Philly’s defensive numbers and recent turnovers frame this gameMike Spofford
GREEN BAY - Three numbers jump to the forefront in assessing Sunday night's Packers-Eagles matchup: 33, 13 and six.
No, this isn't some convoluted math equation requiring all three numbers to fit together somehow. They're specific statistics, and we'll take them one at a time, though the first two are tangentially related.
33: This is the number of sacks the Eagles have recorded through 10 games, a total topped by only two other clubs heading into Week 12.
This also marks the third straight week the Packers are up against one of the league's more formidable pass rushes, following games against the Cowboys and Titans. Green Bay protected Aaron Rodgers well in those two games, allowing just three sacks total in more than 60 drop-backs.
A productive ground game was the key against Dallas, reducing the number of passes required and allowing Rodgers to take some shots downfield. Tennessee shut down the run, though, and Rodgers' inaccuracy on a couple of critical third downs in the fourth quarter doomed the offense.
The right recipe will be needed to keep Rodgers upright and in rhythm, and Philly's below-average run defense (19th in yards per game, 24th in yards per carry) perhaps provides an opening.
"It starts up front in the run game and the protection," Rodgers said. "They've got a lot of good pass rushers, guys inside and outside that can get after you. I've got to deal the ball on time, we've got to get open and we've got to keep them off-balance, moving the pocket and obviously mixing in runs in the shotgun."
The hardest part about dealing with the Eagles' pass rush is the sheer number of high-impact players. Edge rusher Hasson Reddick leads the way with 7½ sacks, but interior stalwart Javon Hargrave also has seven, while three other players (Brandon Graham 4, Josh Sweat 3½, Fletcher Cox 3) have combined for another 10-plus. And none of them include the veteran reinforcements they've picked up in recent weeks - Robert Quinn, Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh.
"Collectively, I think it's all the guys," said Head Coach Matt LaFleur, adding their scheme sets up specific players to get one-on-one matchups in certain situations. "You can't zero in on one guy ... they all feed off each other."
13: The next number is the Eagles' interception total, tied for best in the league as Week 12 commenced.
Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, acquired just before the start of the season in a trade with the Saints, leads the NFL with six and just had his streak of five straight games with a pick snapped last week. Cornerbacks Darius Slay and James Bradberry, another 2022 addition, have three apiece.
Their success, in part, is a product of the aforementioned impact of the sack masters up front.
"They've got great ball skills. They've played a long time, and they definitely play off their that pass rush that they have," LaFleur said of the Eagles' secondary. "So they're able to jump some things and be aggressive. They're dangerous to throw at at all times.
"I think those guys can play off or they can play in bump. They can play man, zone. It doesn't matter."
Since his first-time-in-five-years three-interception outing at Detroit three games ago, Rodgers hasn't thrown a pick. He'll need to keep protecting the ball in that fashion Sunday night.
6: The third number also reflects a turnover total, but from the other side.
In starting 8-0, the Eagles turned the ball over just three times. But over their last two games, they have six - four in a loss to Washington and two more last week in a down-to-the-wire escape act in Indianapolis.
The Packers need to keep the Eagles heading the wrong way in this category, but LaFleur stressed they can't try to force the issue if it means compromising defensive fundamentals.
"We need everybody playing their assignments, playing physical, and potentially turnovers can happen," he said.
The Packers also will need to convert any turnovers they get into points. Two interceptions against Dallas became two touchdowns for Green Bay and were instrumental in the victory. Going three-and-out after both a fourth-down stop and interception against Tennessee proved highly detrimental.
Washington converted its first two takeaways against Philly into 10 points to take the lead and then extend it. Indy getting just two field goals from the Eagles' two giveaways wasn't enough.
"They just didn't cash in on the red-zone opportunity, first-and-goal on the (5) to put the game away with five minutes left, and playing a really good football team, you gotta do that," Rodgers said. "So if we get that opportunity to play from the lead and have a chance to put 'em away, we gotta do that."
Rodgers also has talked in the past about the need to embrace the underdog role, most recently in a primetime game at Buffalo. It didn't work in their favor, though Green Bay was a missed field goal from making it a one-score game late.
As underdogs with no outside expectations is where the Packers find themselves again, on the road, under the lights, against the 9-1 Eagles. Those three key statistics and what they represent will most certainly factor into the outcome.
"This is the team with the top record in the National Football League right now," LaFleur said. "If you can't get excited for this, going into a hostile environment in Philly on Sunday Night Football, then you probably shouldn't be doing this."