What should have been a shootout turned into a clash of defenses on Sunday, with both Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford finishing with lower-than-expected numbers, as the Green Bay Packers handily defeated the Detroit Lions, 22-9.
Despite Rodgers' modest numbers, his receivers had a huge day. James Jones and Jordy Nelson alone accounted for over 200 of Rodgers' 274 total passing yards, despite only making one trip to the end zone. Now, getting on the board was Mason Crosby's job on Sunday, as his 15 points accounted for over half the Packers' total 22.
Add to that a stout performance by Green Bay's defensive line, who kept Detroit under 100 total rushing yards and put pressure on Stafford throughout the game, and a few key players emerging as standouts in the win. Let's take a look at five of them now.
The NFL leader in touchdowns last season, James Jones proved he's still a favorite target of Rodgers on Sunday, with one monster 83-yard catch-and-run touchdown and another for 27 yards that was called back after he was ruled out of bounds.
Though Jones was only targeted six times, fewer than each of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb and equal to Jermichael Finley, he had a whopping 127 yards over four receptions to lead Green Bay's receiving corps in yards. That's an average of, better believe it, 31.8 yards per reception.
With only two touchdowns so far in 2013, Jones is behind his production level for last season. However, his dependability is his strongest asset: He has caught 19 of his 26 targets.
As long as Jones continues to catch 73 percent of the balls that come his way, you can bet Rodgers will keep finding him.
Continuing to prove his versatility on punt returns, in the slot and out of the backfield, Randall Cobb looks to solidify his position at the top of the depth chart.
He got the Packers started on a 22-yard reception on 3rd-and-6 in Lions territory on Green Bay's first possession, helping set up Mason Crosby's first field goal and putting the first three points on the board in favor of Green Bay.
That would be Cobb's longest reception of the day, but he wasn't done yet.
On the Packers' second drive of the third quarter on their own 11-yard line, Cobb burst out of the backfield and ran for 67 yards (video here), sending the home crowd at Lambeau into a frenzy.
What's more, consider this: Until Cobb added 67 yards with his run, the Packers had run 40 plays for only 163 yards.
Everybody loves to see Jordy Nelson make catches of 30, 40 and even 60 yards on the sideline with perfect toe-drag precision. Sunday did not disappoint, as Nelson caught a rocket of a 31-yard pass (with no yards after the catch) from Rodgers and displayed his usual acrobatics in staying in bounds (video here).
Suffice it to say, when Rodgers steps back in the pocket and launches a pass down the right sideline, it's usually safe to assume it's headed toward the open hands of Nelson. Like his teammate James Jones, Nelson is incredibly reliable; of his 30 targets this season, he's caught 23, for an accuracy rate of 77 percent.
Though Cobb has been Rodgers' primary target this season, he does a lot of work in the slot. Nelson, on the other hand, as an outside receiver, averages almost 20 yards per reception. When Rodgers finds him, it's almost always for a big gain.
You might argue that an entire line can't be a "playmaker," but there is no other way to describe the collective effort of Green Bay's front seven on Sunday—except maybe playbreaker.
The Packers defensive line was a nuisance to the Lions all day, constantly interrupting Detroit's air and ground games. It held Reggie Bush to a meager 44 rushing yards, and only 64 yards total.
That's a third of Green Bay's 180 yards on the ground.
Matthew Stafford had a difficult time getting into a rhythm spending so much time on the ground. LB Clay Matthews, DE Mike Neal, LB Brad Jones and LB Nick Perry all got in on the fun—Perry, twice—for a total of five sacks. Meanwhile, Rodgers was only brought down once. Matthews, Neal, Jones, and Perry also combined for six tackles for a loss.
However, all this production was not without its consequences. Matthews (thumb), Jones (hamstring) and LB Robert Francois (Achilles) all left the game with injuries. While it appeared that Perry injured his ankle in the fourth quarter, he returned shortly after.
Losing three linebackers in one game for undetermined amounts of time could be a critical setback for a line that was ranked seventh heading into Week 5.
Being able to go 5-of-5 on field goals should, perhaps, be a given for a veteran kicker, but for Mason Crosby, whose struggles last season in only converting 63.6 percent of his three-point tries went well-documented, it means making it into the top five.
Despite wide receivers James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb having receptions of 83, 31 and 22 yards each, the score of the game would have been as close as one possession had Crosby not converted even just one of his five attempts for 15 total points (16 including his extra point on the lone touchdown).
Crosby demonstrated that he still has both the power and the accuracy to make field goals ranging from 26 to 52 yards. He has got to feel good about being at 100 percent on the year, having made all nine of his attempts, for an average of 32 yards per try.
He has contributed 27 of Green Bay's total 118 points so far this season. That means that he alone comprises 23 percent of the Packers' scoring so far.
As long as Aaron Rodgers continues to come in slightly under his average in touchdowns this season (his current track would put him at 26 for the 2013-14 season, as compared to 39 in 2012-13), Crosby's importance to this offense will be obvious.