The Detroit Lions broke their nine-game losing streak on Thanksgiving in a big way by dominating the rival Green Bay Packers in a 40-10 victory. It was close until the Lions tied it up in the second quarter with a five-yard TD pass from Matthew Stafford to former Packer Jeremy Ross, who absolutely gashed the Packers on returns. The Packers would never score after taking a 10-3 lead on a forced fumble by Nick Perry, which was recovered by safety Morgan Burnett (two fumble recoveries) in the end zone. Riley Reiff was beat badly on the play, but the Lions offensive line never allowed Stafford to be hit following that play. The Lions dominated the Packers in all facets, and below are some thoughts on the game.
1. The Packers 10-3 lead was as fluky as it gets. They took advantage of the Lions sloppy play, as the Lions Achilles heal is untimely penalties. But the Lions buckled down after two early fumbles and an early pick from Stafford, and it was all about the Lions high-powered offense smashing the Packers awful defense. Give credit to the Packers for being opportunistic early on, but their luck was always bound to run out.
2. Yesterday afternoon’s game between the two NFC North rivals showed why offensive lines are so important, and it just goes to show you why the saying, “It all starts up front,” is so true. The Packers offensive line was absolutely manhanled by a talented Detroit Lions front from the get-go, as they struggled to open up holes for Eddie Lacy or protect Matt Flynn even before Evan Dietrich-Smith went down with a knee injury. But once Dietrich-Smith was injured, the Packers offensive line went from bad to farcical. It was absolutely ridiculous watching the Packers offensive line get beat, as they generated absolutely no push up the middle. With the Lions offense dominating the Packers defense, the Packers had to abandon the run, which made the passing game even less effective.
It’s easy to pin all of the blame on Matt Flynn, because he did have a poor game and isn’t a good quarterback by any means. But it’s also difficult to move the ball down the field when you have no time to move the ball anywhere. The Packers allowed seven sacks, and I counted 15 hits (the stat sheet says nine) on Flynn. That safety was incompetence at its finest from the interior of the Packers offensive line, as Ndamukong Suh beat a double team with far too much ease before tossing Flynn into the back of the end zone.
I feel like the Packers made a philosophical error when it came to replacing the injured Dietrich-Smith, because they shifted too many players on the offensive line. The Packers had to kick T.J. Lang inside anyway, but I thought they should have moved Lane Taylor into the starting lineup instead of playing Marshall Newhouse at right guard. Newhouse was absolutely horrible, and it’s hard to believe that playing at RG was the right answer for this team.
3. Now let’s get to Flynn. The Packers offensive line was complete garbage (I mean, just look at the run blocking for further evidence), but Flynn shouldn’t be absolved of all the blame. At the beginning of the game when the Packers offensive line was “only bad”, Flynn hurt the offense by holding onto the football too long. Look, Flynn is at his best when he’s throwing quick passes, and, not coincidentally, that’s when Flynn was at his best yesterday. However, he kept staring down Jordy Nelson, who was double-teamed on just about every player. Flynn’s inability to progress through his reads at the beginning of the game and look at other receivers was absolutely debilitating to the Packers offense, because he missed several wide open targets (like TE Andrew Quarless). The Packers offensive line was honestly the main culprit, but Flynn was bad. As for “hopeless”, I think that’s overly critical, since Flynn had just about no help.
4. You see, the Packers offense as a whole had major issues. Jarrett Boykin offered nothing as a receiver, and it seemed like the only wideout who had a good game was James Jones. Then again, the fact that Flynn couldn’t make effective passes is largely due to his own struggles and the struggles of the line. But at the same time, the Packers receivers did a horrid job of gaining separation. Give plenty of credit to the Lions defense for tight coverage (something that’s been an issue for them this year), and rookie Darius Slay really impressed me by defending three passes. Flynn didn’t do his receivers any favors by holding the ball too long and locking in on his first read too often, but the Lions defense had perfect coverage for most of the day- great game-planning, too.
5. Matthew Stafford is a very good quarterback in this league and has amazing arm talent, but he has lapses in decision-making that are just downright upsetting. Both of his interceptions were passes that should have never been thrown, and his first pick was the most egregious of them. Tramon Williams was baiting Stafford all the way, and he simply served up an interception on a platter. His second pick was a case of Stafford holding the ball for too long (Calvin Johnson was open earlier), and then he tried to force the ball to Johnson in the end zone. It was another bad decision from Stafford, especially since Sam Shields got in front of Johnson and was in perfect position. Johnson is easily the best receiver in the game, but there’s absolutely no reason to force the ball to him like that.