Lions travel to Lambeau for first challenge since front office shakeup
The Green Bay Packers have issues following two straight defeats. Their problems are nowhere near as severe as those of the Detroit Lions.
Looking to avoid their first three-game slide with Aaron Rodgers as quarterback in seven seasons, the Packers look to get back on track while trying to extend the longest home winning streak over an opponent in NFL history Sunday against the woeful Lions.
One week after totaling a season-low 140 yards in a 29-10 loss at Denver, Green Bay (6-2) couldn’t dig out of a deep first-half hole in last Sunday’s 37-29 road loss to undefeated Carolina. It’s the first time since October 2010 the Packers have dropped two straight with Rodgers under center. They last lost three in a row with him in 2008 – his first full season as the starter.
"Everybody’s mad," receiver James Jones told the Packers’ official website. "We’re 6-2. Ain’t no playoffs guaranteed unless we start winning some ballgames."
Television cameras caught a second-half sideline confrontation between Green Bay defenders Julius Peppers, B.J. Raji and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix last week. However, those players and coach Mike McCarthy called the incident something that happens in the heat of the game.
"It wasn’t even an issue. There wasn’t anything to be addressed," Peppers said. "I think it showed passion for the game, not necessarily frustration.
"Everybody wants to win. Sometimes you do get frustrated during the course of a game. Things happen. I actually like it. It’s passion, it’s emotion, it’s guys wanting to play better and win games."
The Packers scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns and Rodgers was intercepted trying for a third, but Green Bay has been outscored 44-14 in the first half of the last two contests.
Although those matchups were with two of the NFL’s top teams, Green Bay has averaged 21.4 points in the last five games after posting 32.0 in the first three.
Green Bay has averaging 95 yards on the ground in the past four contests after recording 136.3 in the first four. Eddie Lacy, who ran for at least 1,100 yards in his first two seasons while scoring 20 touchdowns, has averaged 3.7 per carry while gaining 308 with two scores in 2015. He left last weekend’s game with a groin injury and coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday that he’s making a change, replacing Lacy with James Starks.
Lacy has rushed for 78 yards on 33 attempts in the past four contests, and Starks has rushed for 26 more than him on the season. Starks was held to 48 on 15 rushes in the last two games but was dangerous in the passing attack against Carolina, with six catches for 83 yards and a TD.
McCarthy called Starks the team’s "No. 1 back right now."
The Packers’ pass defense also need to bounce back, as it’s yielded an average of 375 yards in the last three games after giving up 186.2 in the first five. Green Bay also allowed the Broncos and Panthers to rush for a combined 290 yards.
"We played two undefeated opponents (at the time) at their place," Rodgers said. "I feel good about our football team. We’re headed in the right direction."
At least for one week, perhaps.
Including postseason, the Packers have won 24 straight at home against Detroit (1-7). Rodgers has completed 70.2 percent of his passes with 11 TDs, three INTs and a 114.9 rating while going 6-0 against the Lions at Lambeau. Lacy has rushed for 199 yards in his two home games against Detroit.
The Lions have the NFL’s worst record, are last in scoring defense at 30.6 points per game and second-to-last in points scored at 18.6.
Off-field turmoil has also surrounded the club. Detroit entered its bye week off a 45-10 defeat at Kansas City on Nov. 1 that came days after three offensive assistants were let go. Then, team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew were fired last Thursday.
"It’s a great challenge in the way in which our business is conducted, how tough it is, how demanding it is," said embattled coach Jim Caldwell, who blasted the Detroit media for being too negative.
"You have to be able to draw strength from many things."
While the Lions continue to search for the right front office components, owner Martha Firestone Ford addressed the players and expects them to be competitive for the remainder of the season.
"Our fans deserve a winning football team and we will do everything possible to make it a reality," Ford said. "I also want to make it clear that we have no intention of giving up on this season. We expect our team to compete, improve and win."
That remains a challenge with Matthew Stafford in the bottom half of the league in passer rating at 84.1 and among the leaders with 11 interceptions. The Lions are also averaging an NFL-low 69.6 rushing yards.
It’s uncertain if an ankle injury will keep receiver Calvin Johnson from playing, but linebacker DeAndre Levy’s season is finished because of a hip injury that limited him to one game.
"We have the right kind of guys, we just have to play better," Caldwell said.
Despite throwing 10 TDs and three INTs at Lambeau, Stafford is 0-4 there.
- Aaron Rodgers
- B.J. Raji
- Calvin Johnson
- DeAndre Levy
- Detroit Lions
- Eddie Lacy
- FOX Sports Detroit
- Green Bay Packers
- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
- James Starks
- Julius Peppers
- Matthew Stafford