Lions-Packers ‘Other' NFC North Matchup

The Lions were supposed to be better than this out of the gate, but they aren't ready to give up. Meanwhile, the Packers will also be looking for their first win of the season, but they'll have to improve their pass defense against Detroit.

DETROIT LIONS

They're 0-2 — with the possibility of being 0-3 at the end of the day Sunday — and it's not sitting well with the Detroit Lions.

It wasn't supposed to be that way this year. Not with a new head coach. Not with a decorated offensive coordinator. Not with an aggressive defensive coordinator.

But that's where the Lions find themselves — in desperate need of a victory — after losses to Seattle (9-6) and Chicago (34-7), with the Green Bay Packers due at Ford Field on Sunday.

"Every time we line up we're trying to win," said free safety Terrence Holt. "We didn't want to go 0-2 last week but it is what it is and (this) is a divisional game so it's a very, very important game for us.

"We need to get ourselves not too far out of this divisional picture. We need to get on track and start with Green Bay, try to get a win."

After the breakdowns in the Chicago game — most notably the 14 penalties — coach Rod Marinelli took full responsibility for the loss, saying it was obvious he had not drilled the necessary discipline and composure into the Lions players. Marinelli indicated he would remedy the situation in this week's practices but, to Holt, that does not necessarily mean a tougher week of work.

"To be honest with you, all of our practices since he's been here have been tough and hard," Holt said. "I think sometimes in the grind of the season you lighten up a bit; with past coaches you lightened up a bit just because you get guys injured and you get guys that are banged up a little bit.

"I don't think that's the mentality around here, I don't think that's his approach now. I think we'll continue to practice the way we've been practicing. It starts with us. If we do the things we're capable of doing, the things we're supposed to do defensively, then those plays that were big last week (for Chicago) would have been eliminated and plays this week — if we do what we're supposed to do and are disciplined — then hopefully we can negate some of those big plays from happening."

Although Marinelli is willing to take the blame for the Lions' shortcomings, the players are still chafing from the 21 penalties that have cost them 165 yards in the first two games.

"I would say it's a lack of focus, a lack of concentration, too anxious," said wide receiver Roy Williams. "You get too excited because you know a big play's coming but you just have to sit back in your seat, relax and let the play develop."

Marinelli is as eager to get the first win as any of his players but he says he's looking at it as just one of 16 games.

"It's the game that's in front of us," he said. "We've got to go out every game, every snap, we've just got to play well and win. Label it what you want (but) we've got to go out and win this thing this week."

NOTES

  • The space around wide receiver Roy Williams was as crowded as it usually is on Wednesdays of a game week, but there was something missing this time — the victory guarantee.

    Williams wasn't backing off on his belief that the Lions are good enough to beat just about any other NFL team if they're playing at the top of their game, but he wasn't putting it in the form of a guarantee as he did a week ago before the 34-7 loss to Chicago.

    "I said what I said and I meant what I said," Williams explained. "But I also said we should win the game if we do what we're supposed to do.

    "As long as the offense does what they're supposed to do in all areas, there's no team in this league that can beat us. Like I keep saying, our only defense is ourselves; we kill ourselves every week. Week in and week out, we kill ourselves."

    Williams said he heard about his guarantee from Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher but he also indicated he does not regret saying what he said last week.

    "Everybody knows I'm a competitor," Williams said. "Everybody gets mad about my first down signal; I'm going to give you the first down signal if we're down 100-0 because I'm competing and I'm fighting and I want my teammates to feed off that excitement."

    Williams typically gives the first-down signal after a first-down reception, getting to his feet and shooting his arm in the direction the Lions are going, frequently with a flourish that goes over well with the hometown fans but not so well with fans on the road.

  • Guard Ross Verba missed the Lions' first two games with a hamstring injury but he says he expects to be back in the lineup for the game Sunday against his former Green Bay teammates.

    Verba was a four-year starter for the Packers, getting a Super Bowl ring as a rookie left tackle with the 1997 team but went to Cleveland in 2001 after failing to reach a contract agreement with the Packers.

    Although he said there is nothing special about playing for the Packers, he added, "I respect them as far as players and stuff like that (but) the organization is a whole different story."

    BY THE NUMBERS: 31 — Where the Lions rushing offense ranks among the 32 NFL teams. And they thought they had it bad last year when the finished 26th.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "If that guy is jumping offsides, then we haven't emphasized this enough, we haven't given him enough hard counts in practice, okay?" — Coach Rod Marinelli on why the Lions are having a tough week of practice after their 34-7 loss at Chicago.


    GREEN BAY PACKERS

    The numbers don't lie this season.

    As unsurpassed as the Packers allegedly were defending the pass in 2005, they're unequivocally among the league's worst after the first two weeks.

    Heading into Sunday's matchup of 0-2 teams at division rival Detroit, Green Bay ranks 30th out of 32 teams, yielding an average of 292 yards through the air.

    Last season, the Packers were No. 1 against the pass, giving up an average of just 167.5 yards. The lofty status was chalked up as a mirage for a 4-12 team because opponents weren't compelled to throw after jumping ahead and sitting on the football.

    The defensive system remains unchanged this season after Bob Sanders replaced mentor Jim Bates as coordinator. The Packers, though, have been hung out to dry in pass coverage even with what they felt were significant upgrades in the secondary with the free-agent signings of Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson and safety Marquand Manuel.

    Instead of getting game-changing plays from a unit regarded as the strength of the defense, Green Bay is giving up game-deciding plays — at an alarming rate.

    Chicago and New Orleans each hit the defense for a half-dozen pass plays of at least 16 yards, which the coaching staff labels as an "explosive play."

    "Our problem right now with defense is strictly about giving up the big play," head coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday. "Fifty-five percent of the (gainful) plays from our offensive opponent have come on explosive plays. That's extremely high. We need to cut that by about 30 or 40 percent, and I think we'll be playing very good defense."

    It's been no one player at fault, rather a collection of defensive backs as well as linebackers who have struggled greatly in coverage.

    Manuel, Woodson, linebacker Brady Poppinga and generally solid cornerback Al Harris were exploited by Rex Grossman in the Bears' 26-0 win in Week 1. The six big completions, which started with a 49-yard touchdown to Bernard Berrian, accounted for 168 of the Bears' 262 passing yards.

    Last Sunday, Drew Brees rallied the Saints from an early 13-0 deficit on the road to a 34-27 victory with six explosive passes that added up to 198 of his 353 passing yards. Safety Nick Collins, nickel back Ahmad Carroll, Poppinga and Manuel were the leading culprits.

    "Can't really put our finger on it, but we've got to stop it. That's what it boils down to," Harris said. "We can't have big plays; we can't have explosive things. We've got to stop it."

    Harris refused to blame the off-season changes in the secondary and how the unit may not have fully jelled for the myriad breakdowns thus far.

    Clearly, though, there have been an assortment of communication issues among the cornerbacks and the safeties with regard to alignment, allowing receivers to get in the clear.

    "The big thing in secondary play is more in leverage, communication — ‘Who's on top? Who's underneath?' That's really part of playing football," McCarthy said. "It's no different than blocking and tackling, things you just need to continue to work on."

    SERIES HISTORY: 154th meeting. The Packers lead the series, which originated in 1930 when the Lions were based in Portsmouth, Ohio, 82-64-7. There have been two postseason encounters between the division rivals, both won by the Packers in the NFC wild-card round in 1993 and ‘94. Green Bay has won nine of the last 11 meetings, dating to 2000, but Detroit has prevailed at home two of the last three years.


    NOTES

  • The Packers take to the road for the first time in the regular season and have a game indoors to boot at Detroit's Ford Field on Sunday, but first-year head coach Mike McCarthy is keeping the players outside for practice for most of the week.

    "I prefer to be out on the grass," McCarthy said Wednesday. "When it comes down to making a choice, I think it's more beneficial for the players to be on grass."

    Under previous coaches, heading inside to the Don Hutson Center was automatic ahead of a game that would be played under a roof. The team would try to simulate the game-day experience by piping in artificial crowd noise through speakers when the offense had the ball in team segments.

    Speakers were placed on the sideline at adjacent Clarke Hinkle Field for Wednesday's practice, and noise reminiscent of a jet was played.

    McCarthy said he planned to get the players inside at least once by the end of the week. The team's indoor facility has a FieldTurf surface similar to that at Ford Field.

  • QB Brett Favre needs one touchdown pass to give Dan Marino (420) some company as the only players in NFL history to throw for 400 touchdowns.

    "I look at every time I get to throw a pass as something that a lot of people would love to do. And, to be able to throw a touchdown pass in Lambeau Field is a great honor," Favre said Wednesday. "So, to be able to throw 400, it's icing on the cake."

    Favre, though, will attempt to reach the milestone Sunday against a Detroit team that shut him out from the end zone in both meetings last season. The 15th-year Packers starter generally carves up the Lions defense, having accumulated 7,260 passing yards in 28 regular-season games. It's his most prolific passing total against one opponent.

  • With three interceptions in the first two games this season, Favre has cracked the top five in league annals for most career picks with 258. He supplanted Norm Snead (257) at No. 5. Vinny Testaverde ranks fourth on the infamous list with 261.

  • Two players no longer with Green Bay had co-starring roles in its last meeting with Detroit. Samkon Gado set a franchise record for a rookie with 171 rushing yards in 29 carries, highlighted by a 64-yard touchdown, and Ryan Longwell made a 28-yard field goal in overtime for a 16-13 victory Dec. 11 at Lambeau Field.

    Longwell, the Packers' all-time leading scorer, bolted to division rival Minnesota in free agency. Gado was traded to Houston last week for running back Vernand Morency.

  • Pro Bowl WR Javon Walker wound up playing his final game in a Packers uniform when Green Bay opened the season at Detroit last year. Walker sustained a season-ending torn anterior-cruciate ligament in his right knee during the third quarter of the Lions' 17-3 win.

    Unhappy with his contract situation, Walker demanded to be traded in the off-season. The Packers obliged on draft weekend in April by shipping the former first-round draft pick to Denver for a second-round selection in this year's draft. Green Bay turned that pick into five selections: OL Daryn Colledge (second round), CB Will Blackmon (fourth), QB Ingle Martin (fifth), DT Johnny Jolly (sixth) and S Tyrone Culver (seventh). All five players are on the 53-man roster.

  • With 15 catches in the first two games, WR Donald Driver is on pace for 120, which would shatter Sterling Sharpe's franchise record of 112 in 1993. Driver is only the fourth Packer to have as many as 15 receptions after two games since 1932, when the league began tracking catches.

    Ken Payne had 17 in 1975 and finished with 58 in a 14-game season. Robert Brooks had 16 in 1995 and finished with 102. Dorsey Levens also had 15 in 1998 and totaled 27 in an injury-marred season.

  • According to the Elias Sports Bureau, DE Aaron Kampman is just the second Packer since sacks became an official statistic for the league in 1982 to have as many as four after two games. Teammate Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila also notched four at the outset in 2001.

    Kampman tied a career high with three sacks in the 34-27 loss to New Orleans on Sunday. The fifth-year veteran shares the league lead with Philadelphia's Trent Cole. Kampman's personal best for a season is 6.5, attained last year.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 3 — Packers head coaches who lost at least their first three games. Mike McCarthy, the 14th coach in the team's 88-year existence, will try to avoid becoming the fourth rookie leader to start 0-3 on Sunday. Those who suffered the dubious fate were Lisle Blackbourn (0-3 in 1954), Bart Starr (0-4 in 1975) and Lindy Infante (0-5 in 1988).

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "We need to win games. We need to win. Every time you step out on the field, you want to win games. Is it a make-or-break-it (game)? We need to win. That's how I would answer that." — RT Mark Tauscher, when asked while brushing his teeth after practice Wednesday whether the 0-2 Packers are playing a make-it-or-break-it game at similarly winless Detroit on Sunday.


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