This was the Packers’ third game in 11 days, representing one of the more brutal parts of their schedule this season. Detroit sought to take advantage of that, despite having a short week of their own.
This Thanksgiving game was more than a traditional rivalry between NFC North opponents. This matchup was replete with playoff implications for both teams as the Lions did their best to gain a crucial division game on the Pack.
In the end the Packers emerged victorious and moved to 11-0 for the season.
Over the next 12 slides, we’ll take a look at some things we learned about the Packers in their 27-15 victory over the Lions.
Some excuse can be made that the Packers are coming off of a short week and have had only limited time to prepare for the game against the division-rival Lions.
Still, that’s no excuse for such sloppy tackling by Green Bay.
This is a problem that has haunted the team all year, and which has seemed to get progressively worse in the past few weeks (the Minnesota game excepted).
Against the Lions, the Packers gave up well over 100 yards after a defender made initial contact with the runner or receiver. They were fortunate that the Lions were generally unable to capitalize on that—this time.
The porosity on defense has been a topic of conversation all season, and it remains only a matter of time before Green Bay loses a game as a result of their inability to bring the ball-carrier down.
Although Ryan Grant made it clear that he was ready to carry the whole load, the absence of Starks left many Packers fans concerned for the efficacy of the running game.
The fact is, Starks is doing a better job this year of keeping defenses honest with his carries than Grant is. He may not gain as many yards per carry as other running backs around the league, but he has enough potential to be dangerous that defenses must play to the run. That opens things up for Aaron Rodgers.
During the first half of the game, it appeared that last year’s history would repeat itself. Despite their best efforts, the Packers weren’t able to do much against the Detroit front line.
In fact, they were able to shut the Green Bay offense down pretty effectively. First downs were hard to come by, and points were at a huge premium.
The Packers were able to adjust in the second half, but the Detroit front seven did a fantastic job keeping this a relatively low-scoring game by the high-octane Packers offense.
After an uncharacteristically slow start, the Green Bay offense came back to life in the second half.
While the Detroit front seven was able to contain the Packers for the first part of the game, the Packers seemed unstoppable after the break. Had they continued on in the way that they started the game, the Lions would have been in it right until the end.
The Packers have been pretty good on third down all season, but against Detroit they couldn’t seem to find their stride. For the game they were 2-of-10 on third-down conversions.
They were helped along a little bit by penalties on the part of the Lions, particularly during the first half of the game.
In the second half of the game, the offense compensated for their poor third-down efficiency by simply converting on the first two downs.
It seems as though there have been more fights in the NFL this year than there have been in the past, particularly for the Packers.
On Thanksgiving, the Packers got into it twice with the Lions.
The first time, offsetting penalties basically negated the entire thing. The second time, however, may have been a crucial game-changer when Ndamukong Suh was ejected from the game.
After that, the Packers had a much easier time marching their way down the field to score against Detroit.
At the half, the Packers defense had been on the field for just over 20 out of the 30 minutes.
The offense simply could not keep a drive going with the notable exception of the touchdown drive on the shortened field.
They evened things up nicely in the second half of the game thanks to the second-half offensive adjustments and a series of fortuitous turnovers from their defense, but that discrepancy is a matter of concern that needs to be addressed going forward.
His statistics in 2011 may not be as impressive as they were in 2010, but the impact that Clay Matthews has on the field should never be underestimated.
Throughout the season his coaches and teammates have defended his lower numbers on the stats sheet by calling him a disruptive influence.
Today, he proved it. Although he did not record a sack and had just three tackles, Matthews made his presence felt in other ways. He had a tipped pass in the first half of the game, and accounted for one of the team’s three interceptions.
For once this season, the Green Bay offense genuinely needed some help from their defense instead of the other way around.
After almost a full half where neither team was able to find their way onto the board, the Green Bay defense handed their offense a gift: an intercepted ball deep in Detroit territory.
Repeat that formula a couple more times thanks to other interceptions, and it is clear that the defense helped the offense enormously in overcoming their problems with the Detroit front seven during the game.
Throughout the season, the Packers have had very few incomplete passes from Aaron Rodgers. Those passes are generally thrown away due to pressure and rarely over- or underthrown.
There’s a third, disturbing category of incomplete passes that the Packers must address: dropped passes.
Finley is up for a major contract renewal this year, and yet he seems to consistently have trouble hanging on to balls that should be easy catches for him. He must figure out how to be more dependable with the ball if he wants to get paid by the Packers or any other team next season.
Against the Lions, John Kuhn ran in his fourth touchdown of the year.
What we don’t hear about as often is the consistent blocking that Kuhn does in the backfield. We don’t hear about it because he is rarely penalized.
No matter what role the Packers have asked him to play, Kuhn has given it everything he has all year long. He may not always succeed in his ambitions when he is the ball-carrier, but that’s to be expected—not every play will be successful.
What is important is that he remains extremely reliable no matter what his role in the offense.
The Green Bay defense has hemorrhaged yards to opponents all year, and against Detroit that trend continued. Matthew Stafford has been generally very good about ball security all year, with the exception of his four-interception game against Chicago.
The Packers were able to take almost as much advantage, though, with three picks and several other tipped passes.
Those turnovers were clearly the biggest difference in the game, as they gave Aaron Rodgers a short field to work with on numerous occasions. The points that were generated by those turnovers really helped to ice the game for the Pack.