If I took away the box score and told you that the Packers defense was going to hold the Detroit Lions' offense to 10 points; you're assuming the Packers win by double-digits, right? Well, in what seemed like a mirror image of last week, Eddie Lacy fumbled the ball on the first offensive play from scrimmage for the Packers. Lions defensive back Don Carey was the only player who noticed, and scooped and scored from 40 yards out to give the home team the 7-0 lead.
The Packers would answer back later in the quarter with a nine-play, 59 yard drive capped off with a 10-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to Andrew Quarless. Who knew that those would be the only points scored for a "vaunted Packers offense" going up against a decimated Lions' secondary that was supposed to be mediocre before the injuries hit?
Overall, it was probably the worst the Packers offense has looked in some time, while the defense hung tough for most of the game (until late in the fourth quarter when the time of possession factor really became a problem).
Let's take a look at a more condensed version of the performance grades.
While I prefer to assign blame on a positional basis, it's hard not to give the entire offense a failing grade this week. The run game still hasn't shown up this season, Aaron Rodgers doesn't look sharp, and the wide receivers can't create separation against back-up cornerbacks and safeties.
While it seems like every season starts off slow, there are usually some silver linings to hang your hat on. I can't seem to find one so far this season, at least not on offense. The only individual that would receive a passing grade from me on Sunday is Andrew Quarless (+2.3 overall grade, +1.4 pass grade), who ran crisp routes in the passing game, but was sub-par in run blocking and pass protection. At the other tight end spot, Richard Rodgers (-1.8 overall) was manhandled in run blocking. On the safety, Rodgers wasn't even able to slow down Jonathan Jones - if he gets any sort of block at all, Lacy probably gets around the corner and picks up four or five yards. Randall Cobb (-1.9 overall) publicly apologized for the team's performance after the game on Sunday, and frankly, he should. He's had a lackluster start to the season aside from a few red zone scores, and wasn't able to create much separation against newly acquired free agents in the Lions' secondary.
David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga were able to hold their own on the edge, with both only allowing one pressure on the day. Corey Linsley didn't allow a pressure, but did get blown up by Nick Fairley on a bootleg that almost resulted in a sack on Rodgers. T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton had forgettable performances on Sunday. Lang allowed a sack for the second straight game, while Sitton couldn't seem to move anyone off the ball at the point of attack on running plays.
It's clear Eddie Lacy (-1.6 overall) never mentally recovered after his fumble early in the game. He didn't make good reads, and when he did, looked timid. There were opportunities for him to lower his shoulder and pick up extra yards, but he instead decided to take runs outside and was often dragged down for minimum yardage. James Starks (38 yards on 8 carries) and DuJuan Harris (two yards on three carries) were adequate in relief of Lacy, but there is a considerable drop-off when the team has to rely on those two backs in the run game.
Aaron Rodgers just looked "off" on Sunday, and hasn't really looked locked in at any point this season. I can't remember the last time I've seen him skip a pass off the ground like he did to Boykin on a third-and-long in the second half. He also missed a touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson when he threw behind him on a slant route. He finished 16 of 27 for 162 yards and one touchdown.
Defensive Line: B
Datone Jones (+1.3 pass rush) saw 36 snaps due to match-ups against the Lions spread offense, and performed well, recording two hurries. He showed great speed, aggression, and hand movement on his pass rush moves and displayed an excellent bull rush as well. The rest of the defensive front was less than explosive as Letroy Guion (-0.6 pass rush), Mike Daniels (-0.5 pass rush), and Josh Boyd (-0.6 pass rush) combined to record only two hurries. Guion is no B.J. Raji, but he does just enough to eat up space and take on double-teams. Mike Daniels wasn't nearly as disruptive as he was last week, but the Lions seemed to run away from his side of the ball more than challenge him directly.
Julius Peppers recorded six pressures, including an impressive strip-sack fumble recovery late in the game that gave the Packers a glimmer of hope. He continues to have flashes of brilliance, while still having moments where he gets taken out of plays or pinned inside on stretch runs. That's part of being a 34-year-old veteran though, and I will gladly take the good with the bad if that is the worst drawback. Clay Matthews (+1.7 overall) played 44 mostly solid snaps before injuring his groin.
Jamari Lattimore might be the toughest dude on the team other than Peppers. He led the defense with nine tackles, and he isn't afraid to fill in run support against anybody. He brings a consistent hard-hitting style that hasn't been around since Desmond Bishop was healthy. He is more fluid in pass coverage than both Hawk and Brad Jones, but still has to learn where to be on some zone coverages and man-to-man responsibilities.
Mike Neal (-2.6 overall, -1.9 run defense, -0.9 pass rush) recorded one sack, and displayed impressive power and agility at times, but also got washed out on run plays and didn't shed blocks well. He also doesn't wrap on tackles consistently and sometimes relies on his initial contact to bring down the ball carrier. That might work against Reggie Bush, but guys like Joique Bell will eat that stuff up.
A.J. Hawk (+0.8 overall, +1.2 run defense) was probably the best run-stopper in the group, finishing with seven tackles and did a better job getting off blocks on Sunday than he has all season. As always, Hawk was flat-footed on some pass routes against Reggie Bush, but Hawk is never going to win that battle. Also, I don't think a saw a single Hawk Helmet Toss this week.
Nick Perry was his usual run-stuffing self, but his pass coverage skills continue to be disappointing. Sam Barrington played 18 snaps in place of Lattimore and showed aggression and toughness in getting off blocks, but tackled too high and got caught out of position in coverage.
Davon House (-0.7 overall, +0.2 pass coverage) applied great bump-and-run coverage on Calvin Johnson, had a beautiful diving interception on Matt Stafford, but also had two missed tackles on the day. Tramon Williams continues to be the more reliable starting cornerback on the team and isn't afraid to get physical against bigger wide receivers. His pass interference call could have gone either way, but Megatron is probably going to draw that penalty nine out of 10 times.
Morgan Burnett had one of his better performances against the run, but also recorded another missed tackle. Micah Hyde probably gets the most blame on Bush's touchdown run, as he completely read the play wrong and dove instead inside of staying in the flats. He appeared to be more reliable in coverage than he was last week.
Sam Shields (-0.7 overall, -1.0 pass coverage) was beat by Corey Fuller for 52-yards and was out-jumped by Megatron for a 26-yarder as well. I haven't been impressed with his performance so far this year, as he continues to avoid taking risks instead of playing aggressive.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix tackled well, and used good positioning in deep coverage to pull off the interception on a tipped pass. Casey Hayward (17 snaps), Sean Richardson (4), and Jarrett Bush (1) saw limited action.
Mason Crosby recorded one extra point, and average 74 yards per kickoff.
Tim Masthay recorded five punts and a free kick. His punts average 43 yards and he landed two punts inside the 20-yard line.
I believe simply saying Mike McCarthy-coached teams always start slow is a cop-out. At some point, you have to be a professional, make adjustments, and be proactive in your game plan. The Packers have been out-coached in three straight games, and have shown limited adjustments in the process. I'm not trying to start an angry mob against Coach McCarthy, but I think just because he won a Super Bowl in 2010, it doesn't mean he is free of blame now. If he ever runs that direct toss play again, I will break out my pitchfork and torch though.
The Packers travel to Chicago this Sunday in another NFC North showdown. The Bears' defensive front is by far the least intimidating of any opponent to date, so if the Packers can't establish the run on Sunday, we can all start to panic a little bit more.