The Green Bay Packers beat the Detroit Lions 27-15 on Thanksgiving in Detroit on to go 11-0 on the 2011 season thus far. The win was also Green Bay's 17th victory in a row. It took awhile for the Packers to get rolling, but they took advantage of mistakes along the way to get a key NFC North Division win.
The Packers went into the game with only a three-game lead over the Lions and the Chicago Bears, two teams that the Packers will play again to close out the 2011 season. A loss by the Packers on Thanksgiving to the Lions sure would have made things interesting in the NFC North.
To me, there were six keys to yet another win for the Packers. And as usual, it all starts with Aaron Rodgers.
Aaron Rodgers had a QB rating of over 100 again for the 11th consecutive time in 2011 against the Lions, which is an NFL record. For the game, Rodgers completed 22 out of 30 passes for 307 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Rodgers had a QB rating of 116.6.
That nothing new for Rodgers. In fact, the lowest QB rating in a game so far in 2011 for Rodgers has been 111.4 against the Bears in Chicago. For the season, Rodgers has thrown 33 TD passes to just four picks for 3,475 yards and has a QB rating of 127.7 for the season. Rodgers has also completed an amazing 71.8 percent of his passes.
That's MVP material, folks.
Rodgers has four very important attributes to be a successful quarterback. First, Rodgers has a very strong arm. Second, Rodgers has a very quick release. Third, Rodgers is very cerebral. Finally, Rodgers has the feet to make plays happen on the run as he is avoiding the pass rush, which he often does as well.
Add to that, Rodgers has 175 yards rushing and also has two rushing touchdowns.
Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff continue to press the right buttons, as the Packers are 11-0 for the first time in team history—and we are talking more than 90 years of team history, too. The team has also won 17 straight games, which is also a new team record.
Every head coach in the NFL—and certainly in Green Bay—is held to the standards of Vince Lombardi. For good reason, too. Lombardi and his Green Bay teams won five NFL championships in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls. The 1965-1967 teams won three NFL titles in a row. However, even Lombardi only won 12 straight games, when his teams from 1961-1962 did that.
McCarthy and his staff have that number up to 17 now. Why? Teaching and focus. It doesn't hurt when one has a talented roster as well, and the Packers certainly have that.
Wins are great, but every season has a number of goals. The first goal is to win the NFC North. The second goal is to win home-field advantage in the NFC. The third and most important goal is to win the Super Bowl.
McCarthy has the team focused to do just that. And if that happens, McCarthy and his Packers would have won two straight Super Bowls. Only a few coaches in NFL history, including Coach Lombardi, know that feeling.
The Green Bay Packers kept their poise in the game versus the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, while the Lions clearly did not. For one thing, the Packers had zero turnovers, while the Lions had three. Yes, the Packers did commit eight penalties for 54 yards, but the Lions committed 11 penalties for 82 yards, including one huge mistake that turned the momentum of the game clearly in the direction of the Packers.
I'm talking about in the third quarter when Aaron Rodgers had narrowly missed on a third-down throw to Donald Driver in the right corner of the end zone. At that point, it should have been time for Mason Crosby to come out to attempt a chip-shot field goal to put the Packers up 10-0.
Instead, we saw the infamous Ndamukong Suh stomping incident. Suh was incensed that reserve LG Evan Dietrich-Smith had bent him over backwards on a block during that play. Suh proceeded to shove Dietrich-Smith's head into the turf a couple of times before getting up and kicking the third-year guard out of Idaho State in the bicep area of his right arm.
That led to a personal foul against Suh and his immediate ejection from the game. That stupid move by Suh gave the Packers a 1st-and-goal situation. The Pack soon had another TD to go up 14-0.
The Packers had been warned by the coaches to expect this type of behavior by the Lions. Only once did that warning go unheeded, when CB Pat Lee was ejected after getting into with a couple of players from the Lions covering a punt.
But other than that, the Packers kept their poise and were on their way to their 11th win of the 2011 season.
The Green Bay Packers lost three starters in the game against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, yet all of the backups played very well. Ted Thompson had to be smiling a bit.
Both inside linebackers, Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk, left the game due to calf strains. That isn't surprising, as the Packers played their third game in just 10 days on Thanksgiving. However, the two guys that replaced Bishop and Hawk did a fine job.
I'm talking about D.J. Smith and Robert Francois. Smith, a sixth-round draft pick out of Appalachian State in 2011, had five tackles and one assist. Francois, a third-year player out of Boston College who first joined the practice squad of the Packers in 2009, had three tackles and a key interception.
The play after Francois' interception was the 65-yard TD pass from Aaron Rodgers to James Jones.
LG Josh Sitton also went down with a knee injury. Sitton was replaced by Evan Dietrich-Smith, who did a nice job and who also was involved in one of the key plays of the game. Again I'm talking about the personal foul committed by Ndamukong Suh, after Dietrich-Smith almost bent Suh over with an excellent block. That led to Suh's stomping incident and his ejection.
The Packers have a lot of quality depth on their roster, especially at wide receiver. The Packers may have also shown another important weapon for the team to use down the stretch. I'm talking about the Thanksgiving debut of undrafted rookie RB Brandon Saine, who played his college ball at Ohio State.
Saine only had 10 yards rushing on two carries, plus a catch for nine yards, but Saine has opened some eyes on the coaching staff of the Packers. I expect Saine to get even more chances to shine over the last five games of the regular season and into the playoffs.
It's an old adage, but it's almost always true in the game of football. The team that gets more turnovers than its opponent almost always wins. The Green Bay Packers had three interceptions against Matthew Stafford, while the Lions had none against Aaron Rodgers. Neither team had a fumble lost.
The first interception was by OLB Clay Matthews on a pass deflected by DL Ryan Pickett. Matthews made the interception at the Detroit 20 and rumbled down to the 13. That pick led to a three-yard TD pass by Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings.
The second interception was by ILB Robert Francois at the Packers' 35. The very next play was a 65-yard TD pass from Rodgers to James Jones.
The third interception was by Charles Woodson at the Lions' 33. That pick led to a 35-yard field goal by Mason Crosby.
Three interceptions led to 17 points. In a game the Packers won by 12 points. Need I say more?
The Green Bay Packers won on the road for the ninth consecutive time when they defeated the Detroit Lions 27-15 on Thanksgiving.
The Packers have always been a good road team under Mike McCarthy, as they are 30-19 (including the playoffs) since his regime started in 2006.
But the road-warrior mentality really took shape last season in the postseason. The Packers won in very difficult playoff environments, as they won in Philadelphia (the first time the Packers ever won a playoff game there, plus Vince Lombardi suffered his only postseason loss in the City of Brotherly Love), Atlanta and then Chicago to reach the Super Bowl.
That has continued this year, as the Packers are now 6-0 on the road so far in 2011. The New York Giants in New Jersey will be the next test for the Packers next Sunday, but somehow I don't think that challenge will phase the defending NFL champions.