TiVo Time: Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions played their Super Bowl on Thanksgiving and all they got for their trouble was exposed. For the Green Bay Packers, it was just another game that looked the same as their other 10 wins this season: come into the 4th quarter with a big lead and then put it in cruise. TiVo Time means it’s time for the most in-depth look at the game that you’ll find anywhere.
15:00, 1st quarter — The Packers win another toss and defer. Mason Crosby kicks the ball out of the end zone. Matthew Stafford comes onto the field wearing gloves on both hands. Oblivious Lion fans apparently are unconcerned about the fact they play in a dome and yet their franchise QB wears gloves like he’s Ryan Braun stepping up to the plate. A splint on his hand explains one glove, but I guess the other is worn for style.
The Packers play nickel the entire first series. The Lions’ first play is a lead over right tackle to the reincarnated Kevin Smith. Desmond Bishop hesitates before closing ground and Smith gets close to six. On 2nd down the Lions get a couple breaks. First of all, B.J. Raji bulls his man into the backfield. With no other recourse, the Lions left guard, Rob Sims, takes Raji to the ground. The refs either don’t see it or don’t think this is holding. Secondly, Bishop has Smith in coverage, but he tries to pass coverage off to A.J. Hawk when Smith cuts inside. Hawk hesitates, and Stafford hits Smith for 14 yards.
On the 2nd down after that play, the Lions get an even bigger break when Stafford and his gloves throw a wildly inaccurate pass downfield that manages to hit Tramon Williams in the hands. Probably shocked to have a ball anywhere near him, Williams drops it.
The Lions have to punt after an obvious holding call on Nate Burleson makes it 1st and 15. The Lions proceed to go incomplete, wildly incomplete, and fumbled draw after the penalty.
9:16, 1st quarter — The Packers have to punt after driving to the Lions’ 43.
The Packers appear unfazed by the noise and the supposed fierce Lions’ pass rush in going 35 yards in three plays. Green Bay started in the shotgun with James Starks in the backfield. Using quick passes to combat the pass rush, Aaron Rodgers throws to Jordy Nelson for 15 and then finds a wide open Jermichael Finley for 12. Starks gains eight to the Lions’ 43 on the next play.
On the 2nd down after the Starks’ run, the Packers run the play fake, rollout, dump to the tight end that hasn’t worked all year. If Rodgers dumps to Finley immediately, he gets the 1st down, but Rodgers took a gander downfield first and Finley is nailed out of bounds when the quarterback finally tries to go to him. On 3rd down, the Lions blitz and play man-to-man. Finley is open on the cross. Rodgers throws it a tad wide and Finley gets his hands on it, but fails to bring it in.
It was there. Should have been converted.
2:20, 1st quarter — The Lions drive all the way to the Packers’ 30 before a holding call forces them to punt again.
The Lion drive was almost entirely dumps to either Smith or Maurice Morris out of the backfield. The Packers are truly in a bend, but don’t break defense here, with both inside linebackers dropping back so deep that the pass to the running back appears to be open on every play. It also doesn’t help that both Hawk and Bishop are playing on hurt wheels.
Stafford continues to be inaccurate when attempting any pass downfield. The holding call at the 30 comes when the Lions thought they could block Clay Matthews with Brandon Pettigrew.
0:28, 1st quarter — The Packers do a rare three and out here, and the tape shows it has almost nothing to do with the Lions defense.
On 1st and 10 from the 20, the Packers run the draw to Starks. The play is designed to go off left tackle and is very well blocked. It looks like another 10-yard run by Starks, except Starks stops and tries to cut back to the right. He loses one.
After a comeback route to Nelson, it’s 3rd and 3. The Lions blitz and play man-to-man and the Packers, especially John Kuhn, pick the blitz up beautifully. No one is anywhere near Rodgers, who has the quick out to Greg Jennings if he throws it right away. He also has a huge run if he steps out to his left. All the Lions around him are blocked, and all the Lions defenders downfield have their backs turned. Instead, Rodgers throws the out to Jennings late. It’s also slightly wide of the mark. Jennings makes a nice catch as he’s pushed out of bounds. Unfortunately, he’s a foot short of the first down.
11:01, 2nd quarter –– The Lions get to the Packers’ 43 before a highly questionable chop block call backs them up 15 yards.
The short Lions drive is basically two plays: a 22-yard run up the middle by Stafford, of all people, and an end around to Nate Burleson for 11 yards that everyone except Erik Walden saw coming from miles away.
The Lions shouldn’t feel picked on with the penalty, since the refs typically blow that particular call. The penalty also happened on a play where Walden had a sack; this is the second Packers sack that has been wiped out thanks to a Lions’ penalty. Stafford continues to be unable to throw the ball downfield. Once they’re backed up, the Lions have no chance to convert. On 3rd and 10, they try a screen to Morris, but Matthews bats it down.
5:50, 2nd quarter — The Packers punt to end one of the ugliest drives you’ll ever see, mostly thanks to the refs who called five penalties.
First of all, there shouldn’t have been a drive. On the third play, 3rd and 1, Rodgers throws the curl to Jennings when he runs the out. The Packers would have punted, except a pass interference call on the Lions gave them a 1st down. On the penalty, James Jones stumbled on his own — it’s terrible call.
No fear, Lions fans. One horrendous call deserves another. A few plays later, Rodgers hits Finley, who gets free up the sideline for 25 yards. It should be Packers ball at the Lions’ 25, but a holding call on Kuhn takes that away. Kuhn had a good block on the play, but when his defender tripped over Bryan Bulaga’s foot and went to the ground, the flag was thrown.
Ultimately the Packers would face 3rd and 1 from the Lions’ 46. The Lions have Finley bracketed high and low, but the low corner doesn’t cover Finley long enough and he’s wide open in the middle of the field. Rodgers throws the back shoulder to Jones instead, and it’s incomplete. Another Packers’ punt.
5:40, 2nd quarter –– The one big play of the 1st half happens two plays later. Stafford tries a screen to Morris, but this time Ryan Pickett gets his big body in the way. The ball bounces off Pickett’s shoulder, flies high in the air, and is brought in by the always hustling Matthews.
4:54, 2nd quarter — The Packers score three plays later to finally break the 0-0 tie in a game everyone expected to be high scoring.
Of course, it didn’t happen without another penalty being key. On 1st down, Rodgers tries the out to Jennings, but he’s well covered. The Lions’ defender didn’t have to grab Jennings’ jersey, but he did, leading to an obvious penalty.
Rodgers would find Jennings on the quick out just two plays later — 7-0, Packers.
On the play after the touchdown, Tramon Williams jumps a stop route to Calvin Johnson and the Lions are lucky it isn’t 14-0. After that, the Lions manage to drive to the Packers’ 29, all on runs and one 23-yard pass to Megatron. Jason Hanson would miss the 47-yard field goal to keep the Lions scoreless.
The Packers last possession of the 1st half would be nearly as frustrating as those prior to it. On 2nd and 10, Rodgers hits Jennings up the right sideline for about 15 yards. That makes it 1st and 10 in Lions’ territory. However, there are two penalties on the play, both of which are highly questionable. There’s a roughing the passer call on Kyle Vanden Bosch, which appears bogus, but not entirely surprising. There’s also an offensive pass interference call against Jennings, which is a complete rob job.
Troy Aikman marvels at the call against Vanden Bosch, apparently unaware that it was the Packers who just lost a big play.
On the ensuing Packers’ punt, Pat Lee is molested all the way down the field and well after the whistle, only to be flagged and ejected when he had the nerve to knock himself free of his assaulters. The whole play is ridiculous.
Thus ends a half filled with injuries and penalties. The Lions would end the half without Kevin Smith and two of their defensive backs. The Packers would end it without either of their starting inside linebackers and Josh Sitton.
9:21, 3rd quarter –– Ndamokong Suh does his thing on the person of Packers back-up right guard Evan Deitrich-Smith — on a failed 3rd down no less — and gets himself ejected Top Gun-style from the game.
Suh had been so well neutralized by Sitton and then Dietrich-Smith, that he was virtually invisible until this moment.
The Packers offense was finally doing what it had failed to do in the first half: maintain a long drive and finish it off.
The drive was jump-started when Rodgers found Finley on a go route for 26 yards up the sideline. Rodgers then hit Donald Driver for 15 yards before Jennings pulled off consecutive catches for 19 yards, getting the ball down to the Lions’ 7-yard line.
When Rodgers failed to connect with Driver on an out on 3rd and goal, Suh came to the rescue, his unnecessary thuggery giving the Packers a 1st down at the 1. Kuhn would barrel in behind Raji two plays later to make it 14-0.
5:40, 3rd quarter — The biggest back-to-back plays in the game occurred at the 5:40 mark.
The Lions had another drive to midfield, all on short passes, until Stafford finally took a shot over the middle of the field. He’d regret it immediately. Robert Francois lept high in the air to snag a pass to Pettigrew.
5:36, 3rd quarter — In a play very similar to the 3rd quarter strike that put the Falcons away, Rodgers goes play action, deep post to Jones, who goes untouched for a 65-yard TD. It’s 21-0 Packers, who just reminded everyone who they are — the undefeated defending NFL champs.
4:56, 3rd quarter — The Lions had outscored their opponents in the 3rd quarter by an even greater margin than the Packers this season. In this game, the Lions couldn’t get the 3rd quarter over quickly enough.
Just two plays later, Charles Woodson steals the ball from Pettigrew. The Packers take over at the Lions’ 33.
The Packers had a 2nd and 8 from the Lions’ 16 when Bulaga gave up his first sack of the season. Cliff Avril caught Bulaga a step slow off the line and got around him enough to get a hand on the football just as Rodgers is bringing his arm back to unload it. A fumble results, which also counts as a sack, but at least Bulaga had the wherewithal to get on the ball.
Mason Crosby makes a 35-yard field goal, and it’s now 24-0 Packers. Game over. You can talk about the comebacks the Lions had earlier this season, but none of those were against the Packers.
13:17, 4th quarter –– The 3rd quarter is over, and the Lions celebrate by finally finishing a drive in the end zone. As they have in every game this season, the Packers have a multiple-score lead in the 4th quarter. Their defense is in a shell, funneling everything to the middle of the field.
The Lions drive the ball entirely with runs and passes to their running backs, except for one pass to Megatron for 18 yards. The TD run is a disappointment. Both Francois and D.J. Smith were slow to react to the draw and got walled off. The Lions convert the two-pointer rather easily to make it 24-8.
2:46, 4th quarter — The Packers finish a six-minute, game-wrapping, drive with a 32-yard Crosby field goal to make it 27-8.
After the Lions’ score, Rodgers connected on a 31-yard go route to Jennings. That moved the ball to midfield, where drives go to die in this game. On 3rd and 4, Rodgers has Driver open on the dig route, but he tries to scramble, is caught by surprise and stopped by linebacker Justin Durant. It’s hard to blame Rodgers here because the scramble has been open for him most of the game, but this was one of the only times the Lions actually spied him.
That stop becomes meaningless because the Lions go three and out at the worst time. Megatron drops a short pass on 1st down. Stafford is sacked by Raji on 2nd down and on 3rd and long, Stafford dumps to Morris again who gets immediately crushed by Charlie Peprah.
The Packers take over needing only to keep the ball for a couple minutes to seal the game. They do more than that, as Rodgers has probably his sharpest series of the game. Twice, the Packers convert third downs. On 3rd and 5, Rodgers finds Jones on a beautiful back shoulder throw for 24 yards. On 3rd and 7 from the Detroit 34, Rodgers finds Randall Cobb for 12 yards, on what is essentially the game-clinching catch.
Rodgers even throws a wonderful ball to Cobb for a TD at the pylon, but Cobb is unable to corral it while being horrendously interfered with. The refs must have tired themselves out in the first half.
The field goal would wrap everything up but the fantasy stats.
The Packers defense really answered the bell in this game. I don’t care that the Lions moved the bell well between the 30s. The Lions entered the game with one of the highest-scoring offenses in football and the Packers defense completely muzzled them. They showed that if you take Calvin Johnson out of the Detroit offense; it’s relatively toothless.
It was an especially impressive job when you consider Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk didn’t play the entire second half.
The Packers defense continued to take the ball away, sometimes literally, from the opposing offense. That’s really all it needs to do for this team to continue to be successful. Sam Shields was invisible, which means he played well, and other than dropping a couple picks, Tramon Williams continues to round back into form.
Mike Neal is getting a good push and looks athletic around the line of scrimmage. He got a couple hits on Stafford right after he released the ball. His return has really allowed the defensive line to rotate bodies, keeping everyone fresher, and that has paid dividends with C.J. Wilson and B.J. Raji having more hop in their step.
The Packers offensive line also impressed. They handled everything the Lions threw at them and didn’t allow Detroit to dominate the game with their front seven. Marshall Newhouse had his best game of the year, and T.J. Lang and Scott Wells played mistake-free.
If the Packers offensive line plays like this against the Giants, it’s going to be horror show two weeks in a row for that defense.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers receivers continue to be the most dominant force in the league. One week after Jordy Nelson all but put the dagger in Tampa Bay, James Jones does the same to the Lions. Next week it could be a different guy.
In the end, the Lions looked like everyone else in the league — overwhelmed by a superior team. This is a historic and magical run. What else can you say? All this team does is WIN.
Shawn Neuser attended UWGB and lives and works in Green Bay. He enjoys long walks on the beach and being intimate with game film.