The Green Bay Packers positioned themselves for a division title and more by finishing off a sweep of the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on a snowy Sunday night.
7:16, 1st quarter — The Lions open the game in impressive fashion with a 12-play, 80-yard drive that takes nearly eight minutes and makes the score 7-0.
With only four active defensive linemen available, the Packers are in the nickel despite the snowy conditions. The Lions appear to have planned for that and the conditions. They run a heavy dose of their package featuring six offensive linemen and dominate the Packers on both edges.
The biggest play of the drive came on a somewhat embarrassing reverse to Mike Thomas that went for 22 yards. The entire defense was sucked to the right on the play, leaving Frank Zombo alone on the opposite end. Zombo didn’t play it aggressively enough and ended up getting chopped to the ground by Matt Stafford. Even though Thomas appears to be Davon House’s guy, House never gets across the field to tackle him.
After getting stopped short on a 3rd-and-1 from the Green Bay 4, the Lions immediately decide to go for it. They smartly run a QB keeper and Zombo looks foolish again as he jumps on the dive play and Stafford easily strolls around him for the TD.
3:40, 1st quarter — The Packers respond with a similar drive of their own that ends with a different result.
Forget the snow, the Packers are in the no-huddle offense through most of this drive. Their first play surprises pretty much everyone involved when DuJuan Harris takes the handoff and goes for 11 yards around right end. On their only 3rd down on the drive, Aaron Rodgers scrambles for 6 yards and the 1st down.
A couple plays later, Rodgers rolled to his left and found Randall Cobb near the left sideline for 21 yards, down to the Lions’ 12.
However, on 2nd-and-10, Rodgers would be forced to step up by Ndamukong Suh, who beat Don Barclay to the outside. Rodgers would attempt to escape to his right and got blindsided by Lawrence Jackson. Rodgers fumbles and the Lions recover to snuff the drive. Marshall Newhouse was doing fine on Jackson until Suh rubbed him off the block while coming around the edge.
12:45, 2nd quarter — The Lions continue their early domination of the game by going 79 yards in 11 plays to make the score 14-0.
The Lions open it up more in this drive by running most plays from the shotgun. Stafford got things going with a 13 yard out to Tony Scheffler out of the slot against Brad Jones. Two plays later, Stafford gave it to Joique Bell around the left tackle. Zombo got buried on a kick-out block and House got juked badly, as Bell got the edge and then 13 yards.
On the only 3rd down during the drive — 3rd-and 2 from the Green Bay 41 — Stafford easily found Tony Scheffler on a quick out against Casey Hayward for 4 yards and the 1st down.
Two plays later, Stafford would hit the one big play of the drive with a 27-yard pass up the right sideline to Kris Durham, who made a one-handed catch that House couldn’t have stopped even if he hadn’t stumbled on the play.
The Lions would score on a pick play to Scheffler where House was unaggressive at the line and gave up once picked. Enter Sam Shields.
10:55, 2nd quarter — The Packers responded with a much needed drive for a field goal to get on the board.
The key to the drive was likely the Lions’ unnecessary celebration in the end zone, which enabled Cobb to return the ensuing kickoff to the Packers’ 38.
On the first play of the drive, Rodgers finally takes a shot against the two deep with a bullet up the right sideline to Greg Jennings for 27 yards.
The drive would be stalled shortly thereafter, when Josh Sitton is called for holding — if you say so — and the Packers fail to overcome it. Mike McCarthy bravely trots out Mason Crosby for the 49-yard field goal, which he makes to everyone’s relief and amazement.
6:28, 2nd quarter — On the ensuing kickoff, the Packers are glad to have Sam Shields back. Stefan Logan appears to have the corner when he changes direction, but Shields runs him down before he can get the sideline.
The Lions then pick up consecutive 1st downs with conversions on 3rd-and-1, moving the ball to the Green Bay 42 before disaster occurs. On 1st down, Stafford drops back and wants the quick pass to his left. Comically, the ball slips right out of his hand when he pulls it back. Perhaps even more hilarious, the ball bounces off of Stafford’s head when he tries to dive on it and rolls out nicely for the oncoming Mike Daniels.
Daniels shows great dexterity in picking up the ball, bouncing off a tackle attempt and then breaking free for an unchallenged return for a TD. The miraculous play, caused by the conditions more than anything else, makes this a game at 14-10. Who said snow isn’t to the Packers’ advantage?
The Lions would respond with a similar drive that advances to the Packers’ 41. At that point, Stafford has all day in the pocket and tries the post to Durham. Shields has inside position and shows his receiver skills by snatching the ball out of the air and immediately transitioning to offense. He also shows some wisdom by sliding down near midfield once surrounded by offensive linemen.
The Packers would go three and out after the interception and the Lions would be content with going into halftime ahead 14-10, the same lead the Vikings had on the Packers last week.
12:05, 3rd quarter — The Packers get the ideal start to a half that would be theirs by driving 74 yards in eight plays to take their first lead of the game at 17-14.
The Packers start the drive off by going max protect and throwing a comeback route to James Jones for 11 yards. Facing 3rd-and-6 from the 40, Rodgers ran to his right and threw it downfield to Cobb, who dropped it. However, not only were the Lions offsides, but Suh gave Rodgers a two-handed shove after he released the pass, drawing a 15-yard penalty that moved the Packers into Lions’ territory.
A short pass to Jermichael Finley and another to Cobb helped the Packers reach the Lions’ 27. On 3rd-and-4, Barclay got bulled into the backfield while Marshall Newhouse got run over by Willie Young. Rodgers pulled out a move I remember John Elway doing and eluded both ends by jumping straight backwards. He ran out to his right, saw all the defenders running away from him, ran for the first down and then just kept on going. Twenty seven yards later Rodgers was in the end zone showing a rare title belt followed by a Lambeau Leap.
9:00, 3rd quarter — The Lions answer with basically one play to get into field goal range and tie the game at 17-17.
On 3rd-and-7 from their own 30, Stafford found Calvin Johnson at midfield. Johnson caught the ball on the deep square in and then ducked to absorb the hit by Morgan Burnett. The refs flagged Burnett for hitting Johnson high to add 15 more yards to the play. The fact that Johnson ducked prior to the blow means that he was not a defenseless receiver and any contact to his helmet that occurred was a direct result of the duck.
Regardless, the Lions would fail to get another 1st down, but 8 more yards would put them in field goal range. The ageless Jason Hanson made a 46-yarder to tie the game.
5:30, 3rd quarter — On 3rd-and-9 from the Green Bay 25, Rodgers stepped up in the pocket and found James Jones on the square in for 16 yards. A hard run for 11 yards around the right end by Alex Green moved the Packers into Lions’ territory. The Packers would punt from there, when Rodgers misfired on an out to Jennings from the slot.
3:30, 3rd quarter — After a Detroit three and out set up the Packers at midfield, Randall Cobb made a one-handed catch on the corner route for 24 yards. Unnecessarily afraid of a challenge, Rodgers hurried the offense to the line and ran a pass play that resulted in a throw away. Rodgers then followed another incompletion with a devastating sack. Evan Dietrich-Smith got bitched by Nick Fairley on the play, but Rodgers cannot take a sack there.
Crosby missing from 51 meant the Packers had blown a great chance to take the lead.
14:50, 4th quarter — The Lions would reciprocate with a missed field goal of their own.
The Lions drove to the Green Bay 33 mostly thanks to a 15-yard dump to Bell working against Brad Jones in the middle of the field. Both Packers middle linebackers continue to show poor technique in covering running backs. They need to either play more aggressively and make contact within the 5 yards or get into a backpedal and take an angle after the cut.
On 3rd-and-4, Stafford takes a play out of the Packers playbook and attempts the fly route to Durham. Shields has excellent coverage and probably picks it if he doesn’t stumble.
Hanson would attempt his own 51-yard field goal from there and come up short.
10:45, 4th quarter — From their own 41, the Packers would launch the seven-play, seven-runs drive that would put them out front to stay.
On the first play of the drive, the Packers line up in a rare I formation. Everyone just blocks one-on-one and John Kuhn leads around the left end, kicking out the linebacker. Green cuts inside and gets 6.
On 3rd-and-2, from the shotgun, the Packers run the exact play that Jermichael Finley whiffed on earlier and two linebackers buried Green for no gain. This time Finley handles Stephen Tulloch, Jeff Saturday gets out on Dwayne Levy, and Green runs hard for 10 yards.
On the next play, the Packers go with the inverse wishbone with Greg Van Roten in the backfield with Kuhn and Green. Green follows Van Roten, who totally misses Justin Durant, but Green shoves past Durant and gets 9 more.
The Packers bring Ryan Grant in to the acknowledgement of the crowd, and Grant lines up in the I behind Kuhn. This appears to be a zone run where Grant has the option to go wherever there is daylight. Kuhn blocks right, but Grant cuts left, seeing Dietrich-Smith opening a gap and Newhouse leading through to the second level. Grant gets 13.
Enter DuJuan Harris. After Harris fell and got back up for 5 yards, he would follow Dietrich-Smith through the right side and go untouched for a 14-yard TD to make it 24-17. The key to the play was Josh Sitton, who stood up Suh at the line, which enabled Barclay to immediately go to the second level to cover up Tulloch. When Dietrich-Smith chopped Levy to the ground, it was wide open for Harris.
Harris would do a rare Lambeau Leap with the football still in his hands.
7:10, 4th quarter — Needing to answer, the Lions would pick up two 1st downs before having to punt. On 3rd-and-8, Stafford would try for Scheffler on a deep cross, but Hayward has great coverage and Stafford has to throw it too far in front.
4:06, 4th quarter — The Packers would drive into field goal range to basically ice the game, mostly thanks to one play.
On 3rd-and-11 from the Green Bay 36, the Lions mixed it up by only rushing three and dropping eight into coverage. Rodgers would take his time, step up in the pocket, and then find Cobb in a gap of the zone for the 1st down. Cobb would shake a tackler and end up getting 38 yards.
On 3rd-and-7 from the Lions’ 23, Rodgers would take a shot at extending his TD streak at Lambeau with a pass to the end zone for Greg Jennings. It’s there, but Rodgers overshoots it. As a reward, Rodgers would get some “business” from Nick Fairley, who obviously has been taught well by Suh.
Remember, there are always two.
Crosby would have to kick it from 41 and this time he’d put it right down the middle, putting the score at 27-17.
Needing a quick score, the Lions would get near midfield before turning it over on downs in a sequence reminiscent of how the game ended in Detroit. On 4th-and-10, Stafford had Scheffler breaking open in the zone downfield, but he radically misfired, threw it 5 yards behind his tight end and nearly into the arms of Jerron McMillian.
The Lions would manage to add a last-second field goal to make the final score 27-20.
The Packers stretched their franchise record to 11 straight wins over NFC North opponents. It was an ugly start to the game, but give the Lions credit for coming out and making plays. In what was the opposite of the game in Detroit, the Lions had much more success running the football in the first half than they did in the second.
Once the Lions offense went back to exclusively relying on the pass, the Packers’ excellent defensive secondary could exert itself, helped by Stafford’s buckshot inaccuracy, which seems mostly the product of having no chemistry with any of his receivers other than Megatron.
The Packers need Clay Matthews back not only to juice up the pass rush, but also for what he does against the run. Charles Woodson could also help there. Regardless, everyone about thought the Packers were dead in the water without Matthews and they are 3-1.
Greg Jennings only caught one pass. So, once again, a defense managed to take away the outside receivers. The Packers overcame that in the second half by running the football and finding Cobb on key plays, but I still believe Rodgers is going to have to redevelop a rhythm with his receivers not named Cobb in order for the Packers to advance in the playoffs.
Yes, Don Barclay is a more than adequate run blocker, but Josh Sitton has also raised his game, which is perhaps the unsung factor in the running game. Sitton’s ability to single block linemen has made it easy for Saturday and Barclay to get to the second level.
I like what DuJuan Harris brings to the table, but I am going to wait and see what happens against Chicago before I am overly sanguine about the Packers’ running attack. Obviously, the last so many weeks are a positive sign. The Packers rank 18th in rushing yards per game. When was the last time they were anywhere near that?
With the win, the Packers now have two clear avenues to the division title: either beat the Bears next week or beat the Titans and Vikings. The Packers would win the divisional tie breaker against either team thanks to having the better divisional record.