For the Packers, what a difference a week (or two) makes
By Jay Hodgson, Packers contributor
Eddie Lacy, Aaron Rodgers.Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers dominated the Detroit Lions in a complete game. This was in stark contrast to just a few weeks ago.
After a heartbreaking loss in Cincinnati, the Packers had many questions needing answers.
The defense was giving up an average of 404 yards per game, with 83 of them coming on the ground and 311 coming through the air. More concerning, however, were the 29 points per game they allowed.
Would this be a repeat of past defensive deficiencies?
Despite finding a running game, it seemed as if they didn’t have any healthy running backs. Who would rise healthy to lead the charge?
The pass rush was anemic at times. Who would hit the quarterback? Would it be Clay Matthews or someone else?
Aaron Rodgers had a shaky game. Would be bounce back quickly?
Then, we started to hear about how the Detroit Lions were the toast of the NFC North.
They had a potent offense that no one was capable of stopping.
Reggie Bush was the “x factor” that made the Lions instant contenders. How could the Packers possibly stop them?
All of these questions were answered in the 22-9 beatdown the Packers imposed on the Lions.
The biggest impact, in my opinion, was the return of safety Morgan Burnett from his hamstring injury.
Burnett’s return helped the defense immensely. They allowed only 286 total yards, with 64 rushing yards and 222 passing yards.
The Packers’ run defense was already stout without Burnett, be he made it more stingy. He also shored up the back end and limited passing yards.
While it is true that Calvin Johnson did not play, the Packers defense completely shut down Detroit’s “x factor,” Reggie Bush.
He only gained 44 yards on the ground and 25 yards through the air. He never got a sniff of the end zone.
He had no impact on the game. It’s like he never saw the field.
More telling is the Packers only allowed nine points, which was 20 points below their average. Plus, the Lions’ offense is no slouch, or so it would seem with Reggie Bush.
Also obvious in the Packers’ defensive performance is the emergence of the pass rush.
Previously, Matthew Stafford had only been sacked three times all season, which was the lowest sack total in the NFL.
On Sunday, Stafford was sacked five times.
Nick Perry, who was being criticized for not generating much of a pass rush this season, had two of them.
Of course Clay Matthews got his, but so did Mike Neal. The hybrid position experiment is clearly working with Neal.
Eddie Lacy returned from his concussion in dominant fashion. He was one yard shy of giving the Packers a 100-yard rusher for the third straight game.
With the running game clicking, Aaron Rodgers returned to the form we’ve all come to know. He was able to throw for nearly 300 yards against a very strong Lions’ defense.
He was literally inches away from having two touchdown passes.
I think all of Packers Planet can be very happy and proud with that win. It was a complete effort.
Offense, defense, and special teams all contributed. Even the oft-maligned Mason Crosby was perfect on the day and scored 16 of Packers’ 22 points.
While the fan base is holding our collective breaths with the Matthews’ thumb injury, things are certainly looking up.
The defense is clearly rolling, and they’re not even back to full strength yet.
This week, they hope to get ball hawk Casey Hayward back from his hamstring injury.
His return will only further solidify a strengthening defense.
The reality is the Packers may be forced to play for an extended time without Clay Matthews. That really hurts.
But, they have clearly shown that Mike Neal and Nick Perry can also rush the passer. The defensive back end is almost back to full strength.
Once it is, they’ll be hard to pass against.
What a difference a week (or two) makes.