With the absence of LB Clay Matthews (and the ongoing absence of CB Charles Woodson) I was pessimistic about the Green Bay Packers' chances of defeating the Lions. Sure, the Lions have a lot of injury problems of their own, but the Packers usually lose games when Matthews is hurt. I expected an offensive shootout, but instead the defense led the way for both teams. It might have been an ugly win, but I'll take a win on the road any week, anyway they can get it.
So the answer to the question of where the Packers would find a pass rush without Matthews: they'd find it everywhere. A lot more blitzing by defensive backs (CB Davon House and S Morgan Burnett each recorded a sack) but also pursuit from LB Erik Walden and LB Dezman Moses. While they recorded the sacks (and Moses forced a fumble), it was the interior push by the tackles that usually forced the action. Rookie DT Mike Daniels was a factor, but all the big guys deserve credit: QB Matthew Stafford rarely had a pocket to step up into. And when they did get a pass off, the young defensive backs made plays, led by a huge game from CB Casey Hayward (5 pass defenses, 1 INT) and the INT returned for a touchdown by S M.D. Jennings. RB Mikel Leshoure had some success on the ground, but the Packers were letting the chance by rarely playing with more than two defensive linemen. Even with some running room available, the Lions preferred to throw the ball, calling 46 pass plays to only 22 carries.
My biggest complaint with the offense was the featured role for RB James Starks. With a make-shift offensive line, I'm sure Mike McCarthy wanted to keep the pressure down on QB Aaron Rodgers with a conservative game plan, but the result was a stalled offense. Starks had 26 touches while WR Jordy Nelson, WR James Jones, and WR Randall Cobb combined for only 23 carries and targets. While the Lions defense didn't have a huge statistical day, DT Nick Fairley was huge with 2 sacks and 2 tackles for a loss, and he probably disrupted at least a couple other plays. The overall conservative strategy was sound and they might not have had anymore success with a pass heavy attack, but a few more pass plays might have gotten the offense going, and Nelson, Jones and Cobb should combine for more plays than Starks.
Poor K Mason Crosby. I've been on his case all season, and he came close to hitting bottom in this game with two recorded misses (plus the other one he missed while he was being iced by the Lions). The coaches probably have more confidence in Crosby than any street free agent they could bring in at this point, so releasing him seems like an extreme reaction. His job security might be better addressed in the offseason. Instead, they should focus on restoring his confidence in the interim. Kicking is a pretty inconsistent business, and Crosby's gone through more good streaks than bad. The odds are more likely that he'll kick himself out of his slump instead of falling down further.