Searching for Answers

After a disappointment like Thursday's 22-14 loss to the previously-unimpressive Lions, we're left wondering "Why?". Laura takes a look at the excuses that can be given for yesterday's defeat, and offers her reasons why the just don't wash. Must-reading!

Pick an excuse, any excuse. The Packers' worst performance of the season in a 22-14 loss to the Lions has to have some explanation. takes a look at the reasons for the Packers' Thanksgiving Day debacle.

Rationale No. 1: The loss of Nick Barnett and Darren Sharper was too much for the defense to overcome.

Early in the game, it looked like that was the case. But after allowing the Lions a touchdown on their opening drive, the defense adjusted physically and emotionally. Detroit got in the red zone twice the rest of the way and never got into the end zone again.

Granted, the loss of Sharper and then Edwards gave Detroit much more desirable matchups. Likewise, Barnett's speed was missed more acutely every time the otherwise excellent Na'il Diggs was seen trying to chase down a receiver.

But the dent in the Packers' depth doesn't alter the fact that the Lions are not a good offensive football team. Even handed five turnovers and outstanding field position (average drive start on their 38) thanks to a sub-par day by special teams, they still only won by 8 points and the Packers clung to hope until the final seconds.

Sherman's take:" We were missing some guys, but in this league and this day and age you better be ready to play. Everybody here is on scholarship and they all have to play. If they're on the team, we have to count on them to make the plays. Is it difficult when we take Sharper and Barnett out of the game? Yeah. But we have guys who have to step in to make those plays and make that adjustment.

No, the defense was not the problem in this one.

Rational No. 2: The Lions' defense is better than their record indicates and was just too much for the Packer attack.

No team is better than their record indicates. The record indicates wins and losses, which is why the games are played. The Lions' defensive front is probably the bright spot on this teams, but that doesn't change the fact that Detroit is 4-8. Green Bay came in with the top rushing offense in the league, and should have been able to run over the Lions.

Detroit's defense ranks 18th in the league vs. the run, allowing 116 yards per game. Green Bay's top-ranked offense averages 173 yards per game. Thursday, Green Bay had 52 yards. You do the math, because when I try it, it just doesn't add up.

Sherman's take: "They seemed to compress us and make plays," Sherman said. "They did a great job with their backside pursuit."

Rationale No. 3: The chance of  winning a game with five turnovers is miniscule.

That's true, but even with the five give-aways (four in the fourth quarter) Green Bay still had a shot at this one. Favre had one of his worst career days, but let's keep it in perspective. For the first time since week 1, the running game was nowhere to be found. Add  heavy pass rush and sometimes unreliable receivers, and he faced situation where he was forced to wing it – the opposite of last week's successful game plan for accommodating Favre's broken thumb.

Sherman's reaction: "They created a lot of pressure. Both interceptions were a result of what was coming in the quarterback's face. (Favre) made some good throws, but there are certainly some he'd like back.. Turnovers certainly contributed, but everyone lost this one."

*Rationale No. 5: The Packers can't catch a break.

Green Bay needs some good, old-fashioned luck. Remember Freeman's miracle catch vs. Minnesota in 2001? That's the kind luck we're talking about. For instance, when the ball bounced out of Joey Harrington's hand in the second half Thursday, it bounced forward and into a crowd of Lions. That cut the Lions' losses and gave Green Bay no chance to recover the ball. When the ball slipped out of Favre's hand, and when Dre' Bly poked the ball out of Bubba Franks' arm, the crazy bounces seem to have a magnetic attraction to the color blue. All this could be solved, of course, by hanging onto the ball.  Hail Mary passes were deflected away from teammates, and the final pass bounced just feet away from Tony Fisher. Luck is still a part of this game, and the Packers don't seem to have much of it this season.

Rationale No. 4: Penalties were far too costly.

Green Bay, the least-penalized team in the league coming into Thursday's game, was flagged six times for 49 yards, including two personal fouls.

Sherman's take: "I don't think a lack of discipline is determined by two playsi n the ball game. We don't get many penalties during the course of the season, or we haven't anyways. Are those acceptable? No. The were costly, and I don't anticipate we'll have them again."

Rationale No. 5: Mentally, the Packers didn't have what it takes Thursday.

Now we're onto something. Green Bay came out flat, stayed flat, and doused most self-created sparks with a flood of mistakes. Meanwhile, the Lions bottled the tired old "no respect" chant and made it work. At 4-8, Detroit isn't going anywhere and they know it. So they made Thursday their "Super Bowl." One wonders why the Packers seemed surprised by that.

Consider cornerback Dre' Bly's reaction to the win and his key role:

"This is right up there with that Super Bowl in 1999," Bly said. "Just to play in front of a national stage, to be able to receive with "Gobbler" award and just to be able to experience what we did today, it  was a great, great feeling."

Bly certainly had a right to celebrate, thanks to two interceptions and a forced fumble which killed the Packers. But to compare the fourth win in Week 13 to a Super Bowl gives a glimpse into what this game meant to the Lions.

Sherman's reaction: "I think we lost this game in the beginning," Sherman said. "We had played four, tough emotionally-packed ball games previous to this one and I don't feel like we had what we needed to have in order to win this game on Thanksgiving in their place. You have to be ready every week."

He's right.

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