Monday, December 10, 2012

Recap: Packers Come From Behind To Beat Lions, 27-20

Anyone start RB DuJuan Harris on their fantasy team? While he wouldn't have been the best option, a touchdown never hurts. Bonus points for picking some guy Mike McCarthy only threatened to use from the practice squad, but hadn't actually given a single carry to until Sunday night.

I had a bad feeling about this game because the Green Bay Packers had only won by four points back in November in Detroit, in a game in which the Lions had four turnovers. If the Lions took better care of the ball, it seemed like the Packers would be in trouble. While the Lions only had two turnovers in this one, the first turnover, a fumble by QB Matthew Stafford that was returned by DE Mike Daniels (of all people) for a 43 yard touchdown run, decided the game. The second one, an interception with 2:42 left in the first half, probably took points off the board for the Lions since they were already down to the Packers' 41 yard line with a 1st and 10.

The big standouts in this game were the players up front, on both sides of the ball. The pass protection struggled, QB Aaron Rodgers was sacked three times and was chased from the pocket on several occasions, but the run blocking again was strong, in part because rookie RT Don Barclay was able take out the linebacker at the second level (see Harris' touchdown run) while a tight end could block DE Cliff Avril. Also, the line was able to take advantage of the Lions' defensive tackles tendency to over-pursue on running plays as they raced up-field to get after Rodgers. 5.6 yards per carry is amazing for the Packers, even if 27 yards came on Rodgers' touchdown run. LG Evan Dietrich-Smith got blown up on one sack by DT Nick Fairley, but Fairley's been as good as any defensive tackle as I've seen over the past few weeks.

The defensive line got off to a slow start, allowing 85 yards rushing on the Lions' first two possessions (both for touchdowns), but the defense only allowed 50 yards rushing over the last three quarters and the pass rush (which only officially was credited with 1 sack and 2 QB hits) put a lot of pressure on Stafford to throw the ball early. On only a couple occasions did he really have time to sit back in the pocket. After the running game was no longer a factor, the Lions didn't find themselves in those 3rd and shorts they converted so often on their first two drives, and their offense didn't back into a rhythm again.

The pass defense had a great game, though they did drop a couple of interceptions. WR Calvin Johnson ended up with his usual 100 yard game (118 to be exact) but he wasn't involved for a large chunk of the game. Megatron had 46 of his 118 yards on their final two possessions, at which point the Packers were up by 10 points and the Lions were in desperation mode.

Rodgers and the pass offense didn't have much of a game through the air (only 14 completions). Seven of them went to WR Randall Cobb, who's gone from their number four receiving option to No. 1 in less than a season. WR Greg Jennings might still be recovering from his surgery (only 1 reception on Sunday) but in his defense, Rodgers did miss him on a touchdown pass in the third quarter. Of all the receivers, Cobb is the only one who's been a threat in every game this season.

In the end, this game was similar to their earlier win over the Lions, and the Packers managed to score 27 points in an ugly fashion. With their win and the Bears loss, the Packers extend their lead in the NFC North. The Packers have been the least impressive of the division leaders this season (outside of Baltimore), but hopefully that situation improves once LB Clay Matthews, CB Charles Woodson, and WR Jordy Nelson return. And some bonus good news: no injuries to report.

Bring on the injured Bears next week, win in Soldier Field, and clinch the NFC North.

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