GREEN BAY—Jordy Nelson thought he caught it. So did Mike McCarthy. Their reaction on the sideline said it all.
But the replay review didn’t go the Packers’ way and instead of climbing within seven points with 9:32 to play, the Packers remained down by two touchdowns and lost by that margin, 27-13, to the Eagles on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
The play in question came on fourth-and-4 from the Philadelphia 8-yard line, moments after the Packers successfully challenged a sack-fumble that gave them a turnover in the red zone, trailing by 14.
Third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien’s fade to the corner of the end zone was a little high for Nelson, but the veteran receiver got a hand on it and tried to pull it in underneath his body as he fell to the ground. The pass was ruled incomplete on the field, but replays showed Nelson’s hand may have remained under the ball the entire time it was pinned to his abdomen.
No dice. Referee Mike Carey ruled Nelson did not have complete control and that the ball did touch the ground.
“Obviously disappointed,” Nelson said. “I thought the last view gave enough evidence that my hand and arm were underneath it. But I guess he told Mike that he had a clear shot that the ball moved or something. It is what it is.”
Had the Packers gotten the call, it would have kept them in the game and given Tolzien his second TD pass in relief of backup QB Seneca Wallace, who exited after one series with a groin injury.
Tolzien’s top target was Jarrett Boykin, who finished with eight catches for a career-high 112 yards, Boykin’s second 100-yard game in the last four weeks. First-year tight end Brandon Bostick caught Tolzien’s lone TD, a 22-yard strike down the left side late in the third quarter.
The touchdown was the first for both Tolzien and Bostick and it pulled the Packers within 20-10 at the time.
“It’s a dream come true, but like I said, I’m not too happy about it,” Bostick said. “We lost the game.”
Tolzien’s offensive mates were complimentary of his play in a tough spot, as he threw for 280 yards on 24-of-39 passing. An interception in the end zone on third-and-3 from the Eagles’ 5-yard line was the biggest black mark on his day.
“He was confident in the huddle,” Nelson said of Tolzien. “He came in, played aggressive, wasn’t scared and did his job.”
No fun clubbing: The large, padded club on his right hand to protect his surgically repaired broken thumb rendered outside linebacker Clay Matthews a virtual non-factor in his return after a four-game absence.
The press box statistics credited Matthews, who did not play full-time, with just two tackles, and it was obvious he missed the use of his right hand.
“I tried to do the best I could with one hand, tried to stick the club in when I could,” said Matthews, who wasn’t thrilled with a roughing-the-passer penalty he picked up on one of the few occasions he got near Eagles QB Nick Foles. “It was good for me to get back out there, get some plays underneath my belt and try to move forward.
“Baby steps. I know the way I can contribute on this defense, and it’s frustrating when you’re limited physically. It’ll continue to get better.”
Matthews added that he hopes the club will get smaller as the weeks go on, to the point that it will eventually be down to just a brace. Having just had the stabilizing pins from his surgery removed from his thumb this past Monday, Matthews said the hand definitely hurts, but he expects that to improve, too.
“It’s more difficult going out there with one hand than dealing with the pain,” he said. “It’s going to hurt, but that wears off. They assured me that it would be very difficult to reinjure the hand, being in the club with the protection I have. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean the pain goes away. That’s a byproduct I need to continue to push through, and I will.”
Two early misses: Kicker Mason Crosby’s strong season hit a bump in the road on Sunday, as he missed his first two field goal tries from 53 and 42 yards before recovering to make his last two attempts, from 26 and 35.
Crosby had missed just two field goals all season coming into the game, making 19 of 21. Both of his misses Sunday were to the right, with the 53-yarder hitting the outside of the right upright, and the 42-yarder hugging the right upright but just missing it.
“I’ve been hitting the ball extremely well,” Crosby said. “Not that I didn’t hit the ball OK today, but I just had a couple I didn’t play right. I’m frustrated with it, but I’ll make sure I move on from it. I had to move on in the game.”
Had Crosby made the two early kicks, the Packers might have been down only 10-9 at the half, rather than 10-3, though Eagles kicker Alex Henery missed one in the first half, too, wide left from 39 yards.
Crosby seemed especially frustrated with the 42-yarder because he hit it right where he wanted to, expecting it to curl to the left.
“We have to score every time we get an opportunity,” Crosby said. “That was on me today. I have been kicking the ball really well. I’m going to continue to do that and move past this one.”
Two-sack day: Rookie first-round draft pick Datone Jones got his first NFL sack last Monday against the Bears, and he added two more on Sunday against the Eagles, both in the first quarter.
His first sack was similar to the one against Chicago, where he dropped off the line of scrimmage into zone coverage and then chased down the scrambling quarterback behind the line. His second came on a more traditional rush upfield late in the first period.
“I think Datone is getting better and we need him. He needs to get a lot better, too. He’s got ability, he does some things well, but he needs to be more consistent Monday through Saturday and I think it will help him on Sunday. I was very proud of some of the things he did today, but we need more,” Mike McCarthy said.
More line shuffling: For the second straight game, the Packers had to shuffle their offensive line due to injuries, and on Sunday they had to do it twice.
When center Evan Dietrich-Smith left with a knee injury in the second quarter, right guard T.J. Lang moved over to center, with right tackle Don Barclay moving to right guard and Marshall Newhouse coming off the bench to play right tackle.
Then, when Barclay injured a knee on Crosby’s 35-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, undrafted rookie Lane Taylor – the last active offensive lineman – replaced him.
“It’s a little ridiculous, how many injuries we have,” left guard Josh Sitton said. “If anybody, we know how to deal with injuries, but this is for sure the most I’ve seen around here. We’re used to playing with a different rotation, and it was no different today.”
How severe the injuries are isn’t known, but depending how the next week goes, the Packers may need to activate former first-round draft pick Derek Sherrod for the first time since December of 2011. Sherrod was put on the active roster from the PUP list this past week but was inactive for the game.
“We just have to keep playing,” said Lang, who missed the second half of last week’s game with a concussion but was cleared to play. “We’re not going to sit there and pout about somebody getting hurt. There’s still a lot of football left.
“You have to play a full four quarters, and that’s something that, especially these last two weeks, we’ve fallen apart in the fourth quarter. It seems like we have a chance and we don’t take advantage of it.”
More injuries: In addition to the injuries to Wallace, Dietrich-Smith and Barclay, the Packers also reported injuries to three defensive players – lineman Johnny Jolly (groin), linebacker Nick Perry (foot) and cornerback Casey Hayward (hamstring).
The injuries to Perry and Hayward are ones they’ve already dealt with this season. Complete game coverage