit I messed up the game and cost us the win."

His teammates weren't pointing fingers, though, but rather pointing out that the defense's Achilles heel all season - explosive plays - are a collective failure.

"From the defensive side, once again we gave up some explosive chunks of yardage, and we have to find a way to get that fixed," defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "When we blitz, we have to get home. We're leaving our guys out there on an island.

"When we choose to bring more than a four-man rush or a three-man rush, we have to get home because the guys in the back end are kind of hung out to dry if we don't get there."

It continued to get worse for the Packers, as Favre (22-of-44, 205 yards, 2 INTs) was intercepted by Michael Lewis when he tried to go deep over the middle to David Martin.

The Eagles took just six plays to go 66 yards for another score, with McNabb (16-of-30, 288 yards, 4 total TDs) scrambling for a 15-yard TD run to give Philadelphia 24 unanswered points and a 31-9 advantage early in the fourth.

Adding insult to the defeat, the Packers' final attempt to score was turned away when the Eagles stopped four consecutive runs inside the 2-yard line, preserving the large margin and keeping the Packers winless in their last nine contests in Philadelphia, dating back to 1962.

"It's a frustrating deal," Kampman said. "I'm sick of coming to this place ...".

The pace of the first half was much more to the Packers' liking, and though they failed to get into the end zone, they held a 9-7 halftime lead thanks to three Rayner field goals and a costly Eagles' mistake.

Leading 3-0 early, the Packers dodged a bullet when McNabb and Correll Buckhalter (filling in for an injured Brian Westbrook) fumbled a handoff exchange on first-and-goal at the 4, and Nick Barnett recovered to keep the Packers ahead.

But Green Bay failed to take advantage of the next Philadelphia miscue.

In another goal-to-go situation, Buckhalter was stripped of the ball by Charles Woodson, and A.J. Hawk recovered at the 3, only to see the offense give the ball right back.

Favre and Morency, who had 26 carries for 99 yards in place of Ahman Green, botched an exchange on second down, and Darren Howard recovered to give the Eagles a first-and-goal on the 6.

"I just didn't take it in all the way," Morency said of the mixup. "I saw a hole, and I closed up (my arms) a little too soon."

Two plays later, McNabb scored on a quarterback draw to put the Eagles up 7-3.

Rayner hit two more field goals to put the Packers back on top, one of them from 54 yards to tie the franchise record for longest field goal.

The defense made a strong stand at the end of the first half to keep the lead. After the Eagles moved to the Green Bay 25, Carroll and Cullen Jenkins recorded back-to-back sacks of McNabb to force a long field goal attempt, which the Eagles faked on the final play of the half but didn't come close to scoring.

"I thought our defense played very well in the first half, so there's evidence that we can do it and do it right," McCarthy said. "We'll continue to work to do it that way for 60 minutes."

That was perhaps the most common refrain in the locker room after the game - that this team has shown what it can do but needs to prove it for four quarters every week.

That's how they felt in letting a 13-point lead get away against New Orleans in Week 2, and they similarly failed to capitalize on a solid first half against one of the NFC's best teams on the Monday night national stage.

"I know we're getting close," defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila said. "The results are not coming out the way we want to, but we have to keep fighting. That's all I know, we have to keep fighting. I think we're getting better, but we're not finishing.

"We just have to continue grinding, learning from our mistakes and keep pressing on. We can't give up. That's not an option. We have to keep pressing on."

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