|Ryan Grant was part of a rushing attack that helped the Packers find a balanced offense against the Lions. (USPresswire)|
On a cold, wet night atop the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field against an opponent daring them to run the ball, the Green Bay Packers needed a ground game.
They got it from several different and unusual sources – including an old, recognizable face, a new unfamiliar one, the pass-first quarterback and a back who went to Hawaii but was excited about playing in the snow – in their 27-20 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday night.
The Packers racked up 140 yards and two touchdowns rushing against the Lions, the first time since last December they scored twice on the ground. It was the first time since Sept. 21, 2008 that QB Aaron Rodgers, who had one of the rushing touchdowns, didn’t throw for a score at Lambeau Field. But Green Bay maintained its two-decade long home dominance over Detroit, which hasn’t won in Wisconsin since 1991.
With the divisional victory, the Packers, who have won seven of their last eight games, grabbed sole possession of first place in the NFC North with a showdown at second-place Chicago next week. Here’s how the Packers graded out against the Lions.
Rodgers didn’t throw for a touchdown, ending his own franchise-record 35-game streak with at least one touchdown pass at home that he set last week. He was only 14 of 24 for 173 yards against Detroit’s two-deep safety shell and afterward indicated he’d like to have thrown a little bit more, though it wasn’t necessary. New lead dog Alex Green carried 13 times for 69 yards (5.3-yard average), while undrafted rookie DuJuan Harris, recently promoted from the practice squad, added 31 yards on seven carries, including a 14-yard touchdown run that put the Packers ahead in the fourth quarter. Veteran Ryan Grant, who was re-signed off the street last week, run once for 13 yards, and Rodgers scrambled three times for 32 yards, including a career-long 27-yard score. The offensive line was better than expected, especially in run blocking, and allowed three sacks. Undrafted rookie RT Don Barclay was decent in his first career start. Besides Randall Cobb (seven catches for 102 yards), the receivers didn’t factor into the game much. Previous game’s grade: D
The Lions marched down the field on their first two possessions, jumping out to a 14-0 lead and making it look way too easy. But, with a little luck and some typical opportunism, the Packers defense made the big plays needed to get the win. In the second quarter, down 14-3 with snow flurries fluttering around him, Lions QB Matthews Stafford lost his grip on the football and fumbled. Packers rookie DL Mike Daniels made an athletic play, scooping up the ball and rumbling 43 yards for a touchdown and his first Lambeau Leap. Coach Mike McCarthy afterward called it the key, momentum-changing play of the game. Later, CB Sam Shields, playing in his first game in two months, intercepted Stafford to stall a Detroit drive. The Packers allowed 386 total yards and more than 37 minutes of possession and didn’t register an individual sack – bending, but not breaking, as they like to say – but the two takeaways turned the tide. Previous game’s grade: B-
Special Teams: B+
McCarthy said after the game he thought special teams were “solid.” K Mason Crosby converted two out of three field goal attempts, missing only from 51 yards on a well-hit ball, and seems to have broken out of his slump. His 49-yarder ought to have been a big confidence-booster. In the ugly weather, his kickoffs weren’t nearly as good as they usually are – a few fell quite short of the end zone – but the coverage was very good. P Tim Masthay didn’t allow a single return on his three punts, one of which was a touchback and another landed inside the 20. As a returner, Cobb was much better at not dancing laterally and just running forward. He averaged 25.3 yards on three kick returns and brought the one punt back 13 yards. Previous game’s grade: B+
The coaches know what to expect from opposing defenses, which have showed they are going to do nothing but sit back in a two-deep shell and play Cover-2 to take away the big play against the Packers. For too many weeks earlier in the season, McCarthy seemed reluctant or stubborn to adapt Green Bay’s offensive scheme. But the last several weeks, the Packers have committed to the run and averaged 136 rushing yards over their last five games. McCarthy didn’t publicly regret any of his own game-planning mistakes, like he’s done before, and the Packers did a nice job weathering the Lions’ early storm, adapting to both the game and the conditions and making the right adjustments. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers again wasn’t able to concoct a creative pass rush minus his best player, OLB Clay Matthews, who’s expected to return next week. Previous game’s grade: B+