Packers vs. Lions: Improved Defense Crucial to Green Bay's Continued Hot Streak

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIINovember 18, 2012

Clay Matthews (52) and Charles Woodson (21) didn't play Sunday, but the Packers found a way to get it done on defense.
Clay Matthews (52) and Charles Woodson (21) didn't play Sunday, but the Packers found a way to get it done on defense.David Welker/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers continue to roll, with a 24-20 comeback victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

As much as the team's success depends on Aaron Rodgers and the explosive passing attack, an improved defense is even more crucial for the Pack to continue their hot streak.

A gritty road win over an NFC North rival is no small feat, even though Detroit has had its difficulties throughout the 2012 campaign.

With QB Matthew Stafford orchestrating the Lions offense, no lead is safe. But in the fourth quarter, a time when Stafford typically thrives, the Packers only held him to three points, while Rodgers and Co. put up 10 points to pull off the win.

Stafford was sacked five times on the afternoon and was constantly pressured. He accounted for three turnovers, and the Lions lost the ball thrice on the day against a talented Green Bay playmaking unit, directed by defensive coordinator Dom Capers.

After giving up the league's most passing yards a season ago, the Packers allowed Stafford—who threw for over 5,000 yards in 2011—only 43.6 percent completion and 6.8 yards per attempt.

The trend of improvement on the Packers' perceived weakness has been characteristic of the team's recent mid-season run.

A 30-27 loss to the Indianapolis Colts—who are better than expected, to be fair—was a stern exposure of the secondary call. Since then, Green Bay has fed off of the fiery leadership of Rodgers and each other's play.

It started with a 42-24 dismantling of the Texans that wasn't even that close. The subsequent three offenses put up rather large passing numbers, but were no match for Capers' exotic schemes.

While it would be difficult to argue that giving up over 300 yards passing to Blaine Gabbert and John Skelton could qualify as an improvement, Sunday was a confirmation that the Packers defense is definitely moving closer to the team that won Super Bowl XLV than the lost-looking unit of a year ago.

Opposing teams will also have to throw a lot, because they're likely to trail rather frequently with Rodgers lighting up the scoreboard at his current rate.

Even without stars like Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson, others stepped up on Sunday, particularly DB M.D. Jennings, who had a game-changing 72-yard pick-six in the third quarter.

Linebacker Erik Walden has also filled in nicely over the past month and sacked Stafford twice at Ford Field.

It was only a matter of time before the defense stepped up and began putting great games together on a more consistent basis. It's been tough for the Packers to put together even solid consecutive quarters together until the past month and a half.

Now that the defense looks to be back in gear, Green Bay has a great chance of moving ahead in the NFC North, with Chicago playing San Francisco on Monday night without starting QB Jay Cutler.

Ultimately, the Packers needed stops in the fourth quarter in Detroit to give the offense a chance. They got it done, and that's going to be important moving forward, as teams get more tape and begin to slow down their offense.

The rest of the hotly competitive North division should be worried about this defensive development in Green Bay.

If Capers' men keep playing like they did on Sunday, the Pack may not lose again.