PHILADELPHIA — A rib injury to Aaron Rodgers, infinitesimal playoff hopes and the Jordan Love factor.
The Green Bay Packers had to deal with everything as they left town Sunday night.
Rodgers left Sunday night’s 40-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the third quarter with what the quarterback later said 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 last eight – that a team staffer pulled Rodgers’ suitcase from the visitors’ locker at Lincoln Financial Field.
That left Love to finish the game – and almost rally the Packers to victory nearly 15 years to the day that Rodgers replaced an injured Brett Favre on Nov. 29, 2007 in Dallas and nearly did the same.
Both backup quarterbacks fell short, with Love never able to tie the game because the Packers defense couldn’t stop at the last minute. While Rodgers’ replacement in his third year as a substitute served as a sign that he was ready to replace Favre, no one was ready to say Love had done the same on Sunday. But it was his most impressive performance in his three NFL seasons and left questions over whether he should finish the year.
Rodgers wasn’t ready to concede anything, not even next Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.
“As long as I’m off to a good start tomorrow, I expect to play this weekend,” Rodgers said Sunday night.
He was x-rayed at the stadium but said it was ‘difficult to tell from the x-rays’ if he had any fractured ribs. He said two plays — one in the second quarter when he was hit and landed awkwardly, then a third-quarter combo sack by Haason Reddick and Brandon Graham — caused the problem.
At the time of his departure, Rodgers had just led a drive that resulted in a Packers field goal to cut the Eagles’ lead to 34-23 with 2:03 left in the third quarter. He appeared to be uncomfortable during the ride and then ran to the locker room with several members of the team’s medical staff.
“Just [was] I’m having trouble breathing and turning my upper body,” Rodgers said. “I was also worried about a punctured lung, so I wanted to get that checked out.”
X-rays showed Rodgers did not have a punctured lung.
“I knew he was in a lot of pain,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “He’s one of the toughest guys I’ve ever been around, so I never question for a second his tenacity, his desire to be out there, his desire to compete. In fact, he’s apologized to me and I’m like, ‘Never apologize to me.’ Like, I’ll never question that.”
Earlier in the week, Rodgers revealed that the thumb injury he’s been playing with since Week 5 is actually a broken bone. He argued after the game that thumb surgery would not be needed either immediately or after the season, and in fact said it was “definitely better than last week”.
Rodgers had completed 11 of 16 passes for 140 yards with two touchdowns before leaving the field. He also threw two interceptions in the first half for the second time in four weeks; he also had two in the first half of Green Bay’s Week 9 loss to Detroit. That brought his total interceptions for the season to nine, already the most he’s thrown in a season since 2010 (when he had 11).
Love, the Packers’ 2020 first-round pick and possible Rodgers heir, entered the game with 11:11 left in the fourth quarter and the Packers trailed 37-23. He quickly threw a 63-yard touchdown, catch and run, to rookie receiver Christian Watson with 9 minutes left to make it a one-scored game. He led another practice that ended in a field goal with 1:08 to play.
“There are obviously a lot of other conversations that come into play once you’re knocked out and I’ll be open to all those conversations. Pride comes to mind. Love of the game. But there are other factors that obviously would come into play should we be mathematically eliminated.”
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
At that point, the Packers still had their three timeouts left, so Love thought he might get another possession. But just like what happened the whole game, the Eagles ran out of time. They rushed for 363 yards (157 by quarterback Jalen Hurts and 143 by running back Miles Sanders), the fastest yards the Packers have allowed in a game since 1977.
Love completed 6 of 9 passes for 113 yards, and both of his possessions gave the Packers points. They hadn’t converted a third 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 tilt to Watson, which converted it into a 63-yard touchdown.
Rodgers has dismissed any idea of shutting him down for the season — at least while the Packers still have a chance of making the playoffs. At 4-8, they’re still not technically off the mark, but ESPN Analytics only gives the Packers a 2% chance of making the playoffs.
“We need to win all five and probably need a little help,” Rodgers said.
As for what will happen if or when the Packers are knocked out of the playoffs, Rodgers said, “There are obviously a lot of other conversations that come into play once you’re knocked out and I’ll be open to all of those conversations. Pride comes from Love of the Game. But there are other factors that obviously would come into play if we were mathematically eliminated.
One of these factors, of course, is Love.
“Obviously I want to be on the court, but the situation is what it is,” Love said. “The hardest thing is trying to stay mentally prepared and staying locked in because you never know what might happen.
“I just go out there and try to make the most of the opportunity. Who knows what will happen in the future? As long as I do my best and make the most of my opportunity, who knows what will happen ?”
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