That single word sums up the feelings of the entire fandom of the Green Bay Packers following their sickening loss to the Chicago Bears this past Monday, dropping their record to 2-1 and placing them one game behind the first place Bears.
To sum up that game in a word: penalties. Make that two words: stupid penalties. OK, three words: really stupid penalties. The 18 infractions by the Packers tied a team record that was set back in 1945. There is little to no doubt that those penalties cost the Packers the game including two that nullified Jay Cutler interceptions.
Moving right along, the Packers face the Detroit Lions at home this Sunday in a game in which the Packers must recover their swagger in order to keep their Super Bowl aspirations alive. A win, preferably a resounding one, and the Pack is back on track. A loss however, and the season will come off the rails. The Packers have not lost to the Lions at Lambeau in 20 years and a loss now would blow up the season.
How the Packers respond to the loss to the Bears will dictate this game and possibly the rest of the season.
Breaking down the Lions
Don’t let the 0-3 record fool you, folks. The Lions are much better than last year and could be a year away from challenging for the division title.
With starter Matthew Stafford out, Shaun Hill once again gets the start for the Lions. Despite not having anything near as strong an arm as Stafford, the Lions offense has been able to keep on trucking while Stafford’s shoulder heals.
Hill is complemented by a stellar receiving corps led by Calvin Johnson. As Detroit’s version of Jermichael Finley, he can give defensive backs fits with his size, speed, and seemingly inhuman vertical leap to grab balls. He will undoubtedly provide Charles Woodson a challenge, who faces a distinct disadvantage in the size department.
The biggest potential for explosive plays on the offense comes surprisingly from rookie running back Jahvid Best. A threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball, he will provide the Packers linebacking corps a solid challenge and another dual threat for the second week in a row after facing the Bears’ Matt Forte. best has been fighting a turf toe injury, but is expected to play in what will be a game day decision.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions’ pass rush has begun turning some heads. Rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and former Packer Corey Williams gave Brett Favre and the Vikings fits last week and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who played for Lions head coach Jim Schwartz in Tennessee, can get to the quarterback on any given play.
Just like the Bears, the Lions biggest weakness on defense would be their secondary. Chris Houston and Jonathan Wade do not match up well with the multiple weapons of the Packers offense and Aaron Rodgers could have a field day with this secondary.
When the Packers have the ball….
With the Packers running game still struggling to get going after losing Ryan Grant for the season, look for Rodgers to come out chucking it once again. Look for him to test the Lions secondary deep as well as on medium slant routes. Finley will give the Lions fits (who doesn’t he give fits to?) and should allow favorable coverage on Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.
Look for the Lions to unleash their pass rush on the Packers offensive line. For the second week in a row, the Packers o-line did not give up a sack and they face another crucial test with the Lions.
When the Lions have the ball….
With Hill having a weaker arm, Best can expect a large workload early and often. His ability to make such a quick cut provides the Packers a unique challenge. When Hill does throw the ball, he will be looking in Johnson’s direction as he is such a mismatch for the Packers’ secondary. If the Packers are able to take Johnson out, Nate Burleson provides Hill a viable alternative. We all know how much trouble the Packers had with Burleson when played with the Vikings.
Defensively, the Packers will do what they always do.Try to get after the quarterback, knock him out of rhythm and force some turnovers. It has worked fairly well so far and there is no reason to think it won’t continue to happen.
Three keys to the game….
1. Can the Packers cut out the dumb penalties?
Obviously the biggest question entering the game. The Packers beat themselves more than Bears beat them and they know it. While Coach Mike McCarthy’s seeming nonchalance towards the amount of infractions on Monday disturbed many fans, any head coach worth a darn will get that problem corrected right away.
2. How angry are the Packers?
The Packers know one got away from them last week. That loss could end up costing them a shot at the division title. They must be mad and fired up, right?
How fired up they really are will dictate the score and pace of this game.
3. Will Best get the best of the Packers?
I don’t think a lot people realize how good this kid already is. He reminds me of Adrian Peterson except with even more power if that is even possible. Peterson ran all over the Packers for a little bit before they figured him out.
When the Packers figure Best out will determine how this game goes.
Packers 34, Lions 31 OT
Call me a self-hating Packer fan, but I have had a bad feeling about this game all week. Detroit is so much better than last year and the Packers really have yet to play a complete solid game. The second half of the game against the Eagles, the first half against the Bills and the second half against the Bears have all been fairly pitiful.
In fact, if this game were in Detroit I very well could have taken the Lions here.
That said, this game is at Lambeau and the home field advantage helps the Packers to a win as penalty issues continue and fans and media begin to question McCarthy’s approach. Watch to see if he challenges plays and how he challenges them. McCarthy’s boneheaded decisions have cost the Packers some games the past four years.
Hold on, folks. It’s getting interesting.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke