GREEN BAY – It wasn't any secret what the Packers' pass rush had to do Sunday against a Philadelphia Eagles offense that had allowed 46 sacks through the first 11 games of the season.
It needed to get after the quarterback.
And Green Bay's defensive front did not disappoint, generating a season-high seven sacks among 11 QB hits against Carson Wentz and rookie replacement Jalen Hurts in a 30-16 victory over the Eagles at Lambeau Field.
Leading the effort was second-year defensive lineman Kingsley Keke, whose two-sack performance made him the first Green Bay defensive lineman to have a pair of two-sack games in a season since Aaron Kampman did it in 2008.
Linebacker Za'Darius Smith, who had 1½ sacks of his own, said it all started with a conversation the defensive front had with coordinator Mike Pettine earlier this week. The message? Keep it simple and "we will get after the quarterback."
"As you can see, we had a field day today," Smith said. "We're getting much pressure on the quarterback and it's starting to show for us."
The first four came against Wentz, including back-to-back sacks from Rashan Gary and Keke for a loss of 11 yards to push the Eagles out of scoring territory in the first quarter.
Safety Raven Greene and Gary would split another on third-and-7 in the second quarter before Keke's second sack sent the Eagles into halftime down 14-3.
Philadelphia turned to the rookie Hurts in the second half. While he sparked a few big plays, the former Oklahoma standout was sacked by Smith on two occasions (one combined with Preston Smith), and defensive lineman Dean Lowry.
Preston also pressured Hurts into throwing a leaping interception to safety Darnell Savage, his third INT over the past two games and the defense's ninth takeaway since Nov. 1.
"Practice. Working at practice," said Keke of the recent uptick in takeaways. "Trying to rake the ball out, catching picks in practice. Just working hard. And the DBs do a great job, you know, catching picks in practice, working hard and just like 'Sav' had today, he's keeping it going."
The defensive front also succeeded in containing the Eagles' running game, particularly early on. A year after giving up 159 rushing yards to Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders in a 34-27 loss to Philadelphia, the same tandem produced only 50 yards on 14 carries.
The defense had a few breakdowns late, including Hurts hitting Greg Ward for a 32-yard touchdown on fourth-and-18 in the fourth quarter, but continued to show signs of solidarity and progress.
The cherry on top for Za'Darius Smith was notching 10 sacks for the second consecutive season. His 24 sacks are the most in franchise history by a player in his first two seasons with the Packers.
"When Coach told me, 'Z, that's 10,' I sat there for a minute and thought to myself," Smith reflected after the game. "You know where I really came from, how people (were) telling me I couldn't make it in this football thing, as you can see, man, it's all a blessing. For all the people out there, if people say you can't do something, you can do it."
Lambeau Field hosted a Week 13 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020.
Great call, even better catch: Head Coach Matt LaFleur paid his offense the biggest compliment a play-caller can give when he green-lit a shot play from the Packers' very own 1-yard line near the start of the third quarter.
Rodgers faked the handoff to Jones and threw a deep ball the Packers' fourth-year running back initially thought might be intercepted – until Pro Bowl receiver Davante Adams flashed into the line of sight to catch the 42-yard pass.
"I don't know how he came down with that," Jones said. "I was running with … a linebacker. And we're looking at it as the ball's in the air and the guy's like, 'Oh, that's an interception.' And you see 'Tae come down with it and I'm like, 'Oh, no it's not.'"
It not only propelled the Packers to a seven-play, 99-yard scoring drive, but it also was the marquee play in yet another big day for Adams, who eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards for the second time in his career with his 10-catch, 121-yard showing against the Eagles.
Furthermore, Adams' two receiving touchdowns Sunday also tied Don Hutson's franchise record of seven consecutive games with at least one receiving TD. He did it twice during his career, spanning the 1941-42 and 1943-44 seasons.
His 42-yard catch off a gutsy call from LaFleur had a lot to do with it.
"It was a great call by Matt because I don't think they were necessarily anticipating it, especially off the action," Adams said. "It reminded me of my catch against Philly in 2016 in the back of the end zone, just as far as having to go late hands.
"So great ball, great placement and it just so happened it kind of slipped through and just waited on that ball until the last minute and got it."
A new line: With starting center Corey Linsley out for at least three games with a knee injury, many assumed rookie Jon Runyan Jr. would get his first NFL start Sunday against his father's former team.
Instead, the Packers did some mixing and matching on the offensive line with their veterans to compensate for Linsley's absence.
There was one breakdown on the second play of the game, a sack of Rodgers for a 6-yard loss, but otherwise Green Bay's durable offensive line again came as advertised against a talented Philadelphia front that features perennial All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.
"We didn't feel like there was necessarily a bad decision we could make there, but we're always going to go with whoever we feel is going to give us the best chance to win," LaFleur said.
"Billy [Turner] had experience going against this front. This is a damn good front, and we know with Fletcher Cox, he's going to line up on our right side, and Billy battled him last year and did a pretty darn good job against an elite player in this league."