Behind Enemy Lines: Part 1

Bill Huber of Packer Report and Nate Caminata of Roar Report break down Sunday's NFC North game at Lambeau Field. Will the Packers have a hangover from Monday? What's the state of the Packers' running game? And what's up with those 18 penalties?

We go Behind Enemy Lines with Packer Report publisher Bill Huber and Roar Report publisher Nate Caminata. Be sure to check out Part 2 on Friday, when Nate answers questions about the Lions.

Nate: The Packers seemed to have outplayed their division counterpart, Chicago, in Monday's loss. Is there a frustration-induced hangover along with the short week, and is there any concern that the two can affect preparation for Detroit on Sunday?

Bill: I rarely buy that there's a hangover after a tough loss, and I don't think that will be the case this week. These guys are professionals and there simply isn't time to stew over what was and what should have been. The players got Tuesday off but were back at Lambeau Field early Wednesday morning to prepare for this game and correct the errors from Monday.

Now, the short week might be a different story. Wednesday's practices generally are pretty intense (by regular-season standards, anyway) but this week it was merely a jog-through for an hour-and-a-half as they went through the Lions' schemes. The Packers get a break this week, though, because the Lions are a division opponent and, because they face them twice a season, the Packers spent extra time in the offseason studying them. Plus, when I asked coach Mike McCarthy, he said the position coaches had gone through the Lions' Sunday game by that night.

Nate: As expected, Aaron Rodgers has been strong this season, but it's difficult to win in the NFL without a balanced offense. Who can the Lions expect to see in Green Bay's offensive backfield on Sunday, and will that be a glitch that the proposed Super Bowl contender fixes at some point?


Brandon Jackson
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Bill: Common sense says the lack of a running game will be the Packers' downfall. However, I did a little digging on that. Last year, AFC champion Indianapolis had the NFL's worst running game in terms of yards per game and ranked 30th in yards per attempt. In 2008, Pittsburgh and Arizona reached the Super Bowl. The Steelers were in the bottom third of the league and Arizona finished last. So, I'm not sure the notion that you have to have balance on offense holds much water.

With that said, so much of the Packers' passing game is based on play-action. If you can't run the ball, that's a whole section of the playbook that gets discarded. You don't have to have a great running game but you have to run it good enough that the defense has to respect it. Ryan Grant, with back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons, made defenses respect the Packers' running game. We'll see what happens this week, because Detroit statistically has the worst run defense in the league. Starter Brandon Jackson's only 100-yard came against Detroit.

Nate: The Packers committed a franchise-record 18 penalties against Chicago. Since it doesn't seem to reflect the quality Green Bay possesses, what gives? 

Bill: Mike McCarthy's history is that this team will draw penalties by the bushel. In terms of penalty yardage, the 2007, 2008 and 2009 teams all rank in the top four in franchise history. Still, after two penalties in Week 1 and a respectable six in Week 2, Monday's game was disgraceful. Sure, there were some ticky-tack calls that went against the Packers — including Morgan Burnett's pass interference penalty that wiped out Nick Collins' late interception — but by and large, they earned every one of them.

McCarthy generally can live with combative penalties because they reflect aggressive play. The false starts, however, are inexcusable, and holding reflects bad fundamentals.

Nate: Calvin Johnson has traditionally performed well against the Packers. Since Green Bay has two youngsters in the secondary, will that affect their ability to neutralize Johnson, and is there really anything Detroit's shorthanded offense can offer (other than tossing it in Johnson's direction and hoping for the best) against the Packers' aggressive defense?


Charles Woodson
Domenic Centofanti/Getty Images
Bill: That's what I'd do. I don't care how experienced the defensive backs are, you'd be foolish not to just throw it up to Johnson and let the big guy work his magic. Seriously, why don't they throw him the ball 15 times a game?

I don't think the youth is going to be an issue because my hunch is defensive coordinator Dom Capers will match reigning defensive player of the year Charles Woodson on Johnson for most of the game. Johnson still has the height advantage, but Woodson is brilliant at reading the quarterback and has feasted on the Lions over the last two years with five interceptions, including two pick-sixes.

Another option for Detroit might be its tight ends because inside linebacker Brandon Chillar, the Packers' ace cover guy at that position, appears unlikely to play because of a shoulder injury.

Nate: Part of that esteemed defense, outside linebacker Brad Jones, suffered an injury against the Bills and has been replaced by rookie and Central Michigan product Frank Zombo. How does that affect Green Bay's defensive scheme, and how can we expect to see fellow linebacker and NFL sack leader Clay Matthews used against the Lions?

Bill: Nothing changes with Zombo in the game from the Packers' perspective. Jones, with a year of experience, appears to be the better player against the run but probably not dramatically so. Zombo had a sack in limited playing time in the opener against Philadelphia (nobody bothered to block him) and had another against the Bears. I'm not sure how talented he is — though the spin move he used to hit Jay Cutler on the roughing-the-passer play in the fourth quarter was impressive. He really has a motor.

As for Matthews, the Lions will have to do their homework. When he had three sacks against Buffalo in Week 2, one came from the left, one came from the right and one came from up the middle. He's the Packers' lone big-time pass rusher, and as such, opposing offenses are scheming to take him away. The counter move from Capers has been to line up Matthews anywhere and everywhere to make it harder to get a double-team block. The Bears held Matthews without a sack but he still got three hits on Cutler and was an impact player. He is one of the fiercest competitors I've ever seen. The Lions will have to block him to the whistle.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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