The Green Bay Packers’ (2-2) win at Lambeau Field Sunday against the Detroit Lions (3-2) was a big one. Lose, and it may have taken at least three quarters of the season just to catch back up with the Lions, but with this win they are just half a game behind both the Lions and the Chicago Bears (3-2), who also lost today to the undefeated New Orleans Saints (5-0).
The Lions were without all-world wide receiver Calvin Johnson, making their task of upending Green Bay even more of a challenge as Detroit hasn’t won a game in Wisconsin since 1991.
But this game was more about Team 93, and their grittiness. With linebackers dropping like flies, i.e. Clay Matthews, Robert François and Brad Jones, Green Bay’s defense just kept humming no matter who was in there. OLB Nick Perry, who was benched in favor of Mike Neal because of a lackluster first three games, came in relief of Matthews and registered his first two sacks of the season, plus a QB hit and five tackles.
On the other side Mike Neal played his best game since becoming a hybrid OLB, also registering a sack, a QB hit and six tackles. The front line of Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly and BJ Raji was stout against the run; holding Lions running back Reggie Bush to 44 yards on 13 carries.
Offensively the Packers were dedicated to the run early and often, giving the ball to rookie running back Eddie ‘The Big Bang Theory” Lacy, who churned 99 yards from 23 carries (4.3 ave.), narrowly missing having a third different running back run for over 100 yards three games in a row.
The Packers were being patient against a very stout defensive line, until opportunities arose, such as the 83 touchdown strike from Aaron Rodgers to James Jones. Jones had another TD called back which probably could have been a TD. Ryan Taylor also dropped a wide open pass streaking down the middle of the field that may have been another touchdown.
Mason Crosby remained perfect for the season on field goals (8/8) with five made field goals against the Lions.
Aided by a Randall Cobb 67-yard run, Green Bay ran for 180 yards. After the game Rodgers was asked if has sensed that teams are playing him differently with the new-found running game, and he said up to this point, “no.” I thought the same thing, and apparently that the book on Green Bay is to keep playing the pass first because the Packers need to prove they can sustain their early season success rushing the football.
Come November and beyond, if the Packers can maintain their rushing attack, it should start paying big dividends.
Lacy was a bruiser today, consistently getting positive yards up the teeth of the Lions defensive line, running right at Nick Fairly and Ndamukong Suh with decent success.
The frustrating part of it was head coach Mike McCarthy didn’t give it to Lacy on third and 1. Instead he decided to pass it both times, once having the ball tipped and almost a pic six the other way, and an incomplete pass.
With Lacy picking up at least three yards on almost all of his carries, handing the ball off to the rookie would have made the most sense. Let’s hope coach sees the error of his ways and moving forward will begin to give Lacy the ball in short yardage situations.
But overall it was a win – and a big one at that – against a division foe.
Now it’s on to Baltimore next week where the Super Bowl Champions await.