Photo: AP Photo/Mike Roemer
Over the course of any NFL game, there are important plays that are easy to overlook. There is so much focus on the highlight-worthy plays — the touchdowns, the returns, the turnovers, the big hits — that sometimes the penalty that led to a score or the block that sprung the back goes unnoticed. I’m here each week to take a look at the five most important plays that some fans may have missed.
And let’s face it, with the Packers jumping all over the Eagles in the first half to the tune of a 30-6 halftime lead that held up all the way, there wasn’t a single play you could really call important in the final 30 minutes. So without further ado, here are the five biggest plays you may have missed from the Green Bay Packers’ dominant 53-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday afternoon/evening at Lambeau Field, all in the first half.
Helmet-to-Helmet No Call I
After Aaron Rodgers drove the Packers down the field quickly with three big pass plays highlighted by a 64-yarder to Jordy Nelson, leading to a Green Bay field goal on the game’s opening drive, the Eagles were on the move on their first possession of the game. Then, on a 2nd-and-6 play on the Green Bay 36, Mark Sanchez was sacked by Letroy Guion, leading to a 3rd-and-13 that the Eagles failed to convert. However, on the sack, Guion hit a slightly ducking Sanchez helmet-to-helmet, which 99 times out of 100 is called a penalty, particularly a helmet-to-helmet hit on a quarterback. This time, the play went uncalled, the Eagles were forced to punt two plays later and a promising opening drive stalled, wiping away a chance to tie the game or take the lead early.
Trent Cole Offsides
On the ensuing Green Bay drive, the Eagles had the Packers facing a 3rd-and-23 at their own 36. That’s exactly where the defense wants a quarterback like Rodgers. So of course, Trent Cole — a 10-year veteran who should know better — jumps offsides. And while Green Bay did not convert on the free play, that offsides gave Rodgers a second chance, this time on a 3rd-and-18. Rodgers threw a dart to a wide open Andrew Quarless for a 24-yard gain and a first down. Five plays later, Rodgers hit Davante Adams for a touchdown. You can’t give a great quarterback like Aaron Rodgers second chances, even on 3rd and forever. A veteran, former Pro Bowler should know better than that.
Sanchez Being Sanchez
Down 10-0, the Eagles desperately needed to get something offensively to stem the tide and give the defense a breather against arguably the best QB in the business. On the third play of the drive, facing a 3rd-and-6, Sanchez dropped back. Running a crossing route, rookie Jordan Matthews was wide open right away and could have easily picked up the first down and then some. But instead of throwing the quick cross and moving the chains, Sanchez semi-pumped, then got smashed for a sack, and the momentum continued to build for the Packers.
Helmet-to Helmet No Call: The Sequel
Speaking of that sack … for the second time in the game, the Packers got away with a helmet-to-helmet hit on Sanchez. Mike Neal came in and walloped Sanchez noggin to noggin, which would have extended the drive and at the very least let the Eagles to try to get something going. Instead, another illegal hit on the quarterback went uncalled, the Eagles punted … and Micah Hyde returned said punt for a touchdown to give the Packers a commanding 17-0 first-quarter lead. At home. Yikes.
Jordan Matthews Drop
With the Packers holding a commanding 24-3 lead, the Eagles picked up a couple of first down and finally got the ball back in Green Bay territory. They not only needed a drive to help the defense rest, but they needed points just to try to keep it a game. Facing a 3rd-and-6 at the Green Bay 48, Sanchez let loose to his favorite target, Jordan Matthews. Unfortunately, the rookie couldn’t haul in a pretty good throw by Sanchez, dropping the pass and putting a halt to yet another promising drive. The Eagles punted again, and the Packers drove right down the field and capped it off with an Eddie Lacy touchdown, all but sealing the game at 30-3.
The Eagles needed to play a nearly flawless game and catch a few breaks to defeat a red-hot Aaron Rodgers at one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. They got neither, and the result was a thorough 53-20 thrashing at the hands of the best quarterback in the league.