There is no such thing as a “must-win” game in Week 4 of the NFL. There is simply too much of the season left for any team to be in a situation that dire just yet and there’s plenty of time to fix any mistakes. But for the Eagles, who came to Green Bay with an underwhelming 1-2 record, Thursday Night Football against the 3-0 Packers felt about as “must win” as a game in September can get.
It’s not that Philly isn’t good enough to beat long odds (14.4 percent of teams that begin the season 1-3 do end up eventually making the playoffs), it just would have been one hell of an uphill climb for Carson Wentz and Co. Seven of the Eagles’ final 12 games feature opponents with winning records, including the Patriots (3-0), Bills (3-0), Seahawks (2-1), Bears (2-1), Vikings (2-1), and two clashes with the Cowboys (3-0).
The good news for Philadelphia is that they don’t have to think about what kind of rally they’d have to make to dig themselves out of the 1-3 hole. After beating the Packers 34-27 in a game that featured a scorching Aaron Rodgers, the Eagles have proved not only that they’re right there with the Cowboys in the NFC East, but also that they can be as good as any team in the conference. And, crucially, they’re now 2-2. Safety Malcolm Jenkins put it most simply—and eloquently—after the game: “2-2 is a lot better than 1-3.”
The Eagles went down 10-0 early but rallied, primarily on the ground. The offensive line opened up gargantuan holes in the Packers defense, and running backs Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders combined for 159 yards and two scores on the ground. Carson Wentz added a cool three touchdowns through the air; just like that, the Packers’ sterling 3-0 record turned to 3-1. It was Rodgers’s first-ever home loss after holding a 10-point lead.
Philly’s defense—which couldn’t cover Packers superstar wideout Davante Adams at all early—benefited from Adams’s late exit with a turf toe injury. The Eagle’s stout front kept running back Aaron Jones (21 yards on 13 carries) in check, and ultimately cut Rodgers’s game-winning drive attempt short with this pick on the goal line:
With an ending like that, this game should have been wonderful fun. It was enough to make you forget that this was Thursday Night Football. But just when football should be at its most fun is often when it reminds us all that this is a brutal, vicious sport. Two players left the game on stretchers in this game after head-to-head collisions.
In the first quarter, Packers running back Jamaal Williams took a violent hit to the helmet from Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett. Barnett was penalized but not ejected from the game. Williams left the field on a stretcher. Then, in the fourth quarter—two plays before the Eagles’ game-winning interception—Philly defensive back Avonte Maddox crashed into his teammate, safety Andrew Sendejo. Their helmets collided, and Maddox was also eventually taken off the field in a stretcher after a long delay.
Williams was evaluated for head and neck injuries and was immediately ruled out of the game. Maddox reportedly has movement and feeling in his extremities and was taken to the hospital. They were the type of terrifying injuries that the NFL will never be able to fully eliminate from the game—and overshadowed a result that reorients the NFC’s pecking order.