Calvin Johnson: slam dunk

So we all know that some food and drink weren’t the only things that got crushed this Thanksgiving, but let’s take a closer look at who on the Green Bay Packers maybe earned their game check versus the multitude that took the money and ran.

9:36 1st Quarter – The Detroit Lions take the opening kickoff and drive 66 yards before a Reggie Bush fumble gives the Packers the ball.

The Packers are in the nickel the entire drive, and yet, the two biggest gashes are on pass plays. Sam Shields is obviously concerned about Calvin Johnson getting by him on the outside, as I would be. On the second and then the fourth play of the drive, Johnson fakes to the outside and slants inside for easy and matching 17 yard gains. Shields actually has help over the top, if you can call M.D. Jennings help, and therefore shouldn’t be giving up easy underneath gains.

On second and 9 from the Packers’ 21, Reggie Bush takes a draw and gets 9 around Clay Matthews’ end when Matthews is blocked just by Brandon Pettigrew and isn’t in the play. However, on the very next play, Bush tries a draw up the middle, and Matthews splits a double team and knocks the ball loose. Morgan Burnett picks it up and returns it to the Packers’ 10.

5:35 1st Q – The Packers pick up a couple first downs to at least tip the field position back into their favor.

The first play for the Packers ends up being one of their best, when they surprise the Lions with an opening screen to Eddie Lacy. It is well-blocked and Lacy splits defenders in getting 20 yards. If  Lacy were not tripped up by a diving arm tackle by Rashean Mathis, he might have gone the distance.

After converting a third and 8 with a nice pass on the out to Jordy Nelson, the Packers had first and 10 from their 41. On first down the Packers tried the screen to Lacy on the other side. Lacy took too long to get out of the backfield, and Flynn is lucky it’s incomplete. On second down, the Packers literally have three lineman block one guy, and no one blocks defensive end Devin Taylor, who rides Lacy down for a 1-yard gain. On third and 9, Flynn has Andrew Quarless on the slant, but he holds the ball. Defensive end Ziggy Ansah drives David Bakhtiari back and then buries Flynn for a 3-yard sack. Punt.

14:50 2nd Q – The Lions’ second possession goes 80 yards in 11 plays to end in a short field goal, making the score 3-0.

The Packers are actually in their base defense for most of this drive, and yet, they get gashed worse by the run.

After a holding call seemingly set the Lions back, they get a 13-yard run by Bush inside the left end, and then a 12-yard run by Joique Bell around the same end. After a simple dump to Bush gets 9 yards because A.J. Hawk is too slow getting out to him, a quick slant to Chris Durham gets 14 when Devon House first fails to cover the play and then blows the tackle.

After another 12-yard run around the left end by Bush, the Lions somehow catch the Packers blitzing Brad Jones and throw a screen to that same side to Bell. There are three blockers and only two defenders, and Bell cruises up the middle of the field for 27 yards.

On 1st and goal from the 7, Stafford wants tight end Joseph Fauria on a slant against Tramon Williams. Williams keeps inside position and jumps the slant. Stafford throws it anyway. This could be a pick six for Tramon except A.J. Hawk, of all people, manages to bat the ball, and it falls harmlessly to the turf before Williams can get to it. On third and goal, Brad Jones has pretty good coverage over the middle on Pettigrew, but the ball gets by him and goes right through Pettigrew’s hands. David effin Akers comes in and kicks the short field goal.

12:40 2nd Q – The Packers respond with a short drive for a field goal to tie the score at 3-3.

On the following the kickoff, the kick went out of bounds, giving the Packers the ball at the 40. On the first play of this possession, Flynn had no business throwing over the middle to James Jones, but he did it anyway. Jones makes another miraculous catch with Stephen Tulloch all over him. It is good for 16 yards.

Showing it is Bakhtiari more than Ansah, on this same play, Taylor buries Flynn right after running right over Bakhtiari.

Someone tell Bakhtiari to keep his ass beneath him because he keeps getting knocked over every time he has to shuffle to his left and take on the oncoming defensive end. As they have ever since coach Jim Schwartz got there, the Lions defensive ends line up wider than the normal set, meaning the tackles have to shuffle out further to meet them. Either James Campen didn’t properly coach Bakhtiari on how to handle this, or the coaching didn’t “take.”

After a 4-yard run by Lacy, the Packers are to the Lions’ 40. The Lions blow the coverage on Andrew Quarless, leaving him wide open slanting across the middle. Flynn is locked on Nelson and tries him instead. It is knocked down. On third down, everyone is covered and Flynn does well to scramble for 4 yards. Mason Crosby comes on to try a 54-yard field goal and splits the uprights with about 2 yards to spare.

12:33 2nd Q – Nick Perry makes the biggest play of the game for the Packers, getting a sack-fumble that results in a Morgan Burnett fumble return for a touchdown to make the score 10-3.

Obviously, this would be the high tide for the Packers in this game. Once again, Perry made a big play while coming off the side that Matthews normally rushes from. Matthews was on the bench at the time. Healthy or not, the Packers substituted for Matthews quite liberally this entire game. Burnett lined up on the line of scrimmage and probably catches the fumble right out of the air if Perry doesn’t run into him. Fortunately, Matthew Stafford kicked the ball towards the goal line while trying to jump on it. Burnett easily picked it up and strolled in for the score.

8:45 2nd Q – After another Lions’ drive into Packer territory ends with a Tramon Williams interception, the Packers go three and out to begin as awful a stretch of football as Packers fans have ever been subjected to.

The Lions had third and 1 from their 32, and they had the gaul to run an end-around to Jeremy Ross. A.J. Hawk has outside contain, and after initially playing it well by getting upfield to cut Ross off, he overruns it. Ross cuts back and gets past him. Ross then uses the exact same move on Chris Banjo, who overruns it, and Ross takes off for 24 yards.

That moves the ball near midfield, but a couple plays later Stafford throws the out to Kris Durham without reading that the Packers are sitting in zone. Williams intercepts it and gets head-tackled by Durham that gifts the Packers 15 yards.

Up 10-3, the Packers had the ball at midfield with a great chance to go up two scores. Instead, they would go three and out on the worst possession of the game for Matt Flynn. If a game in which the Packers got steam-rolled in near historic fashion can be said to have a turning point, this would be it. The Lions would be done giving the Packers gifts, while the Packers would be more in the holiday spirit.

On first down Flynn probably has Nelson or Jones open on the slant on the left side. Flynn telegraphs the throw, and Ndamukong Suh runs straight down the line to knock the ball down. On second down, the Packers finally get seven blockers against seven defenders — an equation that has worked great for the Lions. Lacy takes it up the middle with Quarless leading the way. If Lacy breaks it to the right of Lang, he has a big run. Instead, he tries to cut off Quarless and runs into Ashlee Palmer when Quarless overruns the block. It is a 1-yard gain.

On third and 9 the Lions rush four and drop seven. The Packers leave John Kuhn to help out on Ansah, giving them six blockers. They do their job. Flynn has all day. Nelson is being single-covered and appears to have the out for the first down. Flynn can throw it there or simply shuffle to his left and have a cigarette or something. Instead, he decides to throw it downfield to Jones against double coverage and is lucky that Louis Delmas plays the man instead of collecting an easy pick if he plays the ball. Punt.

4:35 2nd Q – The Lions go 85 yards in eight plays to tie the game at 10-10.

The majority of this drive is on two third down plays. The fact that the Lions even faced third down shows that the Packers defense had yet to begin the real suckage.

On 3rd and 4 from the Lions’ 21, Stafford found Bush down the sideline for 32 yards. A.J. Hawk actually had good coverage on the play, but this is the best route that Stafford throws, being a touch passer. He dropped it in perfectly to Bush on the outside.

On 3rd and 1 from the Packers’ 38, the Lions pulled from the Vikings’ playbook and off the play fake threw the ball to the tight end coming across the formation. Andy Mulumba and Brad Jones let Dorin Dickerson run right by them, and Dickerson gets up the sideline for 26 yards.

On second and 3 from the 5, Stafford fakes the run and hits Ross for a touchdown in the quick jet. House has man-to-man coverage on Ross, but when Ross pretends to block for the run, House lets him go free.

1:22 2nd Q – After a long punt return set them up at the Packers’ 33, three Reggie Bush runs was all the Lions needed to get back into the end zone and commence with the butt-kicking.

On the Packers’ next possession, they had third and 6 from their 24 after two Lacy runs. Flynn initially has time against a four-man rush. However, when Lacy releases for a pass, Tulloch decides to go right for Flynn. If Flynn dumps to Lacy, he is uncovered. No one is within 15 yards of him. Seriously. But Flynn is too busy stuck on his read to the right. Tulloch dumps him for an 8-yard sack.

Tim Masthay punts it 52 yards and with enough hang time for House to be right in front of Ross as he catches it. However, either House doesn’t have it in his heart to tackle Ross today or the guy just has no interest in being a gunner on punts. Ross runs right by him, runs right by Sean Richardson, and gets up the sideline for 35 yards, setting the Lions up at the Packers’ 33.

On the second play of the drive, the Packers have eight defenders in the box versus six blockers. This leaves Hawk and Burnett unblocked on either edge. It’s irrelevant. Bush bursts straight up the middle through a sizable hole between B.J. Raji and Josh Boyd. Bush gets to the 1.

On the very next play, Mulumba and Brad Jones seem confused about who is supposed to take the edge. They both play inside and both end up getting blocked by the left tackle. Bush walks in for the touchdown to make the score 17-10.

That would be the score at half. At the 1:22 mark, Evan Dietrich-Smith would injure his knee. The Packers’ brilliant method of handling this situation is to put T.J. Lang at center, insert Marshall Newhouse at right guard, and leave Don Barclay at right tackle. I believe this strategy is codenamed Chinese Firedrill.

Operation Chinese Firedrill is a huge success on the very first play. T.J. Lang nearly snaps the ball past Flynn and into the end zone. Flynn has Jones on the stop or Nelson across the middle, but perhaps transfixed by the circus in front of him, he holds the ball. No one blocks anyone. Ansah bulls through Bakhtiari again and sacks Flynn right before four other Lions get there.

Comically, the Lions would miss a short field goal after we all had to wait a couple minutes for the effin refs to review whether the Packers had 12 men on the field just so the Lions could get 5 effin yards at midfield. Someone explain to me the rationale to that insanity.

9:08 3rd Q – After a Packers’ three and out to start the half, the Lions go 63 yards in nine plays to take a 24-10 lead.

On first down, Flynn nearly throws a pick to DeAndre Levy. On second down, the Packers line up in the inverse wishbone and go play-action pass. I like the play. Unfortunately, Delmas blitzes off the corner. Andrew Quarless decides to double the guy Bakhtiari is blocking and lets Delmas run right by him. It is an 8-yard sack. Even with Operation Chinese Firedrill out there, that was NOT the fault of the offensive line. I have no idea what Quarless is doing out there. Maybe he is trying to get Flynn back for refusing to throw him the damn ball when he is uncovered. Regardless, punt.

The Lions started at their 37 and quickly faced a third and 7. The Packers are in dime and playing man-to-man. The pass rush gives Stafford exactly three seconds before Matthews and Perry both crash the pocket. Stafford throws the ball at the last second. The Lions ran Durham and Johnson on a cross. Williams and M.D. Jennings run into each other, uncovering both guys. Stafford hits Johnson for 19 yards.

The Lions picked up a 3rd and 1 by hitting Johnson on the slant again inside of Shields for 12 yards. Three plays later it would be third and 10 from the 20. The Lions run the same damn play as what picked up the third and 7, with the only difference being that Johnson motioned into the slot instead of just starting there. Johnson cuts underneath Pettigrew and is amazingly uncovered. Johnson catches the ball with no one around him. Morgan Burnett makes an armless attempt to tackle, to use the word “attempt” VERY loosely, and Johnson walks in for a touchdown.

If I went out and tried to tackle a bus, it would be as admirable.

Operation Chinese Firedrill recommences with a creative one and out. Flynn drops back with six guys blocking four. Flynn just needs to step up in the pocket and he’ll have time. Wrong. He tries to throw it without stepping up. Bakhtiari, who is against this whole playing on Thanksgiving thing, just for the record, actually is pushing Taylor out of the play, but Taylor reaches out as he is being pushed by and knocks the ball out of General Flynn’s hand. The Lions recover at the Packers’ 37.

This would mean little more than comedy as the Lions turn it right back over three plays later. On third and 10, Stafford is chased out of the pocket by Nick Perry. He stops and tries to throw it up for Johnson. Showing either how clueless the defense is or how much everyone trusts Sam Shields, he is alone in the corner of the end zone with Johnson. Amazingly, he outwrestles Johnson for the interception.

5:33 3rd Q – A drive into Lions’ territory ends with a DeAndre Levy interception.

With the final tally of the score and the stats, it is easy to forget that the Packers had the ball at the Lions’ 42-yard line only down two scores with 5:40 left to go in the 3rd quarter.

They got there mostly through the help of an 8-yard pass to Ryan Taylor that turned into a 23-yard gain when a 15-yard penalty for touching a receiver in the tender regions was added to it. On third and 6 from the Lions’ 42, the Lions rushed four against six initial blockers before Kuhn released. Flynn has time. This is about as good as it would get for Flynn. He keeps dropping back until he is 12 yards behind the line of scrimmage before throwing what I believe is a comeback route to Jarrett Boykin. It is actually a well thrown ball except that Quarless and Levy are also in that area, and Levy has inside position and picks the pass off.

0:53 3rd Q – The Lions’ defense gets a safety to put the Lions ahead 26-10.

Believe it or not, the Lions were forced to punt after Levy’s interception. However, Micah Hyde decided to fair catch the ball at the Packers’ 5-yard line. Make no mistake, this is the trend league-wide. In the Sunday night game, I saw a punt fair caught at the 2.

This makes no sense to me. I am fully aware that coaches are scared stiff of having to start with the ball inside the 2. However, is there really a big difference to start at the 5? Not in this case, it isn’t. If you let the ball bounce, it could bounce into the end zone, or it could bounce upfield. That is two favorable possibilities out of three. How is that not better than choosing a best case scenario of starting at the 5?

Anyway, the Packers start at the 5, and Operation Chinese Firedrill is in rare form. Marshall Newhouse appears to have forgotten he is playing guard instead of tackle. He lets Suh run right by him into the backfield. Flynn is looking for Kuhn in the flat, and it is covered. Flynn should just fire it over the head of Kuhn and move on, but that would be a good decision. Instead, Flynn dives forward and is sacked at the 2. On the next play, Suh moves right around Newhouse, who perhaps thinks Lang will give him help to the inside. Wrong. Lang just stands there until it is too late. Suh splits them and sacks Flynn for the safety.

That would be the end of Marshall Newhouse’s time at right guard, as he is replaced the next series by Lane Taylor.

13:06 4th Q – Following the safety, the Lions quickly put the game away by scoring another touchdown to go up 33-10.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Stafford rolls to his right. The Packers have the drag routes to the tight end covered this time. Stafford throws the deep cross instead to Durham. Shields has great coverage, but Stafford again leads his receiver perfectly for a 36-yard gain.

On the next play, Bell takes a handoff going right. When Mike Neal and Williams both jump to the outside, Bell cuts it inside of them, runs through Burnett, jumps a diving Jennings who only manages to take out Williams’ legs so that Bell can drag him to the 1-yard line. Bell would score two plays later to make the score 33-10 and make Packers fans universally agree that this game cannot end soon enough.

4:20 4th Q – The Lions mercifully run off over seven minutes in driving 75 yards for the final score in the game, making it 40-10.

After another Packers’ three and out, the Lions did what they couldn’t in running the clock down. The drive is all running plays until the final play. The Packers twice forced a third down, but third and 1 was the best they could do. Bell simply ran up the middle for first downs on both plays. After Bush broke about five tackles on a 14-yard run down to the Packers’ 20, Stafford finally threw a pass — a back-shoulder to Kevin Ogletree because it was castoff receiver touchdown day. Ogletree made a spinning one-handed catch for a touchdown because that’s just how he rolls.

One positive with this final drive was that Sean Richardson was on the field instead of M.D. Jennings, thus ending Jennings’ run at the most missed tackles in a single game. Richardson even made a couple tackles that Jennings likely would have whiffed on.

The Packers would appropriately end their day with a fumbled exchange between Lang and Flynn. This came after James Jones made an absolutely sick catch and run up the sideline for 56 yards, nearly doubling the Packers’ offensive output on the day.

Well, in the NFL, days like this will happen. Frankly, I agree with Troy Aikman that this team simply looked worn down and worn out. They have been battling injury and their opponents since their Week 4 bye, and they were at the end of their endurance.

I struggle otherwise to explain how a team that was ranked in the top five in rushing offense and defense only five weeks ago can now be 8th and 26th respectively. There is nothing tricky about what opponents are doing to the Packers defense. They are simply beating them one on one. The Packers defensive linemen who were playing so well through the first two months of the season are now failing to take on double teams or get off the block when single-blocked.

The Packers ends are being inconsistent. They make a great play on first down, and then give up the edge and 11 yards on second. The Packers inside backers are running through a lot more traffic and not getting home. The Packers safeties are not sure tacklers, especially out in space. The Packers corners are also playing inconsistently and are not making big plays, even though they did actually manage to catch two interceptions in this one.

I have the feeling that after the mini-bye provided by a Thanksgiving game, we might see a much improved line on both sides. We will see.

Matt Flynn was terrible in this game. Packers fans are generally glad that Aaron Rodgers was sitting out during Operation Chinese Firedrill, but Flynn did not help his cause. Normally known for dumping the ball off, Flynn held onto the ball too much in this game and paid the price for it.

If the Packers get Rodgers back this Sunday, then at least they become watchable again. At this point, it is hard to believe that this team could win out, even with Rodgers. The defense and the special teams are simply too poor to inspire any confidence.

The bottom line is that the Packers needed to win one whole game without Rodgers in order to save their season. I thought they would do it. I thought they could win a couple games without him. I was wrong. That was back when I believed in the Packers’ ability to run the football and stop the run. Amazingly, both those virtues disappeared with Rodgers’ absence. The ability to run the ball is somewhat understandable. The ability to stop the run is not.

The Packers are now one loss from their season being over.