The Detroit Lions? Pretenders, to everyone's surprise.
Sometime, perhaps sooner than later, the Lions will take a step forward. But that step forward is going to require a heaping dose of maturity.
The Lions, playing their most important game since their last playoff contest way back in 1999, simply were not ready for the Thanksgiving spotlight. The Packers won 27-15, and that's even with a garbage-time touchdown that served as lipstick on their pig of a performance.
Matthew Stafford, playing the biggest game of his brief career, threw three interceptions and was either unable or unwilling to make a play down the field. Ndamukong Suh, with a chance to show the world that he's the best defensive lineman in the game, got himself thrown out for a reprehensible cheap shot, then spent his postgame press conference pretending he did nothing wrong.
The Packers have the championship ingredients. The Lions don't – at least not yet.
It starts at coach with Mike McCarthy. X's and O's are important, make no mistake about it, but everyone's X's and O's can win a game played on a chalkboard. His steady-as-it-goes approach keeps his team on an even keel, and he puts so much trust in his players that they can't help but respond.
Which they have for 17 consecutive games.
The Lions have emotional Jim Schwartz, who seems like the type of guy who threw a tantrum when losing a game of dodge ball or tick-tack-toe as a kid.
Which shows with the unprofessional play of Suh and the all-around undisciplined play of a team found guilty of 11 penalties.
"I felt it was an excellent character win for our football team, something we talked about at halftime," McCarthy said. "I'm very proud of our football team to fight through the adversity. We had a lot of young guys step up big today. We had a lot of guys play a lot of football today, so big road win. The division games are always the biggest. We knew it was going to be a physical, aggressive game. The stadium was electric, it was a great atmosphere. It's all part of Thanksgiving Day, so we feel very good about ourselves today."
It continues at quarterback, where Aaron Rodgers is having one of the great seasons in NFL history and is well on his way to writing a chapter in the long annals of the league.
Against a defense that ranked second in the NFL in yards allowed per pass play and against a crowd that had coaxed an overwhelming 20 false-start penalties in the first five games here, Rodgers merely went about his business. His 22-of-32 performance for 307 yards and two touchdowns was so quietly terrific, the only parallel I can draw is of Michael Jordan. During Jordan's heyday, a 30-point game would have been ho-hum. A 30-point game by any other player would have drawn rave reviews.
Stafford, on the other hand, threw almost as many interceptions in one game (three) as Rodgers has all season (four). Rodgers has learned that mistakes lose games. He doesn't make many, which is why they haven't lost in almost a calendar year. Stafford just makes too many, which is why they're suddenly in jeopardy of missing the playoffs.
Beyond the interceptions, the Lions' last drive was telling. No, they had no chance to win the game when they got the ball with 2:43 to go. But why not press the issue and throw the ball down the field? Instead, Stafford played as if he were trying to pad his completion percentage by throwing one short pass after another. It resulted in an 11-play touchdown drive that didn't mean a darned thing.
Because of McCarthy and Rodgers, the Packers have a chance to do something beyond special. They have a chance to become one of the immortal teams that will be talked about years and decades from now.
"I think it just shows the kind of team we have and we're getting better every week," Rodgers said. "A lot of people picked against us this week and thought this was the week that we were going to go down. I still don't think there's a specific recipe to beat us. Our defense is playing better. They played very well today and got three turnovers, and the offense, when we're not turning the ball over, we're tough to beat."
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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.