(No, that's not a typo. More on that in a moment.) In an absolutely unforgiveable performance, the Super Bowl contenders from Green Bay didn't bother to bring their "A" game to Detroit on Sunday. Or their "B" or "C" game, for that matter.
No, with little margin for error in the playoff chase and facing a team that had made the Packers squirm until the final snaps of their Week 4 game at Lambeau Field, Green Bay brought its "F" game to Ford Field. Well, the offense did. As a result, the Lions – those lovable losers of 19 consecutive games within the NFC North – flattened the listless, punchless and clueless Packers 7-3 in front of a bipartisan crowd of yawning fans on a soupy, snowy Sunday.
So, the scene in the bowels of the stadium was fitting. Outside the locker room, a vending service had a hot box filled with fried chicken dinners for the players and coaches to take on their bus ride to the airport. The white note on the stainless steel contraption read "Packards."
Hey, there's no time like the present to diss a franchise that was born in 1921, has won 12 world championships and had thrown around the Lions like stuffed animals for most of the last decade. Besides, this performance wasn't worthy of the revered nickname.
Sure, the outcome probably would have been different had Aaron Rodgers not run himself into a concussion in the second quarter. Of course, that would be overlooking the fact the Lions were starting third-stringer Drew Stanton. Stanton was making just his third start – and for good reason, considering the Lions' best offensive play was just letting Stanton run the ball.
You can poke and prod at this or that, but really, that's just overlooking the obvious: The Packers, with a murder's row of a schedule forthcoming, weren't ready. Coach Mike McCarthy thought they were ready after pushing his players at practice last week in hopes of warding off just this kind of performance, but they weren't ready. Not by a long shot.
"They were playing faster than we were and there was no reason behind it," he said. "We had as many fans in the stands as ... so the atmosphere and everything (wasn't a factor). I didn't see any signs of this during the week of preparation. I thought the week of preparation was a good week. It wasn't a great week but I thought they were definitely dialed in. I made a point of this type of game last night in the team meeting. That's what's frustrating to me, to come over here and the importance of a division game and to start the game the way we did. We need to quit having these types of lessons, particularly this late in the year. But the positive part about it is everything that we still want to accomplish is in front of us. We need to get to work tomorrow like we always do. We'll go through the film, grade it, correct it, (be) accountable and we need to get ready for New England."
No doubt they'll be more ready for the Patriots than they were the Lions. That type of heightened urgency may be too little, too late, though, regardless of Rodgers' state of mind.
Really, the game should have been over quickly and this would have been a much, much different story. On the first drive, rookie tight end Andrew Quarless rumbled to the Lions' 35-yard line before fumbling. On the fourth drive, Rodgers had Greg Jennings for a 73-yard touchdown but the NFL's most productive wide receiver over the last seven games flat-out dropped the ball, with his bobble turning into the second turnover of the quarter.
"Dropped it. Straight dropped it," Jennings said, grasping for word. "Umm, dropped it. Like, there's … dropped it. Like, um, disappointed. Very, very disappointed."
And as tends to happen in games like this, the longer the underdog hangs around, the better they start feeling about things. That was especially true in the trenches, where the Lions' talented defensive line absolutely destroyed the Packers' blockers. Rodgers and Matt Flynn were sacked twice apiece and were hit a total of eight times, and the running backs gained 31 yards on 15 carries.
"We had a major letdown on the offensive side of the ball," Jennings said without being asked a question. "Defense kept us in the game, the entire game. We're a better team than that. We can't come out here and get put in positions to where we have to crawl back into the game. Obviously, they're a team – they fight. They fight every time we play them. They've been fighting every time we sat down and watched film. Every team they've played, they've been in the game. We know what they were capable of doing and we came out here and laid an egg, bottom line. Got to make plays when the ball's in the air, period. Been making plays and that's what we do but didn't do it today and let this team down with the big drop in the first quarter. Obviously, a momentum-changer. You can't have that when you're a playoff-caliber team and you're trying to reach the playoffs and you've got bigger goals."
Those bigger goals, of course, are winning the Super Bowl. For a team known as the Packards, they'll have to make a name for themselves with a drastic reversal of fortune over the final three games.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.