Aaron Rodgers rebounded from a slow start, James Jones caught his fifth touchdown pass and the defense played arguably its finest game of 2011 season as the Green Bay Packers took down the Detroit Lions, 27-15, on Thursday at Ford Field.
Here are five observations from the game:
1. Defense states their case
On a day in which the Packers lost Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk and Erik Walden at various times, the defense may have played their best game of the 2011 season. Despite giving up over 400 total yards again, the Packers intercepted Matthew Stafford three times and held a shutout into the fourth quarter against an explosive offense on the road. Calvin Johnson, one of the NFL’s best receivers, was held to just four catches for 49 yards and a meaningless garbage time touchdown. Backup inside linebackers D.J. Smith and Robert Francois played surprisingly well in emergency duty. Considering everything involved on Thursday, you could make a strong case this was the Packers most impressive defensive performance of 2011.
2. Suh’s stomp changes game
Terry McAulay’s officiating crew were bad for both sides on Thursday, but they absolutely got it right when they ejected Ndamukong Suh in the third quarter. Not only did he stomp Evan Dietrich-Smith’s arm, but Suh also banged Dietrich-Smith’s head off the ground multiple times before the stomp. There’s simply no place for that kind of behavior in football, and Suh deserves to sit a couple of games, especially considering his history. Luckily for the Packers, Suh’s dirty play gave them a new set of downs at the Lions’ 1-yard-line, and John Kuhn promptly turned the break into a 14-0 lead 9:06 left in the third quarter. It wasn’t the decicing factor in the game, but Suh’s ejection and penalty turned the tides in what was a close contest at that juncture.
3. Rodgers rebounds
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers started slow on Thursday, but the Lions were unable to hold him down for a full four quarters. After being held under 100 yards passing and failing to convert a third down in the first half, the NFL’s best signal caller caught fire in the second half and finished with another stat line that Packers’ fans have come to expect. By the time the game was over, Rodgers had completed 22 of 32 passes for 307 yards and two scores, including a 65-yard strike to James Jones that put the Packers up 21 points. His 120.2 passer rating extended his NFL record streak for games over 110.0 passer rating to 11 straight. Rodgers was especially deadly on back shoulder throws in the second half. Anytime the Packers needed a big play, he found a receiver being covered by a corner with his back to the play. At that point, it’s stealing for Rodgers and this group of receivers.
4. Turnovers key
It’s a well-used cliché, but turnovers again told the story of this football game. Stafford’s three interceptions led to 17 points for the Packers, and Green Bay had another clean sheet in the turnover category. You’re going to win a lot of games in the NFL with a +3 turnover differential, and giving away the football like Stafford did Thursday is suicide against a team as good as the Packers. I can’t imagine this Packers team losing a football game with a +3 or more turnover differential.
5. Perfection talk
A lot of people pointed to this game as the best chance for the Packers undefeated season to end. I was one of those who subscribed to that theory. Now that the Packers dismantled the Lions in a tough atmosphere on Thursday, it might be time to start really thinking about the possibility of 16-0. Very few teams match up against the Packers as well as the Lions, but Green Bay really handled some of those deficiencies well and dominated the second half of Thursday’s contest. The pocket was kept mostly clean by the Packers offense line, and the Lions passing game never gained much traction against a beat up Packers defense. Now, the Packers get 10 days to rest up for a trip to New York to take on the Giants. The Raiders, Chiefs, Bears and Lions remain on the schedule if the Packers can get past the Giants on the road. I never really thought too hard about the Packers’ chances of going through the regular season undefeated, but their win against the Lions on Thursday has changed my thinking.
Other observations: The Packers are 11-0 for the first time in franchise history. The last two NFL teams to start 11-0 (Colts and Saints in 2009) each went to the Super Bowl…RB James Starks played some snaps in the first quarter but wasn’t seen in the second half after tweaking his ankle. Rookie Brandon Saine saw his first NFL action, catching one pass for nine yards and carrying it twice for 10…Josh Sitton (knee sprain), A.J. Hawk (calf strain) and Desmond Bishop (calf) all missed time and their injuries are worth monitoring moving forward…Charles Woodson intercepted his sixth pass of the season, which now ranks second in the NFL behind Kyle Arrington’s seven…B.J. Raji had his third sack of the season and again saw time in the Packers’ Elephant package.——————
Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.
You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.Follow @zachkruse2