Kudos to the Green Bay Packers for taking it to the lowly Matt Stafford- and Calvin Johnson-less (and later, Daunte Culpepper-less) Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
The 26-0 shutout keeps the Packers’ home winning streak against the Lions alive at 19 games and gives the team a much-needed boost coming off their bye week, especially after a painful 30-23 loss at Minnesota. The Chicago Bears’ loss to Atlanta on Sunday Night Football puts the Packers back in second place in the NFC North, by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreak.
But as Journal Sentinel columnist Bob Wolfley pointed out, this was an ugly win despite the shutout.
Fox analyst Daryl Johnston throughout the telecast noted the penalties against the Packers, their inability to turn good field position into touchdowns and the sacks the Detroit Lions were able to generate with reserve defensive linemen.
“I don’t remember a sloppier opening to a game this year,” Johnston said, referring the penalties on both teams, including one that nullified a touchdown by Packers returner Jordy Nelson on the opening kickoff.
After the Packers went up 17-0, Johnston said the only positive for Green Bay was the score.
“You can be happy with the score right now,” Johnston said. “But there is a feeling out there right now that everything is good. We had a bye week and got some of those issues corrected. But it’s been very sloppy with the penalties. They’ve had great field position. I don’t know about this right now.”
The Packers had way too many penalties again, racking up 130 yards on 13 calls Sunday, a problem that’s plagued the team all season. The trend needs to change if the Packers are going to beat teams better than the Rams and Lions as the season rolls on.
Also, Green Bay got off to a quick start, scoring twice in the first quarter, but looked dead in the second quarter and didn’t capitalize on several opportunities to take control of the game. The Packers were in the red zone five times and scored only one touchdown and didn’t get in the end zone after the first quarter.
The Packers’ issues protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers continued as well. Detroit managed to sack Rodgers five times despite being without three of their four starting defensive linemen – bringing the total number of sacks allowed this season to 25. Admittedly, Rodgers is still holding on to the ball too long in some instances, leaving him partially to blame for some of these sacks. But it’s amazing Rodgers is still walking, let alone that he’s thrown for more than 1,400 yards and eight scores this season.
The most astute Moose musings came in the third quarter, after Mason Crosby kicked his fourth field goal.
“I think Green Bay is really fortunate that (quarterback) Matthew Stafford and (wide receiver) Calvin Johnson are not on the field today,” Johnston said. “It would be a lot stickier right now. So many missed opportunities. They are probably going to be OK this afternoon, but this type of offense will come back and bite them down the road. Detroit would be giving them fits right now if they had everybody they could put out on the field offensively that would help them.”
Not sure I could have put it better myself. The Packers have another cakewalk ahead of them when they visit the Cleveland Browns next Sunday. But then it’s back to the real world with Minnesota, Dallas and San Francisco on the schedule in three of the following four weeks.
The problems plaguing the Packers before the bye haven’t gone away and the schedule will only get tougher.
Something still needs to change.