PHILADELPHIA – Finally.
The losing streak is over, and the Packers are back in the win column following a 27-13 Monday night victory over the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
"Winning is hard, it's very difficult in this league," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said moments after his team improved to 5-6 to stay in the NFC North hunt. "We haven't had the feeling in five weeks. We missed it. It felt good."
McCarthy was speaking in the past tense because the Packers are already turning the page on a short week to Sunday's home date with Houston, Green Bay's first game at Lambeau Field in a month.
In this one, they wrecked the Eagles' perfect home record and controlled almost the entire second half.
Breaking the four-game skid came down to an ultra-efficient performance on offense, particularly from quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was playing on a bad hamstring from the first drive in the third quarter on.
The Packers converted 10 of 14 third downs, added a fourth-down conversion in the fourth quarter, and Rodgers put up a 116.7 passer rating with two TD passes, both to Davante Adams. Rodgers was 30-of-39 for 313 yards, outplaying his rookie counterpart in Philadelphia's Carson Wentz (24-of-36, 254 yards, 75.5 rating).
Green Bay opened the game with a touchdown drive and just kept chugging away, scoring on five of six possessions (not including two kneel-downs).
"We were great on third down the entire game," Rodgers said. "The offensive line dominated I felt like. We started fast, hit our first six (on third down), that helped us take the lead and gave our defense some confidence."
As for the hamstring, Rodgers got it taped while inside a medical tent on the Green Bay sideline. He said he needed privacy to "drop his drawers," and even though the injury clearly limited his mobility the rest of the game, he pronounced he'll be "good to go" by the next game.
Adams had a superb game, catching five passes for 113 yards with the two scores, the second one a fabulous sliding 20-yard catch in the back of the end zone on a laser-beam throw from Rodgers. Adams also had a 50-yard reception and a 23-yard catch-and-run on third-and-10 to set up the Packers' final TD.
"Davante Adams was key for us," McCarthy said. "The one-on-one opportunities that he had, he won big, and he won at big times, too. Davante is playing the best football of his career."
The Packers' defense also played its best in a month, winning the turnover battle thanks to a third-quarter interception by safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix that led to a field goal.
Green Bay's defense allowed an opening touchdown drive on which Philadelphia didn't even face a third down, but the Eagles never found the end zone after that. The Packers lost Clay Matthews briefly to a shoulder injury, but he returned and played the bulk of the game at inside linebacker with Blake Martinez (knee) and Jake Ryan (ankle) out.
"The beginning of the game, playing on the road … we had a chance to settle down," McCarthy said of his defense, which had struggled in recent weeks. "We were making adjustments, guys going in and out, Clay was coming back from his injury. You just keep fighting through those things."
Special teams did its part, too, pinning the Eagles on the 1-yard line on Jake Schum's only punt, making all the kicks (two FGs, three PATs) for the first time in a few weeks, and holding a dangerous Philly return game in check.
"We hadn't played a complete game yet, maybe this season, so this was a great effort in all three phases for us," Rodgers said.
"Just to get off the schneid … It's been a rough stretch. We're human, so you lose a few in a row and the doubt starts to creep in whether you can really finish one of these games off. This was great for our confidence."
The Packers finished it off with an early fourth-quarter touchdown – the first of fullback Aaron Ripkowski's career and the first rushing TD by someone other than Rodgers this season – and then a drive of eight-plus minutes that killed most of the fourth quarter and tacked on a field goal.
"You have to believe in yourself and believe in your teammates," Rodgers said of staying strong through the losing streak, "and not let doubt or fear or failure cripple you."
In the division race, the Packers remained two games behind first-place Detroit (7-4) and one behind Minnesota (6-5). The Packers play both teams in the final two weeks of the regular season, so if they can gain some ground over the next few games, they could make things interesting.
Both McCarthy and Rodgers were quick to point out that this was just one victory, though, meaning it has to be the start of a turnaround, not the extent of it.
"We're getting ready to go into the toughest days of the season," McCarthy said. "We need these wins. But the fact of the matter is this is one win. We're 5-6, and we look at this as a launching pad we can definitely build off of."
The season has been saved, for now.
"There's a big difference between 4-7 and 5-6 for sure, but I hope there's not a ton of relief setting in because we still have a lot of things in front of us we'd like to accomplish," Rodgers said. "It's a step in the right direction in a game we needed."
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