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Monday, Oct. 7, 2013

Defensive Dominance Helps Packers Tame Lions

Looking Pack: Week Five

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Jim Biever / Packers.com
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The old “On any given Sunday…” adage has some truth to it. The parity in the National Football League was on display when the 5-8 likes of Kyle Orton’s Kansas City Chiefs gave Green Bay their lone regular season loss in 2011. The highlight of the Indianapolis Colts’ 3-13 campaign in 1997 was knocking off the eventual NFC Champion Packers. No game is a guaranteed win; but if any game can be prematurely chalked up as a Packers victory, it’s the annual Detroit Lions trip to Lambeau Field.

The last time the Lions won in Green Bay was December 15, 1991. Steve Urkel was winning the world’s heart one “Did I do that?” at a time. Czechoslovakia was still a country and Packers rookie tackle David Bakhtiari was 10 weeks old. Since, the division rivalry was one-sided, as the Packers won the next 21 games in which they hosted Detroit. Sunday saw a familiar outcome for the lopsided annual event, as the Packers never trailed while extending the streak to 22 straight with a 22-9 route.

The Lions began at a disadvantage on account of Calvin Johnson being a late scratch from the lineup. With the star receiver in street clothes, Detroit’s offense stalled throughout the entirety of the first half. By the end of the second quarter, Detroit managed just 25 yards rushing and Lions quarterback Matt Stafford had a mere 99 yards through the air. However, the Packers offense was equally lackluster, as Aaron Rodgers threw for only 88 yards and he, Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin combined for a paltry 55 rushing yards in the half.

Fortunately, Mason Crosby’s polarizing right leg that nailed two field goals (including one from 52 yards) kept Green Bay ahead at a 6-3 margin during the relatively uneventful opening half. After another Crosby field goal (the third of five he’d kick in the game) extended the lead midway through the third quarter. In a rare reversal of roles, it was Green Bay’s defense that held strong as their counterparts struggled for footing for much of the game. The Packers D combined for four sacks—two by Nick Perry and one apiece by Mike Neal (who had six tackles to boot) and Clay Matthews—as A.J. Hawk led the team with nine tackles. While a lot of Green Bay’s most consistently solid collaborative defensive showing of the young season can be explained by Johnson’s absence, the Packers deserve credit for shutting down the vaunted Lions run game. Reggie Bush and Joique Bell were limited to just 65 total rushing yards on the day.

Conversely, the Packers turned in an all-around impressive day on the ground. Of the 180 total rushing yards Green Bay posted, Lacy had 99 of them and, shockingly, 72 came on a pair of Randall Cobb carries. The viability of the run game eventually translated into better second half passing numbers by Rodgers. He rebounded with 186 passing yards in the half (to bring him to an acceptable 274 yards total) and the lone Packers touchdown, an 83-yard strike to James Jones late in the third quarter.

That touchdown, not to mention the two Crosby fourth quarter field goals, effectively put the game out of reach for the Lions. Even after Stafford connected with Kris Durham for a touchdown pass just before the two-minute warning, the quintet of Crosby kicks and the formidable defensive showing effectively kept the game out of reach and ensured the epoch of Lambeau Field Lions losing would continue.

Player Of The Game (Offense) – James Jones

Though he managed just four receptions on the day, Jones racked up 127 yards and a touchdown. He came a fraction of an inch from scoring another touchdown.

Player Of The Game (Defense/Special Teams) – Mason Crosby
The defense played its best game of the season, but Crosby got back on many fans’ good side with five field goals (three of which were 42 yards or longer).

Up next: At Baltimore Ravens at noon on Sunday, Oct. 13.