For a few minutes, it looked promising.
The Eagles accepted the opening kickoff Sunday at Lambeau Field and got a little something going. Miles Sanders had a neat spin move away from defenders to gain 6 yards on a run. Quarterback Carson Wentz completed a pass to tight end Dallas Goedert to convert a third-and-6 play and came back two snaps later with a nice 11-yard throw to tight end Zach Ertz.
Maybe, just maybe …
That opening drive stalled after 15 plays and 41 yards, as too many have in this 3-8-1 season, and ended with a 52-yard Jake Elliott field goal and a three-point lead, and that was pretty much all that went in the Eagles' favor as the Packers, behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers' three touchdown passes, beat Philadelphia 30-16 to extend this post-bye losing streak to four games.
That the Eagles lost wasn't the big story on this Sunday. The immediate future of the quarterback position was on the front burner, as rookie second-round draft pick Jalen Hurts replaced Wentz late in the third quarter and played the rest of the game, throwing a touchdown pass, making some plays with his legs, and injecting some life into an offense that had very little to celebrate before Hurts entered the game.
"At the time, I just felt like where we were as an offense, we needed a spark," Head Coach Doug Pederson said. "We needed something to kind of go our way, so I decided to put Jalen in the game."
When asked who would start at quarterback next Sunday against New Orleans, Pederson did not commit.
"Let me get through this game. You just heard me say we needed a spark in this game to try to get some things going. I've got to get through injuries, I've got to get through the tape, there's a lot of things that I'm going to consider and evaluate before anything is decided," he said. "Look, opportunity arose and, like I said, we just needed that opportunity to get us back in the football game today and we came up short."
The first half has been the Eagles' two quarters of horror for most of this season and that was the case again on Sunday as the Packers led 14-3 at the half with these notable statistics:
• The Eagles gained just 90 total yards in the half, just 38 in the passing game. Wentz completed 5 of 12 passes for 38 yards and was sacked four times, mostly from a four-man pass rush, and he averaged just 3.2 yards per attempt. Wentz held the ball too long on a couple of those sacks and the others were on an offensive line that started its 11th combination in 12 games, with Jack Driscoll in at right tackle.
• On that lone first-half scoring drive the Eagles used 7 minutes and 7 seconds off the clock, illustrative of the hard work the Eagles have to do when they have the football. The lack of explosive plays have hurt the offense all season.
• Rodgers completed 13 of 14 passes (the highest first-half completion percentage of his career) for 161 yards and two scores, averaging 11.5 yards per passing attempt. The Eagles sacked Rodgers twice, but for the most part he dictated to the Eagles, who preferred to play coverage against Rodgers rather than send a blitz here and there.
• The Eagles' wide receivers, not productive since the bye week, had just one reception, from Greg Ward, for 11 yards.
• Philadelphia's running game had 74 yards on 15 attempts, including three scrambles from Wentz for 18 yards.
• Back-to-back touchdown drives by the Packers, of 88 yards and 82 yards, gave the Packers their points.
• Green Bay had long gains of 36 yards, 25 yards, 24 yards, and 14 yards while the Eagles' longest play of the first two quarters was a 12-yard Wentz scramble. His longest pass gain went for 11 yards to Ertz (Wentz lobbed up a completion to a wide-open Dallas Goedert early in the second half that gained 41 yards, but that drive fizzled out three plays later).
In many ways, it was a repeat performance of the kind of football the Eagles have played all season. The Packers' Davante Adams was just too much, catching 10 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns on the day – 5 catches, 76 yards, and both TDs working against cornerback Darius Slay, who was visibly gimpy with a calf injury that limited his week of practice and then left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury. Early in the fourth quarter, fellow starter at cornerback Avonte Maddox limped off the field. The injuries added to the insult of another defeat as the Eagles dropped another game behind the Giants, who shocked the Seahawks in Seattle.
Late in the third quarter, Hurts replaced Wentz for a series and then stayed in the game in the fourth quarter and the offense looked better than it had for weeks, honestly. Hurts mixed in some damage using his legs with some nice throws down the field – 34 yards to Jalen Reagor, 20 yards to Ertz – as Wentz watched from the sidelines. On a fourth-and-18 play with the score 23-3, Hurts made a beautiful throw to wide receiver Greg Ward for a 34-yard touchdown pass, rolling right and throwing on the run to cap a 73-yard scoring drive.
Minutes later, Reagor returned a punt 73 yards down the sideline for a touchdown, closing the deficit to 23-16 (Elliott missed a PAT for the second straight game) and the Eagles had life and energy and some bounce. An Aaron Jones 77-yard touchdown run with 2:36 remaining put the game out of reach for the Eagles, but they felt, truly, some positive momentum heading into next week's game against New Orleans at Lincoln Financial Field.
Hurts finished 5-of-12 for 109 yards, one touchdown and one interception – his throwing arm was hit on an attempt to Ward running an out pattern – and he added another 29 yards on five rushing attempts. Wentz was not productive, finishing his game completing 6-of-15 passes for 79 yards.