Turnovers on Menu for Eagles vs. Packers – Sports Illustrated

GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers entered this Thanksgiving week thinking about turkey.
The Philadelphia Eagles are thinking about turnovers.
The Eagles, with an NFL-best 9-1 record headed into Sunday night’s game against the Packers, lead the league with a plus-12 turnover margin. That’s powered by a defense that is tied for No. 1 with 13 interceptions and is No. 1 overall with 21 takeaways.
“It’s a complete unit,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “You look at every level of their defense, they’ve got star players.”
The defensive line borders on absurd. How about a four-man front of Robert Quinn, Brandon Graham, Ndamukong Suh and Milton Williams? Those are the Eagles’ backups. The Eagles acquired Quinn – who finished second in the NFL in sacks last year – from the Bears at the trade deadline, then added veteran defensive tackles Suh and Linval Joseph last week. Joseph went from unemployed to starting against the Colts and stopping Jonathan Taylor in a span of just a few days.
At linebacker, the Eagles signed Hasson Reddick, who had 23.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles the past two seasons, and Kyzir White, who had 144 tackles last year for the Chargers, in free agency. They join T.J. Edwards, the former Wisconsin star who has gone from undrafted free agent to standout starter.
At cornerback, opportunity knocked and the Eagles answered. Twice. They acquired Darius Slay from the Lions for third- and fifth-round picks in 2020, then signed James Bradberry when he was released in March by the rival Giants. Then, at the end of camp, the Eagles sent two late-round draft picks to the Saints for safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.
Reddick leads the team with 7.5 sacks. Gardner-Johnson leads the NFL with six interceptions. Bradberry and Slay have three interceptions apiece and are each allowing sub-50 percent completion rates.
Behind those bunch of shrewd moves, the Eagles have built a powerhouse unit. They are seventh with 18.3 points allowed per game. They are second in total defense (300.6 yards per game), second in passing defense per game (178.4) and first in passing per play (5.07). They are first in interception percentage, seventh in sack percentage and ninth in the red zone.
“It’s a defense that can really run,” LaFleur said. “I think they play their scheme extremely well. Obviously, the two corners on the outside are really a good combo, and they know that they can count on the pass rush getting home, so they can be a little bit more aggressive in certain situations. I think that’s a lot of the reasons why they’ve had so many picks.
“Chauncey Gardner-Johnson’s been a great addition to them. We got to see him up close and personal when we practiced against the Saints and he’s a guy that we’ve got a ton of respect for. He’s one of the better safeties in the league.”
It all adds up to what seems like a colossal challenge for a Packers offense that has struggled to produce from play to play and series to series. Green Bay is 26th in scoring after finishing first in 2020 and 10th in 2021. Only four teams have more turnovers than Green Bay’s 15. Aaron Rodgers, who has been playing through a broken thumb the past six games, has seven interceptions in 11 games this season after throwing a total of nine in 32 games the last two seasons.
Philadelphia’s run defense ranks among the league’s worst, a potential area for LaFleur and Rodgers to target, but it limited Taylor to 20 yards on 11 carries in the second-half last week.
“They’re big and they’re physical,” LaFleur said, noting the Eagles will line up with five- and six-man fronts to stop the run.
For Green Bay to have a chance, it will have to replicate the winning plan from two weeks ago against Dallas. Run the ball effectively, stay in manageable down-and-distance situations and hit on some big plays when there are opportunities.
“It starts up front in the run game and the protection,” Rodgers said. “They’ve got a lot of good pass rushers, guys inside and outside that can get after you. I’ve got to deal the ball on time, we’ve got to get open and we’ve got to keep them off-balance, moving the pocket and obviously mixing in runs in the shotgun.”
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Christopher Jones
Christopher Jones
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