If the Green Bay Packers’ defense is going to find a way to help this team make the Super Bowl, it will probably need players like Chandon Sullivan and Rashan Gary to make solid contributions down the stretch. However, in Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions, those two players were barely seen in the second half.
Sullivan played 33 snaps at Ford Field on Sunday, his fewest since week eight and third-fewest in any game all season. Likewise, Gary’s 19 snaps were more than just two other games this year, and both of those were contests that found him dealing with injuries.
Gary’s absence from the defense in the second half came without any explanation from the Packers, but Sullivan’s was more easily explained. The latter seemed to be performance-based, as he struggled to cover the Lions’ receivers for much of the game. Grading and advanced coverage stats later this week should tell his story a bit better, but for now, the Packers need their young slot corner to elevate his play moving forward, particularly with a talented Panthers receiving corps on deck next week.
Here’s a look at the playing time numbers from Sunday’s 31-24 victory in Detroit.
OFFENSE (67 total plays)
Aaron Rodgers 67
Whether or not Rodgers is truly the front-runner for the MVP award remains to be seen, but he certainly should be, at least in this writer’s mind. He leads the NFL in touchdown passes, touchdown pass rate, ANY/A, passer rating, and QBR, trailing Patrick Mahomes in only two major categories: total passing yards (3685 to 4208) and yards per attempt (8.2 to 8.5). And this week, while Mahomes threw a trio of interceptions and helped put the Chiefs in an early hole they had to climb out of, Rodgers never put the Packers in a tough position and did not turn the football over.
It was another exceptionally efficient day for Rodgers at Ford Field, as he completed 26 of 33 passes (his sixth straight game over 70 percent) for 290 yards and three touchdowns. That’s now four straight with three passing scores and three straight with a passer rating over 125. Rodgers then added his second rushing score of the year, a six-yarder, to further his lead in total touchdowns.
Aaron Jones 47, Jamaal Williams 20
The Packers’ running game was anything but explosive on Sunday, but in the second half these two were able to start finding a little bit of running room. Jones had 69 yards on 15 carries, a 4.6-yard average, but had a long of just 11 yards. He also caught two of three pass targets for six yards. Williams added 38 yards on ten carries and was not targeted in the passing game.
Davante Adams 62, Marquez Valdes-Scantling 47, Allen Lazard 46, Equanimeous St. Brown 17, Tavon Austin 4, Juwann Winfree 1
Adams and MVS deserve to split the headlines for this game. Adams had the early big play, a back-shoulder pass that he turned into a 56-yard touchdown, and his seven catches for 115 yards led the team.
MVS, however, had his most complete game as a pro, catching all six of his targets for 85 yards. His contested touchdown catch in the second quarter was a thing of beauty, and he looked smooth and comfortable running a complete route tree on Sunday. If this version of MVS is one that shows up consistently in the last three weeks of the year and into the playoffs, the Packers’ offense might be well and truly unstoppable.
Lazard had a quiet day, catching two of three targets for 19 yards. St. Brown had a big 15-yard reception early, while Austin was worked in slowly to the offense, though he caught two passes on his four snaps for eight yards.
Robert Tonyan 41, Marcedes Lewis 38, Dominique Dafney 12
Another game, another touchdown for Tonyan, who is up to a whopping nine on the season and has quietly scored in four straight games. In this contest he was targeted as a short-yardage possession receiver, and he converted the final third down that allowed the Packers to kneel out the clock late in the game. He finished with five catches on five targets for 36 yards, and he still has a stunning catch rate of 88.5 percent.
Lewis had one reception for six yards while Dafney was used primarily as a run-blocker from the H-back position. He had a few nice blocks early on, but missed a big one on Austin Bryant that went for a loss.
David Bakhtiari 67, Lucas Patrick 67, Elgton Jenkins 67, Billy Turner 67, Rick Wagner 67
The Packers’ line stuck with the same unit that it rolled out last week against the Eagles, and once again Rodgers did not take a sack. He took one big hit late in the game, however, looking pretty uncomfortable after being driven into the turf.
There were a few penalties on the unit on Sunday, however, as Patrick got flagged for holding while Bakhtiari and Jenkins each had false starts. Bakh’s came on a play when the play clock was winding down and he moved as soon as it hit zero but slightly before the snap, while Jenkins’ took place on Mason Crosby’s late field goal attempt. That took the attempt back from 52 yards to 57, but Crosby drilled it anyway to put the Packers up by ten points late in the game.
DEENSE (68 total plays)
Kenny Clark 56, Kingsley Keke 36, Dean Lowry 34, Tyler Lancaster 19
December Kenny Clark has arrived. The fifth-year tackle posted his second sack of the season on Sunday and picked up four solo tackles as he looks like he’s turning it on for a big late-season push. Lowry had a great two-play sequence where he disengaged from a blocker to make a tackle for a short gain on a run, then burst through the line for a ten-yard sack of Matthew Stafford on the next snap. Keke got his most playing time in any game in his young career, recording a hit on Stafford and a pass breakup.
Za’Darius Smith 59, Preston Smith 56, Rashan Gary 19, Randy Ramsey 9
Gary had a strong start to the game, with a sack in the first half, but was notably absent for much if not all of the second half. His potential injury situation will be worth monitoring this week. The rest of the edge group seemed to have a quiet game, with Preston Smith recording just two tackles (with an offsides call against him) and Za’Darius landing just one entry in the stat sheet: a pass breakup. Ramsey’s only notable play was a penalty for illegal hands to the face.
Christian Kirksey 46, Krys Barnes 40, Kamal Martin 12, Oren Burks 2
For the first time this year, a healthy Kirksey did not play every snap, instead ceding some playing time to Barnes. It showed in the stats, as Kirksey had just four tackles, a season-low in a game where he was not injured. Barnes had three solo stops while Martin had one assisted tackle plus a big hit on Stafford on a blitz.
Adrian Amos 68, Darnell Savage 68, Will Redmond 44, Vernon Scott 16
The Packers’ safeties continue to improve as the season goes along. Savage recorded his first career sack on Sunday while leading the team in tackles with a career-high eight. Amos had seven stops of his own, which included a tremendous tackle for loss on a swing pass and a pass breakup.
With no Raven Greene, the Packers turned to Redmond as a do-it-all hybrid linebacker/safety/slot corner. He finished with two tackles and it will be interesting to see how he looks in coverage stats later this week. Scott had a nice, albeit brief, performance, with a pass breakup on a play that was erased by a penalty and a single solo tackle.
Jaire Alexander 66, Kevin King 66, Chandon Sullivan 33
With the Lions picking on Sullivan for much of the first half, the Packers decided to keep him off the field late, going with Redmond in nickel instead. Alexander, meanwhile, had three tackles and a pass breakup and continued his All-Pro level play. King was also targeted frequently, finishing the game with five solo tackles.
SPECIAL TEAMS LEADERS
Burks 20, Redmond 20, Ty Summers 20, Ramsey 18, V. Scott 13, Winfree 11
Let’s give a quick shout-out to Mason Crosby for saving another potential return touchdown. That came immediately following his 57-yard field goal — one yard short of tying his career-high — as he tracked down Jamal Agnew up the left sideline and knocked him out of bounds at the 33-yard line to force the Lions to drive for a score and take some time off the clock while down by ten points.