By David Long
The Eagles made Aaron Rodgers face facts:
And he’s starting to lose his skills as an NFL quarterback.
Rodgers exited Green Bay’s 40-33 loss to the Eagles in the third quarter with what the quarterback said afterward was a rib injury and an initial fear of a punctured lung.
He was in enough pain after the game — the Packers’ seventh loss in their past eight — that a team staff member carried Rodgers’ suitcase out of the visitors locker room at Lincoln Financial Field.
That left Jordan Love to finish the game — and nearly rally the Packers to victory almost 15 years to the day that Rodgers filled in for an injured Brett Favre on Nov. 29, 2007, at Dallas and almost did the same thing.
Both backup quarterbacks fell short, with Love never getting a shot at a tying drive because the Packers’ defense couldn’t get a stop in the final minute. While Rodgers’ fill-in duty in his third year as a backup served as a sign he was ready to replace Favre, no one was ready to say Love did the same Sunday. But it was his most impressive showing in his three NFL seasons and left questions about whether he should finish out the year.
Rodgers wasn’t ready to concede anything, not even next Sunday’s game at the Chicago Bears.
“As long as I check out fine tomorrow, I expect to play this weekend,” Rodgers said Sunday night.
He will have another scan on his ribs today.
He was X-rayed at the stadium but said it was “hard to tell on the X-rays” if he had any fractured ribs. He said two plays — one in the second quarter when he got hit and landed awkwardly, and then a third-quarter combined sack by Haason Reddick and Brandon Graham — caused the problem.
At the time of his departure, Rodgers had just led a drive that culminated in a Packers field goal to cut the Eagles’ lead to 34-23 with 2:03 remaining in the third quarter. He appeared to be in some discomfort on the drive and subsequently jogged to the locker room with several members of the team’s medical staff.
“Just [was] having a hard time breathing and rotating my upper body,” Rodgers said. “I was worried about a punctured lung, as well, so I wanted to get that checked out.”
X-rays showed Rodgers did not have a punctured lung.
Rodgers had completed 11 of 16 passes for 140 yards with two touchdowns before he left the field. He also threw two first-half interceptions for the second time in four weeks; he also had two in the first half of Green Bay’s Week 9 loss at Detroit. It upped his interception total for the season to nine, already the most he has thrown in a season since 2010 (when he had 11).
Love, the Packers’ 2020 first-round pick and possible heir apparent to Rodgers, entered the game with 11:11 left in the fourth quarter and the Packers trailing 37-23. He promptly threw a 63-yard, catch-and-run touchdown to rookie receiver Christian Watson with 9 minutes left to make it a one-score game. He led another drive that ended with a field goal with 1:08 to play.
At that point, the Packers had all three of their timeouts remaining, so Love thought he might get another possession. But just like what happened all game, the Eagles ran out the clock. They rushed for 363 yards (157 by quarterback Jalen Hurts and 143 by running back Miles Sanders), the most rushing yards the Packers have allowed in a game since 1977.
Love finished 6-of-9 passing for 113 yards, and both of his possessions resulted in points for the Packers. They had not converted a third down until Love hit Allen Lazard for 7 yards on third-and-5 from their own 30-yard line. On the next play, Love threw a slant to Watson, who turned it into a 63-yard touchdown.
Rodgers dismissed any thought of shutting it down for the season — at least as long as the Packers still have a chance to make the playoffs. At 4-8, they’re still technically not out of it, but ESPN Analytics gives the Packers just a 2% chance to reach the postseason.
“We’ve got to win all five and probably need a little bit of help,” Rodgers said.
As for what will happen if or when the Packers are eliminated from postseason contention, Rodgers said: “There’s obviously a lot of other conversations that come into play once you’re eliminated, and I’ll be open to all those conversations. Pride comes to mind. Love of the game. But there’s other factors that, obviously, would come into play should we be mathematically eliminated.”
One of those factors, of course, is Love.
“Obviously I want to be on the field, but the situation is what the situation is,” Love said. “The toughest thing is trying to stay mentally prepared and stay locked in because you never know what might happen.
“I just go out there and try and make the most of the opportunity. Who knows what happens in the future? As long as I do my best and make the most of my opportunity, who knows what happens?”