Sunday marked the 23rd straight time that the Detroit Lions came to Wisconsin and left defeated. Let that sink in for a second. In a league full of parity, the Packers continue to hold a distinct home-field advantage over the Lions.
Most of that might have to do with the consistent level of play that Packers organization has maintained over that time period, while the Lions have been a model of inconsistency in that same stretch. One could also point to the two quarterbacks (plus Matt Flynn's infamous New Year's Day game in 2011) that have kept that 23-game streak intact.
The fact that Calvin Johnson didn't play on Sunday takes a little luster off the victory in my opinion, but a win is a win. The defense was able to key on the Lions' only other truly dangerous weapon, Reggie Bush, and kept their offense quiet for most of the afternoon.
The offensive struggles in the red zone continued on Sunday, and it is starting to become a problem. Five field goals is not going to cut it when these two teams meet on Thanksgiving. I do love that Mason Crosby and the word "automatic" have been seen in the same sentence lately though (knock on wood).
TO THE GRADES!
As many expected, Aaron Rodgers had his way with a Lions secondary that was overmatched. Rodgers made some beautiful passes (Cobb in double coverage), but only managed to score one touchdown on the day. You can blame the play-calling of Mike McCarthy (which is fair) or James Jones grazing the sideline on another would-be touchdown, but as the quarterback, you have to be able to punch the ball into the end zone more in order to win consistently.
Rodgers finished 20 for 30 for 274 yards and one touchdown for a passer rating of 106.8. Another solid day on the job for #12, but I'd like to see more third-down conversions, and less stalling in the red zone.
Running Back: B+
Eddie Lacy was a holding call away from becoming the third different Packers running back to rush for 100 yards on the season. Instead, he finished with 99 yards on 23 carries for a 4.3 average. The Lions defensive line is unquestionably its strongest position on that side of the ball, so for Lacy to average almost five yards a carry is an impressive feat. If the Packers can continue that kind of production from the rookie tailback, this coaching staff might not have a choice but to run the ball on third-and-short situations.
The only thing holding this positional grade back is Johnathan Franklin's performance. Franklin finished with one yard on three carries and a fumble. Franklin did not see another carry the rest of the game, and for good reason. Coach McCarthy did the same thing to Starks in the preseason, and I don't expect many carries for Franklin in next week's match-up with the Ravens defense. Two fumbles in two straight games is a red flag, and running backs with a fumbling problem don't last long in the NFL (unless your name is Adrian Peterson).
Wide Receiver: A+
Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones all made spectacular plays on Sunday. Cobb's 67-yard run in the third quarter was a huge energy boost to an offense that needed a spark, and his one-handed grab in double coverage was pure athletic awesomeness. Nelson continued to make acrobatic grab after acrobatic grab, and continued to show amazing body control with some sideline grabs as well. James Jones' 83-yard touchdown reception was a welcomed break from the field-goal fest of the first half.
Jones finished with four receptions for 127 yards and one touchdown. Nelson added five receptions for 82 yards, while Cobb added four for 35.
Tight End: B
Jermichael Finley had a decent game with six catches for 32 yards, including a first-down grab that kept a drive alive. Other than that, Finley was held to short gains, and didn't really create much separation in the red zone. If Finley can become a bigger target in the red zone when teams are focusing on stopping Cobb, Nelson, and Jones, it could go a long way in helping this offense turn field goals into touchdowns.
I don't want to rag on any particular player too much, but Ryan Taylor needs to make that catch. I'm not sure he will get much more open than that in his career. I feel bad for the guy, but a Not Top 10 play deserves a grade deduction in my book.
Offensive Line: B+
The offensive line should have produced another 100-yard rusher on Sunday, and only allowed one sack against a talented defensive line. Don Barclay (false start) and David Bakhtiari (holding) were each called for a penalty, but held their own for the most part.
Sitton and Lang didn't show any glaring flaws, and Evan Dietrich-Smith didn't get destroyed by one of the more athletic defensive tackles in the league. Overall, this unit continues to grow, and is showing signs of being more than just a mediocre line.
Defensive Line: B+
The defensive line held Reggie Bush to 44 yards on 13 carries, while Joique Bell added 21 yards on five carries. Johnny Jolly led the unit with 2 tackles, while Mike Daniels added one. B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett were held tackle-less, but that was mostly due to the Lions only attempting 19 carries in the entire game. I'm not going to expect a pass rush from this group until I actually see it, so I'll give them a solid B+ for another strong performance stopping the opposing team's rushing attack.
A.J. Hawk led the defense with nine tackles, while hybrid linebacker Mike Neal added six. Nick Perry was probably the biggest, and most welcomed surprise of the entire game as he recorded five tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble. Clay Matthews added five tackles and one sack, while Brad Jones added three.
Losing Brad Jones to the phantom hamstring curse, and Clay Matthews to a broken thumb, is never a good thing. Throw in Robert Francois' torn Achilles tendon, and you have a recipe for disaster. Not to mention that the Packers will be going up against Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and Matt Forte in the next month.
The good news is that Andy Mulumba (three tackles) and Jamari Lattimore (one tackle) were able to maintain a high level of play for the remainder of the game. Time will tell if Jones' injury is significant or not, but losing Matthews for a month (for the second year in a row) is going to be a big blow to this team's ability to create a pass rush. Thankfully, most of the teams over the next month don't have a pass-heavy offense.
Without Calvin Johnson, the Lions offense lost a lot of its fire power. Regardless, Sam Shields and Tramon Williams both performed well against the Lions wide receivers. While I'm not overly impressed with shutting down the likes of Ryan Broyles and Kevin Ogletree, it is a confidence boost for a unit that was torched by the 49ers in Week 1.
Davon House led the unit with six tackles, while Tramon Williams added five. Sam Shields added two.
Sam Shields is starting to show the potential of blossoming into a shutdown type corner, and if the Packers can add a healthy Casey Hayward to that mix, it could result in a few coverage sacks, which is exactly what the doctor ordered with a Clay Matthews-less defense in the coming month.
Welcome back Morgan Burnett! His pass break-up at the end of the third quarter was a game-changer, as it denied a potential touchdown pass that would have cut the score to 16-10 going into the fourth quarter. Burnett finished with five tackles, while M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian each added three.
Masthay recorded three punts for an average of 47 yards, landed one inside the 20, and only allowed two kick returns. As long as Masthay continues to record more kick offs than punts, Packer nation will be a happy bunch.
Who is this Mason Crosby character? five for five?! a 52-yard field goal?! That's pretty neat. I think it's safe to say that Crosby found his groove again, and we no longer have to hold our breath on 30-yard field goals. I knew it was never a problem with talent, but I doubted he would ever be able to clear his head of the demons that had plagued him the past two seasons. I'm happy to admit, I was wrong. Much like Masthay, however, I would prefer Crosby be five for five on extra points next week.
Overall, it wasn't pretty, but the Packers pulled to 2-2 on the season by defeating a divisional foe. I'll take that in whatever form it comes in. The injuries on defense are beginning to mount, and I'm not sure how much more they can take, especially at linebacker. Let's hope Brad Jones can return next week, as he has been a model of consistency so far this season.
The offensive play-calling in the red zone needs to improve. For a team that talks about establishing the running game, it sure didn't seem confident on third-and-short on Sunday. I am all for bubble screens to Randall Cobb, but if you have one-yard to gain, give the ball to your 230-pound running back. After a few conversions with that, you can gamble and use play-action fakes to open up seam passes to Finley, or deep passes to Cobb, Jones, and Nelson.
Time to get ready for a trip to Baltimore, where the defensive front seven will be tested. Let's hope Aaron Rodgers can have a similar performance against the Ravens defense that Peyton Manning had in Week 1.
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