Packers-Lions Report Card

The grades are in after the Packers beat the stuffing out of Detroit 34-12 on Thanksgiving. They received mostly high marks, but the run game struggled and the special teams remain deplorable.


As expected, Aaron Rodgers and his diverse receiving corps enjoyed a holiday feast at the expense of the Lions' short-handed and porous secondary. Rodgers had his most efficient effort (124.7 passer rating) in five games, going 28-of-39 for 348 yards and a career-high-tying three touchdowns with no interceptions for the third straight outing. The short passing game was predominant again, especially on a 33-yard slant to Greg Jennings, an improvised shovel pass to Ryan Grant for 27 yards and a 21-yard catch-and-run touchdown by James Jones. Yet, Rodgers also was afforded rare time in the pocket to show off his rocket arm. He had six seconds to go through his progressions before heaving a throw that traveled 69 yards on the fly and into the hands of an unbelievably open Donald Driver for officially a 68-yard play, setting up a 7-yard touchdown pass to Donald Lee. Rodgers later delivered a 45-yard strike to Driver to get the Packers out of deep in their own territory. Driver had a season-high 142 receiving yards with seven catches, including a 7-yard touchdown. Tight ends Lee and Jermichael Finley combined for seven receptions, and Finley also drew big penalties on back-to-back plays. Rodgers was sacked only once - his lowest in five games - but left tackle Chad Clifton's failure to pick up blitzing linebacker Julian Peterson off the edge resulted in an open blindside hit on and fumble by Rodgers on a fourth-and-3 play in Lions territory. For all his prolific numbers, Rodgers was amiss in the passing game in two first-half drives that bogged down inside the Lions' 10 and resulted in field goals.


Things went mostly downhill, and not in a good way, for the run game after Ryan Grant ripped off a 15-yard gain on his first carry. A lead block from tight end Spencer Havner and a combination block from center Scott Wells and right guard Josh Sitton sprung the big cutback run into the middle. The momentum stopped there, however. Grant managed only 61 yards in 20 carries (3.1 average), and the Packers averaged a paltry 3.0 yards on the ground. The explosive-challenged Grant and stretch plays aren't a good match. Sure enough, he was dropped in the end zone for a safety on a fourth-quarter run to the outside, a play on which he was fortunate his elbow had hit the ground before he lost the football for what would have been a Lions touchdown. Conversely, Brandon Jackson got to the outside on a toss, led by pulling right tackle Mark Tauscher, for a 5-yard run to convert a third-and-2 play.


Charles Woodson's second smash performance in three games led an opportunistic defense that came up with a season-high five takeaways, all on the passing end. When he wasn't holding Calvin Johnson to a minuscule two catches for 10 yards (Johnson was a target 12 times), Woodson took other matters into his own hands. One of his seven tackles came on a pivotal sack on a corner blitz of rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford to stop a potential Lions' scoring drive in Packers territory late in the first half. Woodson then started his singular second half by jumping a low throw to Bryant Johnson for an interception. In less than 2 minutes late in the game, Woodson snuffed out an outside throw to Calvin Johnson for an easy pick and 38-yard dash to the end zone, followed by an open-field strip of the football from tight end Casey FitzSimmons and also the fumble recovery. An Al Harris-less secondary also had interceptions by safety Nick Collins and cornerback Tramon Williams - Collins' third pick in the last four games was an impressive individual effort on a high ball near the sideline while keeping his feet inbounds. The Packers flustered and hurried Stafford (20-of-43 for 213 yards, two sacks, 30.5 rating) with a lot of blitzes. Defensive linemen Johnny Jolly and B.J. Raji had tips at the line. On the downside, replacement nickel back Jarrett Bush was victimized in pass coverage - he was beat on a 47-yard completion to Dennis Northcutt when the ball went through his hands and also dropped a sure interception. The linebackers struggled in one-on-one matchups with the Lions' trio of tight ends, who combined for nine catches. Woodson and linebacker Clay Matthews were guilty of aggressive penalties, though a roughing-the-passer penalty that extended Detroit's touchdown drive was particularly weak.


The Packers held the opponent to less than 75 rushing yards for the third consecutive game, as the Lions mustered but 73. Despite being in catch-up mode most of the game, Detroit tried to get Kevin Smith on track, but he had only 19 yards in eight carries in the first half and finished with a measly 43 yards in 18 attempts for a 2.4 average with a long run of only 6 yards. He was tripped from behind by blocking fullback Jerome Felton on a potential big run up the middle. Nose tackle Ryan Pickett failed to tackle Smith behind the line of scrimmage on a third-and-1 run that went for 4 yards. Thereafter, rookie tackle Raji was stout against the run. He blasted Smith for a 4-yard loss. Linebackers A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett cleaned things up with 10 tackles apiece.


The mistake-prone tendencies of the unit throughout the season persisted early and often. Jordy Nelson carelessly and literally dropped the ball on his game-opening kickoff return, setting up the Lions with a short field to get their only touchdown. Mason Crosby missed wide right on a 43-yard field-goal attempt. Quinn Johnson, Atari Bigby and Brady Poppinga committed illegal-contact infractions on first-half returns. The deficient coverage units surrendered 34-yard kick returns by Aaron Brown and Northcutt in the second half. The deep, directional punting of Nick Harris left next-to-no maneuverability for Nelson, who averaged a scant 2.7 yards in three chances. Nelson and Woodson, who filled the role late in the game, averaged only 20 yards on kickoff returns. Jeremy Kapinos continues to outkick the coverage, averaging 44 gross yards (long of 57) but 32.7 net yards in three punts.


Coordinator Dom Capers ensured the defense didn't experience a drop-off without the injured Pro Bowl tandem of cornerback Al Harris and linebacker Aaron Kampman. He moved Woodson from his usual inside spot covering the slot or freelancing in a safety role to the perimeter to shadow Calvin Johnson most of the game, and Woodson dominated that matchup. As important, Capers stayed heavy with the pressure on the quarterback, doing so by keeping his linebackers fresh with a liberal rotation at the two outside positions, with Jeremy Thompson getting his first real playing time of the season. Head coach/play caller Mike McCarthy was seeking to balance the pass with a good dose of the run but didn't take long to realize that going after the Lions through the air was the sure way to go - he called 13 straight pass plays at one point in the second quarter. On that note, calling two straight run plays from the Green Bay 1 with handoffs to Grant in the end zone in the fourth quarter made no sense and backfired with the safety. McCarthy earlier showed no faith in Crosby after he misfired on the field-goal try by keeping the offense on the field for the fourth-and-3 play from the Lions' 31, to no avail. The ongoing gaffes on special teams seem beyond repair.

Packer Report Top Stories