Non-believers beware! The Detroit Lions are a dangerous team to overlook. Ask Aaron Rodgers, whose 169 yards passing was the second-worst in his career as the Packers starter. Last week, Favre gave the biggest credit to Adrian Peterson for their win against the Lions. This week, Rodgers better be doing the same.
The game on Sunday figured to be a Packers blowout, with the line set at 14 and most experts predicting Green Bay to cover that. It was sure money, wasn't it? Not so fast...
Green Bay started well, with a facemask penalty on the kickoff giving them great field position at the 45. Two minutes later, they were up 7-0. Better grab another beer, it's going to be a long day.
Or not. The first half was a hard-fought battle between the two teams. Green Bay's defense stepped up at opportune times, but did not seem to be the dominant team everybody expected them to be. Detroit's first half was marred with mistakes, from a long drive that ended in a bad interception to penalties that cost valuable field position.
The second half seemed to start with bad flashbacks for us Lions fans. We all remember last years blowout loss at Chicago where the second half started with a touchdown return. I was easily expecting this to be similar, just like how a bad team can hang in the first half against a top-25 in the FBS, only to give up 30+ points in the second half.
But that was it for the Packers scoring-wise. The Lions defense stepped up and stopped the Packers next drive with an interception. They also held two more drives as they chipped away at the Packer lead. Their ultimate downfall was their inability to force the Packers to punt on the last drive.
Shaun Hill was okay. I'm sure there are a lot of #2 quarterbacks out there who would not have served half as well. However, my beef with him is the untimeliness of his interceptions. Sure you could chalk up the first to an accident, but the second proved too costly to dismiss. C+: A 300 yard, 2 TD day usually puts you in the B to B+ range, but the interceptions are killing.
The running backs had a less than average day, but that happens when you're behind the entire game. 66 yards rushing by the RBs isn't great, 69 yards receiving does offset it a bit. No scores for this unit. C: Below average running, above average receiving. Overall an average day.
Pettigrew had a nice day, although we tend to remember the one or two dropped passes. Of course, timing is everything. Calvin Johnson finally had a breakout day, with two touchdowns on six catches (86 yards). Scheffler and Bryant Johnson chipped in nicely as well. Receivers get a B+: Dropped passes dropped the grade, otherwise it would have been an outstanding day.
I think people are starting to realize that this line is improved immensely. That being said, I think this Packer game was probably the worst played so far. They gave up three sacks, albeit to the league leader in sacks. The running game averaged 4 yards a carry, which would be an average number at the very best. They also had a few stupid penalties that hurt badly. C-: They didn't stink up the place, but they didn't do great, either.
I'd give the offense a C+. They put up good numbers against a great Green Bay defense, but their errors came at the worst of times.
The defensive line did well. If you remove the last drive, they held Green Bay's running game to 43 yards on 11 carries, and sacked Rodgers twice. The last drive killed us, though, so I can't give the line a great score. B-: They held the Packers nicely, but didn't come through when it counted.
Seriously. This isn't even funny anymore. When a defensive tackle gets the same number of tackles as the best of your linebackers, it's pretty pathetic. Do you realize that Peterson is on pace to half the number of tackles he had last year? And he's currently the leader in tackles at the linebacker position for Detroit. And the number of plays that get through the linebackers is making the secondary look silly. I'm giving them an F this week. The reason is in the last 5 minutes—they knew that Green Bay was running and they did nothing to stop them.
As much as people are thinking that the secondary is pathetic, I'm not in that school. Their coverage is decent, and the number of big passes they give up is no worse than any other team in the NFL. That being said, they still gave up big plays. 18 attempts by Rodgers is his lowest as a starter, as is the 12 completions. That shows that coverage was good. The touchdown by Finley was proof of that. Overall, they get a B for their effort. This Packer team is amongst the elites in the passing game and they were held under 200 yards passing with one play over 20 yards.
The defense played well. They played well against a Green Bay offense that was amongst the leaders last year. They get a C+, however, because for all their effort, they could not get the one stop they needed.
This special teams unit is doing well. One mistake—the penalty on the opening kickoff—led to a Green Bay touchdown. This was also the first game where they were out-returned by their opponent, but Green Bay's average kickoff return was lower by nearly 7 yards per return. Hanson also finally got his, hitting 4 of 5 (the fifth a "freebie" at the end of the first half), after having 0 attempts last year. A-: One facemask penalty, otherwise the Lions are doing the same bang-up job on special teams they've been doing all year.
B-: Almost nobody expected them to compete in this game, much less have a chance to win. They almost pulled it off, but couldn't keep Green Bay from gaining a first down at the most crucial of times.
Okay, they're 0-4. Some optimists thought they might win the Chicago game, others thought Philly was winnable due to Kolb being injured. Still, the Lions opponents were tough. Maybe not record-wise, as the combined is 9-6, but the Lions have their road division games out of the way, and all three give us hope of division wins at the end of the year. They're near the top of the hill, and they need to get over the hump, as Schwartz says. Their next two opponents are both 2-2, but are far from perfect. Sounds like a good time to get over that hump.