COMMENTARY | Perhaps the Green Bay Packers would have been better off playing at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, because the Philadelphia Eagles improved to 5-1 on the road when they marched into Lambeau Field and defeated Green Bay, 27-13.
A couple of heave-hos were the difference, as Nick Foles connected on a 55-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson in the first quarter, followed by a 45-yard toss to Riley Cooper early in the second half.
For the second consecutive week, the Packers' starting quarterback exited the game in the first quarter due to injury. Seneca Wallace, making his first start since 2011, hurt his groin after making a throw and planting awkwardly, making way for third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien.
Green Bay now drops a game out of first place in the NFC North with the Detroit Lions' victory over the Chicago Bears, but two very winnable games are upcoming before the all-important Thanksgiving showdown in the Motor City. We'll see if the Packers can take what they learned on Sunday and apply it positively, or else they will continue to watch their season spiral down the drain.
Defense, not quarterback, is the biggest problem
Forget about the quarterback conundrum in Green Bay -- an issue it may be, it's far from the Packers' biggest concern moving forward.
That's because for the second straight week, the defense was outmatched both in the secondary and up front in the closing minutes. The Eagles held the ball for the final 9:32 after taking over at their own 8-yard line following a turnover on downs, an eerily similar repeat of when the Bears imposed their will on the ground to bury the Packers last Monday night.
It's one thing to get overpowered in the trenches, but the lapses in the secondary have been inexcusable. Cornerback Tramon Williams, who is making $8.5 million this season, let multiple interceptions slip through his hands, and while he forced a fumble late in the game, he isn't getting it done in coverage.
Both starting safeties had blown assignments leading to touchdowns, not one player at a pass defended, the defense constantly lost contain on the run game and not a single linebacker recorded a sack for the Packers. Injuries have hurt the defense, to be clear, but this unit appeared to have its issues ironed out not ten days ago.
Aaron Rodgers has saved this unit's behind more times than we can count, and yet with Rodgers on the sideline, the defense is failing to return the favor.
The Packers finally found a backup quarterback
We all knew the 33-year old Seneca Wallace wasn't the long-term solution to back up Rodgers, but considering the performance of Scott Tolzien against the Eagles, the Packers may have found their man.
Many will remember Tolzien's costly interception on the goal line -- he had two on the day -- although Jordy Nelson didn't really sell his route, and the two picks only led to three Philadelphia points.
Tolzien went 24 of 39 for 280 yards and a touchdown after just being called up from the practice squad last week. While that performance did come against the league's worst pass defense, that's pretty impressive work, and it was enough for head coach Mike McCarthy to name the 26-year old out of Wisconsin as the starter against the New York Giants in Week 11.
Green Bay has had issues finding a competent backup since Matt Flynn left town, but Tolzien could be the one to fill that void long-term.
Clay Matthews is very limited with a club
It's great to see Clay Matthews back on the field for the Packers, but that club isn't a welcome sight.
That club is to help protect Matthews' surgically repaired thumb, but No. 52 was limited with what he could do when it came to rushing the passer and making a tackle. Matthews had just one solo tackle and failed to record a sack against Philadelphia.
Matthews relies heavily on his hands, but he's going to have to grow accustomed to that club and find new ways to be effective because he may have to sport some variation of that club for the rest of the season.
James Starks needs more work
What Eddie Lacy has been able to do for Green Bay's running game is pretty remarkable, but pretty soon, we're going to watch him break down before our very eyes if the Packers don't ease off the gas pedal with the rookie tailback.
Lacy is a workhorse, but he has had injury problems in the past and is averaging roughly 24 carries per game over the last six weeks. He will always fight for the extra yard, but Lacy doesn't bring the same explosiveness as James Starks, who isn't half-bad himself at running the football.
Starks may not have done much against Philadelphia, but he only got four carries to do so -- Lacy only managed 3 yards per carry. Starks deserves more time in the backfield, especially if Green Bay wants to see Lacy contribute positively, or at all, down the road.
The injury count has become downright comedic
For every Packers player that becomes healthy enough to return from injury, there seems to be three more that go down.
On Sunday, it was five players that left and didn't return due to knocks -- Seneca Wallace (groin), Casey Hayward (hamstring -- again), Evan Dietrich-Smith (knee), Don Barclay (knee) and Nick Perry (foot). The Packers were down to one healthy backup offensive lineman, and T.J. Lang was forced into duty at center while Marshall Newhouse entered for the second straight week -- and looked lost for the second straight week.
Josh Sitton put it best: "You start to wonder if there's something in the water."
Green Bay will likely have to go out and find another backup quarterback -- perhaps Matt Flynn, and Derek Sherrod, who hasn't played since breaking his leg in 2011, may be pressed into action with the injuries on the line.
There are only so many "next men up" for the Packers, and the injury count is becoming almost impossible to overcome in Green Bay.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_ .
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- Philadelphia Eagles
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- Seneca Wallace
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- Scott Tolzien