GREEN BAY – So many chances, so much regret.
The Packers got not one, but two, goal-to-go opportunities in the fourth quarter Thursday night at Lambeau Field, needing a touchdown to tie the game.
But the Eagles thwarted them at every turn, ultimately ending things with an end-zone interception on a throw Aaron Rodgers wishes he'd held onto for just a half-second longer.
The 34-27 final score dropped the Packers to 3-1 at the season's quarter pole and left them lamenting one that got away.
"We had a lot of chances down the stretch," Rodgers said. "We moved the ball well all day long. We just struggled in the red zone."
The Packers kicked two field goals on red-zone possessions in the first half, but they were really kicking themselves after the fourth-quarter failures.
The initial one featured first-and-goal on the 1-yard line with just over nine minutes left, but the Packers were missing top receiver Davante Adams. He had put together a monster game (10 catches, career-high 180 yards) but exited with a toe injury.
The Packers still tried four straight pass plays – one of them a run-pass option where Rodgers decided against the run based on the defensive look – and nothing worked. Tight end Jimmy Graham, who had six catches for 61 yards and a score on the night, had chances for leaping grabs on first and fourth down but couldn't pull the ball in.
Multiple postgame questions centered around not trying to run the ball at some point during the sequence, but Rodgers wasn't questioning those decisions.
"I like the calls. I felt we were really close on a couple of those to scoring and tying it up," he said. "The trust is high with Jimmy. He expects to make one of those two plays down there."
Rodgers did question himself on the final chance, though. After a run play on first-and-goal from the 7 got the ball to the 3 and the clock down under 30 seconds, he tried to hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling on a quick slant at the goal line.
Valdes-Scantling and undrafted rookie Darrius Shepherd criss-crossed on Rodgers' right side and all of Philadelphia's coverage converged on Valdes-Scantling cutting inside. No one stayed with Shepherd fading to the outside.
The contested pass was tipped and picked off by linebacker Nigel Bradham with 20 seconds left, sending 77,509 fans home frustrated.
"I thought Marquez was going to win (his route). It's so tight down there," Rodgers said. "If I hold it a tick, obviously I'm going to see Darrius (open in the corner). It's disappointing for it to end like that."
Equally disappointing was the play of Green Bay's defense, which had a truly rough outing for the first time this season. The Eagles controlled down-and-distance with a power running game that racked up 176 yards on the ground at a 5.3-yard clip. Former Bears running back Jordan Howard (15 carries, 87 yards, two TDs) and Miles Sanders (11-72) repeatedly gashing the Packers' front.
Tight end Zach Ertz (seven catches, 65 yards) also proved to be a tough matchup as QB Carson Wentz threw three TD passes on just 16 completions. He was efficient (113.2 passer rating) and mistake-free, benefiting from a ground game that kept Philadelphia's offense in favorable short-yardage situations all night.
"Until I go back and look at the film I can't tell you right now," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said of the leaky run defense. "But I know we'd better fix it, otherwise for teams that's going to be their blueprint, to run the football and grind it out."
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.
The Packers' defense also didn't get a takeaway for the first time this season while the Eagles finished with two, the first one a strip-sack of Rodgers when he was trying to go deep downfield to Valdes-Scantling. The Eagles only had to go 17 yards on that drive to score, and they also took advantage of a short field after a 67-yard kickoff return in the first half.
Green Bay didn't get field position like that at any point and eventually bogged down in close too many times.
Adams' absence down the stretch didn't help, nor did losing running back Jamaal Williams to a late helmet hit on the offense's first play of the game. Williams was taken off the field on a stretcher and was being evaluated for a head and neck injury, but it was reported he had feeling in all his extremities.
With Aaron Jones the only true halfback available, the Packers struggled to run the ball against the Eagles' No. 2-ranked rushing defense and played a quick game with short passes instead. It was effective as Rodgers racked up 422 yards passing (34-of-53, 93.4 rating) and the offense showed a level of consistency that had been lacking thus far, but the Packers left too many points out there.
"We have to do a better job in the red zone," LaFleur said. "When you're 3-for-7 you're not going to win many games.
"It was a hard-fought game. I give Philly a ton of credit. They battled. We have to coach better, we have to play better, but we also have to wipe the slate clean and get ready for next week."