With the injury-riddled Detroit Lions in town putting more of a focus on stopping the run than the pass early in the game, the Packers took advantage. The result was the most efficient passing day of the season for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Co. and a 26-0 victory to improve to 3-2 on the season.
Rodgers tied his career high for completions (29) on 37 pass attempts, good 78.4 percent, his best mark of the season. Coming off a 384-yard passing game in a loss to the Vikings, he threw for 358 yards against the Lions.
But this productive day through the air was different. It included several more short passes than the first four games, and it served as the running game that the Packers lacked for most of the game.
"We've got to do what's working for us," explained Rodgers, who saw his offense muster only 29 rushing yards on 10 carries in the first half. "When they're going to take away the run early in the game, we've got to be efficient in the passing game. We were very efficient in the first half, and missed a couple in the second half we'd probably want back; but we're going to stick with what works."
With essentially no running game over the first 30 minutes, the Packers were able to build a 23-0 halftime lead thanks to a strong defensive performance and Rodgers hitting on 19-of-23 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Only five of those throws, however, went down the field. One was hookup with James Jones for a 47-yard touchdown on the game's first series.
The Packers threw on nine of their first 12 plays and led 14-0 just 7:40 into the game after the Lions played them a little differently than expected.
"I think coach (McCarthy) and I both thought they'd play more of an umbrella coverage on defense and expect their front seven to get pressure and stop the run," Rodgers said. "I think they put the eighth guy in the box a little bit more, and that's why we had to check out of some runs to a pass."
Perhaps the Lions' injury situation on defense dictated a change in strategy, and thus, more help vs. the run than the pass. With three starting defensive lineman out (Sammie Hill, Jason Hunter, and Dewayne White), and a shuffled secondary, there were some holes available to the Packers through the air.
Rodgers found them. He completed passes to 10 receivers, led by Donald Driver's seven catches for 107 yards. Greg Jennings, who became a focal point this week because of his slow start to the season (just 11 catches before Sunday), got into the act as well, with six catches -- including a one-hander for 26 yards and a first down on the opening drive.
The production via the pass was only diminished by recurring offensive problems that continue to miff McCarthy and his team. The Packers were flagged for six unnecessary offensive penalties (four pre-snap and two unnecessary roughness), allowed five sacks and had three dropped passes, including one by Jennings in the end zone. Rodgers also fumbled on a sack at the Lions' 3-yard line that killed a sure touchdown in the third quarter. It also continued a tough red-zone day in which the Packers scored a touchdown just once on five trips inside the Lions' 20.
"It's nice to have a field goal kicker who bangs them home every time, but it's disappointing when – especially when you get the ball inside the 10 (yard line) – and you come away with three (points) or nothing. Those can be momentum killers," Rodgers said.
In the process of such continued frustration, the Packers rediscovered a short-passing game and a rhythm that had been missing this season. Not only did it lead to an overwhelming advantage in time of possession Sunday vs. the Lions (40:48 to 19:12), but it also might lead to more big passing games from Rodgers and Co.
"We've just got to continue to build off what we do each week," said Rodgers. "Obviously on offense, I don't think we'll be completely satisfied when we watch the film tomorrow with the way we played, but we'll clean it up and be very critical of ourselves and try and build on this."
Added McCarthy, "The ability of our quarterback to get the ball out to our perimeter people to make plays after the catch is always a focus, and I thought we did it at a high level today."