Packers report card: No flash, all substance leads to win
OCT 07, 2013 11:18a ET
Passing Offense: B-
One passing touchdown isn't exactly the type of game that built Aaron Rodgers' reputation into that of a superstar quarterback. Neither is throwing for a modest 274 yards. However, he did finish with a very Rodgers-like 106.8 passer rating, which demonstrates that while this wasn't a record-setting day for him, he was efficient and productive. Rodgers' numbers would have been better if backup tight end Ryan Taylor hadn't dropped what would have been a touchdown.
Jordy Nelson continued to show his elite skills as a receiver along the sideline, making another grab that will soon have its own category and simply be known as "Jordy Nelson catches." The way that Nelson is able to contort his body near the sideline and still come up with the ball is an art form. Nelson had a second spectacular grab as well, when on 3rd and 15 in the second quarter he managed to pull down a high pass while being ripped to the ground by Lions safety Glover Quin.
Statistically, James Jones was the star of the receiving group with four catches for 127 yards and one touchdown. Green Bay scored its only touchdown of the game on an 83-yard pass from Rodgers to Jones.
Detroit came into the game with eight interceptions (second-most in the NFL) in its first four games, but Rodgers didn't throw any. The Packers' offensive line also protected Rodgers quite well, giving up only one sack and eight total pressures.
Rushing Offense: B+
One more rushing yard. That's all that Eddie Lacy needed to finish with 100 yards and give Green Bay its first back-to-back-to-back 100-yard rushing games since 2006.
Lacy didn't have any breakout runs (his long for the game was 13 yards) but his ability to be a workhorse with 23 carries without getting injured or fumbling the ball was an important step for the rookie.
Johnathan Franklin's rollercoaster experience continues. Franklin rushed for 103 yards in Week 3 but concluded that breakout performance with a game-changing fumble. This week, the fourth-round pick fumbled again and almost gave Detroit the ball near the goal line. Franklin finished with one yard on three carries and didn't see the field again (on offense) the rest of the game after his fumble.
Randall Cobb spent multiple plays in the backfield and had the Packers' biggest run in three years when he busted out a 67-yard gain. Cobb showed how important it is for Green Bay to find different ways of getting the ball in his hands and just letting him create.
Rushing Defense: A-
It certainly helped the Packers that Calvin Johnson wasn't on the field commanding a lot of attention, but Green Bay shut down Lions running back Reggie Bush. In Bush's first two divisional games (first against the Minnesota Vikings and later against the Chicago Bears), he was dominant, posting a total of 374 yards in those two games. But the Packers' defense didn't let Bush see much daylight, holding him to 13 carries for 44 yards and four receptions for 25 yards.
Joique Bell got the ball five times and ran for 21 yards. Though Detroit came into the game ranked only 21st in the NFL in rushing yards, Bush had proven to be a major threat for the Lions' offense. Containing him was an impressive feat for Green Bay's defense.
Passing Defense: A-
Johnson's absence changed everything. The Lions knew they were going to be without Nate Burleson, but he's not half the player that Johnson is. It's impossible to gauge how this game might have gone had Johnson played. He's a threat on every single play. As cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said Friday, Johnson isn't just a physical specimen, he's a complete receiver who does everything incredibly well.
Without Johnson available, Matthew Stafford didn't have much to work with. The Packers held Stafford to 25-of-40 passing for 262 yards with one touchdown and a 89.8 passer rating. The one negative for Green Bay's passing defense is not coming up with any interceptions. On the positive side, though Detroit came into the game having only allowed three sacks, the Packers sacked Stafford five times. Second-year outside linebacker Nick Perry didn't get the start, but he played the best game of his career and had two sacks. Clay Matthews, Mike Neal (who started in place of Perry) and Brad Jones all picked up one sack apiece, as well.
Special Teams: A-
The 2012 version of Mason Crosby appears to be long gone, and that is critically important for Green Bay. Crosby connected on all five of his field-goal attempts, hitting from (in order) 26 yards, 52 yards, 31 yards, 42 yards and 45 yards. Crosby is now 9 for 9 this season and is hitting the ball the best of his career.
The kick and punt return situation played out as expected. Franklin was the kick returner, while Cobb fielded punts inside the 20 yard line and Micah Hyde took the punts that were anywhere else. None of those three players did anything notable, but avoiding a turnover can often be just as important. Turning the ball over is a big reason that Jeremy Ross was released two weeks ago.
This is a win that the Packers needed, and they got it. Though it's early in the season, the gap between Green Bay and Detroit would have been quite large had the result of this game gone the other way. Now, the Packers are 2-2, the Lions are 3-2 and Green Bay find itself just 1/2-game down from the division lead.
A Detroit victory would have been even more meaningful for the Lions if they had been able to do it without Johnson. But it was quickly apparent how crucial Johnson is to Detroit's offensive success.
The Packers' offensive struggles inside the red zone continued, and that needs to be corrected sooner than later. But Green Bay is running the ball better than it has in years and its defense is playing quite well in recent games.
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