The Green Bay Packers defeated the Detroit Lions by the score of 24-20.
How Do You Stop A Lion In Its Tracks?
The answer is simple: Run.
The focus of the Packers’ offensive game plan became clear early in the game. Hand the ball to James Starks in order to slow down the pass rush of the Lions. The offense ran the ball 14 times in the first half and added 15 rushes in the second.
In a rare display of play call balance for Mike McCarthy, the Green and Gold finished with more rushing attempts (29) than pass attempts (27).
James Starks led the way with his hard-nosed running on an afternoon where most of the offense fell flat.
Matched up against the Lions’ fearsome four-man defensive line, Aaron Rodgers and the offense struggled to find much open space against seven Lions defenders dropping back into pass coverage.
Rodgers wasn’t spectacular on Sunday, but with the game on the line, he led his team down the field for the winning touchdown.
Young Defensive Backs Making Their Mark
After a few misses early in his tenure, Ted Thompson has hit the mark on defensive backs during the last few drafts.
Rookie Casey Hayward continues to shine. Already leading the team in interceptions, the second-round pick added his fifth interception of the season on Sunday.
Add in his team-high five passes defended on Sunday and the 23-year old out of Vanderbilt had another fantastic afternoon.
Second year cornerback Davon House also played well blanketing his receivers and accounting for one of the defense’s five sacks.
Safety Morgan Burnett flashed his closing speed during a Packers goal line stand by registering a sack against Matthew Stafford. The third-year safety let a ball slip through his hands on a Calvin Johnson touchdown pass, but overall, the former Georgia Tech standout continues to put himself in position to be successful on the field.
It’s still early in each of these players’ careers, but the future of the Packers defensive backfield looks bright.
Jermichael Finley has taken plenty of criticism from the fans this season. At times the critiques are warranted and at other times they aren’t, but with the opposing team regularly double-teaming the Packers tight end, he has routinely become a non-factor in many games this season.
On Sunday, however, he made the most of the three passes thrown in his direction.
On a beautifully designed play in the second quarter, Rodgers and Finley provided one of the Packers’ few offensive highlights.
Running back James Starks trailed after his guard and center as the trio sprinted to the right. Lined up tight to the right side of the line at the snap, Finley slipped out of his stance and ran a shallow crossing route to his left. The Lions’ defenders anticipated a screen and followed Starks as Rodgers deftly found Finley in stride. The tight end did the rest barreling into the end zone for a 20-yard score.
Finley’s number was called again with the game on the line late in the fourth quarter. With the Packers down by six, and the offense struggling, Rodgers found Finley twice. The tight end ran around would-be tacklers and patiently followed his teammates’ blocks for a 40-yard gain. On the following play, the duo teamed up again for six yards.
The drive culminated with a dazzling Rodgers to Randall Cobb touchdown pass, but it was the awareness and presence of Finley that put the Packers in position for the score.
Rating The Lines
The Detroit Lions’ formidable defensive front has given the Packers plenty of problems over the years, but on Sunday, the Packers patchwork offensive line was especially woeful.
Whether it was committing penalties or allowing multiple sacks and pressures on Rodgers, the line looked downright offensive.
The Lions’ defense finished the day with three sacks, multiple pressures and a number of hits on Rodgers. Despite an above average showing in the running game, the Packers’ offensive line struggled mightily in the passing game.
The Packers defensive line, however, played well.
Finishing the afternoon with five sacks, the Packers line was constantly pestering Matthew Stafford and the Detroit offense.
Running back Mikel Leshoure racked up 84 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, but his strong effort was nullified by the combination of an effective Packers pass rush and an off day for Matthew Stafford.
The defensive line kept Stafford from finding a rhythm for most of the afternoon and the team’s five timely sacks ensured the Packers victory.
After the debacle that resulted in a week 3 loss at Seattle, safety M.D. Jennings has been waiting all season for another shot at his first career interception.
Early in the third quarter, Jennings’ goal was fulfilled.
After hauling in a tipped ball off the hands of Lions’ tight end Tony Scheffler, Jennings zigzagged his way down the home team’s sideline sprinting past every player on the field. Jennings covered 72 yards to regain the lead for his team and notch the Packers first defensive touchdown of the year.
On a lesser scale, kicker Mason Crosby found his own redemption. Crosby’s right leg ended up providing the decisive points for the Packers. After missing 50- and 38-yard field goals earlier in the day, it was Crosby’s extra-point on Cobb's touchdown catch that provided the difference in the contest. Add in a late 39-yard field goal and the Packers kicker managed to salvage an awful day.
After escaping Ford Field in Detroit with a victory and their health, the Packers are riding a five-game winning streak. Nose tackle B.J. Raji limped off the field on the Lions’ final possession of the game, but there were no indications an injury will keep him out of next week’s Sunday night contest against the New York Giants.
Sunday’s victory wasn’t pretty, but the Packers did what was necessary to come away with a road win against a divisional opponent.
Max Ginsberg is a regular contributor at CheeseheadTV, blogs at PurplePantsGreenJersey.com and can be reached via Twitter @MaxGinsberg or at maxginsberg[at]yahoo.com.
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