No one knows what head coach Mike McCarthy will say at his Thanksgiving Day dinner table, but you can bet that Charles Woodson and Donald Driver will be on his short list. The two veterans feasted on the young Detroit Lions Thursday as the Packers won their third straight game, 34-12 at Ford Field.
It was the same story for the Packers once again, who used Driver and Woodson on both ends of the field to lead their team to victory.
For Woodson, the task of shutting down Calvin Johnson was not going to be an easy one and looked to be a problem after Johnson scored from one yard out on a back shoulder route from quarterback Matthew Stafford. However, Johnson caught just one other pass for nine yards, finishing the game as a non-factor on offense.
Shutting down Johnson did not show in the box score for Woodson, but what did show up were Woodson’s seven tackles, two interceptions, forced fumble, fumble recovery, sack, and touchdown. It was a great performance for the 12-year veteran who now finds his name in serious contention for Defensive Player of the Year.
What made the performance even more impressive was the fact that Woodson was playing without his cornerback counterpart Al Harris, who was lost to a torn ACL the week before against San Francisco. The thought was that the Lions would stay away from Woodson and pick on Tramon Williams on the other side, but Johnson was targeted 12 times on offense and Woodson limited him to just the two catches.
On the season, Woodson has recorded 54 tackles, ranked third on the team, forced a team-high four fumbles and six interceptions, and also has two touchdowns to his name. A trip to Canton might be in the future for the former Heisman Trophy winner, but a DPOY trophy would sure help the resume.
Someone who might not make it to Canton but is a shoo-in for the Packers Hall of Fame is Donald Driver, who made the most of his Thanksgiving with a seven-catch, 142 yard performance that included a touchdown catch as well. Awarded the Golden Gobbler by Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, the 11-year veteran continued his outstanding season that has him leading the seventh-ranked passing offense in all major receiving categories.
It was Greg Jennings who received a major payday in the offseason and while some of Driver’s success can be attributed to the double teams and attention other teams pay to Jennings, Driver has made things happen on his own and has created his own success.
Known as one of the toughest players in the league, Driver ranks sixth in the NFC in receiving yards at 34 years old. The five players in front of Driver average 24.6 years in age, and as Driver put it, “I may be old, but I play young”.
The win put the Packers at 7-4 and on top of the NFC Wildcard, but the road does not get any easier from here on out. The last five games for the Packers include matchups against Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Arizona with an NFC North rivalry game against Chicago in the Windy City.
General Manager Ted Thompson might live and die with building through the draft and having young players grow during the year to contribute, but this year has been the story of Woodson and Driver, two veterans doing everything they can to ensure the Packers play in January.