If Vince Lombardi was right and winning is the only thing that matters, then the Green Bay Packers should feel pretty good about themselves after Sunday's 26-0 victory over the Detroit Lions. A look beyond the scoreboard (and Lombardi's famous truism), however, reveals a sordid tale of underlying problems besieging the victorious Packers.
The Packers were penalized 13 times on Sunday for 130 yards. The first of these infractions came on the opening kickoff, wiping out a 98-yard touchdown return by kick returner Jordy Nelson. The most egregious offender was veteran left tackle Chad Clifton, back in the starting lineup following an ankle injury, who committed two false starts and two illegal formation penalties before hobbling off the field late in the game.
Aaron Rodgers was sacked on the Detroit three yard line on 1st and goal in the 3rd quarter. The sack forced a fumble that was recovered by the Lions, stalling what looked to be the most promising Packers drive of the 2nd half.
Rodgers shot his team in the foot again when he threw an interception at the beginning of the 4th quarter near midfield. The Lions drove the ball down to the Green Bay ten yard line on the ensuing possession when Atari Bigby prevented the Lions from cashing in with an interception of his own.
The Packers did manage to avoid further damage by recovering a first half fumble by Jordy Nelson and a 4th quarter fumble by running back Brandon Jackson.
Poor Offensive Line Play
Despite Chad Clifton's return at left tackle and the fact that the Lions'defensive line was decimated by injuries, Detroit managed to sack Aaron Rodgers five times. The much maligned group is still on pace to help Rodgers break the single season record for sacks taken (76) held by the Texans' David Carr since 2002.
The line's run blocking wasn't much better. The Packers managed barely 30 yards on the ground through three quarters. Only a late 4th quarter surge by Ryan Grant when the game was all but over, coupled with ten yards from a scrambling Aaron Rodgers put the team over 100 yards rushing for the day.
Ineffective Scoring Offense
The Packers put 14 points on the board early, but despite racking up impressive yardage totals on the day, the offense couldn't score a touchdown in the final three plus quarters (just over 47 minutes). The Lions' defense (along with a rash of penalties and an untimely turnover) held the Packers to four field goals and a 20 percent (1 for 5) efficiency in red zone opportunities.
Despite the mountain of miscues, the game was not without its bright spots. Donald Driver's first reception of the game set the team's all time reception mark and the defense held the Lions scoreless for the first time since 2001. The win kept the Packers within 2 1/2 games of the division leading Vikings and 1/2 game in front of the 3rd place Bears.
In the end, Sunday's lackluster effort was enough to bring victory over a Lions team with 1 win in its last 22 games. Will a similar effort be enough to take down the Browns on the road next weekend?
I guess we'll find out Sunday.