Green Bay’s defense did an atrocious job of stopping the run Sunday night.
Let’s rephrase that: The Green Bay D excelled at getting blocked, pushed around and beat down.
The Packers were gouged on the ground, giving up 363 yards rushing on 49 carries (7.4 avg.). Philadelphia running back Miles Sanders pedaled to a career-high 143 yards. Quarterback Jalen Hurts ran for 103 of his career-high 157 yards in the first quarter, the best single-quarter tally by a QB over the past 45 seasons.
Overall, Green Bay allowed 500 yards of offense and 6.3 yards per play. Atrocious is not an exaggeration.
There was, however, one Packers defender worth praising: recently signed rush linebacker Justin Hollins.
Picked up Nov. 23 after surprisingly getting waived by the Los Angeles Rams, Hollins received 21 defensive snaps and recorded a sack, three pressures and two tackles for loss in his debut for Green Bay.
Hollins, 26, originally entered the league as a fifth rounder in the 2019 NFL draft out of Oregon. He played in 15 games for Denver his rookie season but got released during the 53-man cutdown in 2020.
From 2020-21, Hollins suited up and made two starts in 24 regular-season games with the Rams, working as a rotational pass rusher. He played a career-high 41% of L.A.’s defensive snaps and registered a pair of sacks during the eight games in which he appeared as the Rams trekked to the Super Bowl. In 2022, Hollins notched five more starts in 10 games.
Then, abruptly, Hollins was waived – and claimed by Green Bay, whose defensive coordinator, Joe Barry, served as lead assistant to Sean McVay and coached linebackers for the Rams when Hollins arrived in 2020.
The relationship between Barry and Hollins, compounded by Green Bay’s dire need for help off the edge with Rashan Gary done for the season, made the claim put in by the Packers for Hollins a no-brainer.
Hollins proved right away that a sizable future role should be a no-brainer, too.
With 6:50 left in the first half of the 40-33 loss at “The Linc”, Hollins supplied one of the scarce impact plays made by Green Bay’s defense, sacking Hurts five yards in the backfield, leading to an Eagles punt.
Sack No. 1 for Hollins as a Packer deserves to be studied. It was a big-time play.
On a second-and-3 at Philadelphia’s 35-yard line, Hollins hopped out of a two-point stance, attacked the outside arm of Jordan Mailata and used his inside hand to throw the Eagles left tackle off balance.
Hollins didn’t have the luxury of Hurts standing still or manipulating the pocket. Hurts abandoned it completely – sensing Hollins squeezing by Mailata – and sprinted out to his right. Hollins gave chase. And, obviously, won the race, grabbing Hurts – who runs the 40 in 4.59 seconds – by his waist.
Other notes from Sunday’s snap counts:
– Rookie first-round defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt played 20 defensive snaps Week 12, five more than his previous high of 15 which he got one week earlier against Tennessee. Still, it was hard to notice Wyatt out there. The Georgia product lined up in the B gap – the space between a guard and a tackle – on 17 plays, made one solo stop and was credited with a hurry on eight snaps rushing the passer. Unfortunately, Wyatt’s 20 snaps coinciding with Green Bay’s nightmarish effort in the trenches is a bad look for everyone involved.
– For the fourth time this season, defensive back Keisean Nixon was on the field for more than 50% of Green Bay’s defensive snaps. Present for 66 of Philadelphia’s 80 offensive plays (82%), Nixon posted three tackles, including one for a loss, and fared exceptionally well manning the slot. Per Pro Football Focus, Nixon was targeted in coverage just twice, and allowed two catches for minus one yard. Unrelated to defense, Nixon also wowed on special teams, returning five kickoffs for 172 yards (34.4 avg.) – an impressive average dragged down by his first return, and its 10-yard glory, after a muff in the end zone.
– The snap split and target share between Packers wide receivers Sunday night was interesting to say the least. In descending order, here’s how many of the 49 snaps were assigned to five guys used: Allen Lazard (49), Christian Watson (45), Randall Cobb (22), Sammy Watkins (4) and Samori Toure (2). OK, so far it all checks out – then you realize the target distribution and similarly the production. Watson turned six targets, tops in the group, into a team-high four receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown. Cobb ranked second among WRs with four targets and had two catches for 19 yards and a TD. Lazard, the de facto No. 1 wideout on the team – a torch perhaps passed to Watson in Week 12 – and only other wide receiver targeted, caught two of three passes for 24 yards, his least productive outing since a 2-13-1 Week 1 line.
– AJ Dillon finally excited fantasy managers that stashed the third-year running back on their bench. Dillon put together his most efficient game this season against a formidable Eagles front, toting the rock eight times for 64 yards (8.0 avg.) and a touchdown and added three receptions for 24 additional yards. Dillon again took a far backseat to RB buddy Aaron Jones in terms of playing time – Jones outsnapped Dillon 35-21 – but the latter wasn’t nearly as effective running the ball, gaining 43 yards on 12 carries.
– Entering the game in the fourth quarter after Aaron Rodgers exited with a rib injury, 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love provided a possible glimpse of the future while quarterbacking for 10 snaps. The top highlight for Love was his third completion, on a slant over the middle to Watson – the speedy rookie did the rest, turning on the afterburners and going the distance for a 63-yard touchdown. Love wound up completing six of his nine attempts for 113 yards. He wasn’t sacked and went home with a 146.8 rating.