Packers vs. Lions: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 45-41 Win over Detroit

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Packers QB Matt Flynn broke several franchise records Sunday. (Photo: Tom Lynn, JSOnline)

Backup quarterback Matt Flynn threw six touchdowns in relief of a deactivated Aaron Rodgers Sunday, leading the Green Bay Packers to a 45-41 shootout win over the Detroit Lions in Week 17 at Lambeau Field.

Here are five observations from the Packers’ win:

1. Cha-Ching 

In throwing for a Packers’ record in both passing yards (480) and touchdowns (six), Matt Flynn vaulted himself to the top of the 2012 free agent quarterback class. He’ll become a rich man sometime this summer, as there will likely be at least one quarterback-needy team that pays big money to Flynn despite only two NFL starts.

Any chance of the Packers trying to re-sign as a backup him went out the window Sunday. He’s ready to start, and that’s not happening in Green Bay. It’ll be interesting to see how the Packers approach the impending situation this offseason, however. They could choose to let Flynn walk and simply net the compensatory pick in next year’s draft. Or, they could franchise tag him and then pursue a trade, which gives them control over the compensation and location. I don’t think any team in the division is a threat to sign Flynn, but the Packers’ decision regarding their backup quarterback is definitely something to watch after this season.

2. More than a steal

You would be hard-pressed to find a receiver that had a better calendar year than Jordy Nelson. His stunning run started in Super Bowl XLV and has been followed by a breakout 2011 season. On the first day of 2012, Nelson finished his career year with another career game. Nelson caught nine passes for 162 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday, pushing his season totals to 68 for 1,263 and 15. Nelson’s 15 receiving touchdowns is third in Packers history to only 18 from Sterling Sharpe in 1994 and 17 from Don Hutson in 1942.

But possibly the most encouraging part of Nelson’s day was the fact that he did it without Greg Jennings, who missed his third game with a sprained knee. Any concerns about Nelson’s capability of handling the lead role were calmed. He’s a legitimate No. 1 NFL receiver. Can you believe the Packers re-upped Nelson for four years and just $14 million? What a steal that deal looks like now.

3. Same story, different day

The Packers were without Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson (healthy scratches), but the defense was again gashed over and over. Matthew Stafford’s right arm was the culprit, as he threw for a whopping 520 yards and five touchdowns. As fans so painfully know, this is nothing new for the Packers defense. They end the 2011 season with the most passing yards allowed in NFL history, and Sunday’s game was just the cap to what’s been a lot of bending in the Packers’ pass defense.

Which brings me to this point: What NFC playoff team is going to be intimidated coming to Lambeau Field in the postseason? Any of the remaining five offenses can (and likely will) score points in abundance against the Packers defense. If you can score points, you’ll be in any game. And even though the Lions couldn’t finish off a Packers team that was playing a bunch of second-stringers, you better believe that they’ll be a confident bunch if they return to Lambeau in two weeks. Any game the Packers win in the postseason will probably resemble what you saw Sunday.

4. Decision to make

It was evident on Sunday that left tackle Chad Clifton was playing his first live-game action since Week 5. He was beat a handful of times, especially to the inside, during his limited snaps. The Packers apparently saw enough to pull him early in the second quarter in an effort to preserve the 35-year-old’s health. Still, did Clifton do enough to warrant a start in two weeks in the Divisional round?

Marshall Newhouse shifted back to the left after Clifton went out and played well. It’s going to be interesting to see how this situation plays out. Do the Packers keep giving Clifton No. 1 snaps in practice to get the veteran ready? Or do you use those reps on a young player who needs all the experience he can get before the postseason?

5. Mental gaffes

The defensive allowances are a part of the Packers’ 2011 identity, but the mental mistakes that were made Sunday most definitely are not. Maybe you can possibly credit some of that to the maturity of the opponent. Erik Walden and Desmond Bishop each made critical personal foul penalties that gave Detroit an easy touchdown. Pat Lee had an inexcusable safety in the first quarter doing a job he’s been asked to do for a couple of seasons now. Those are all mistakes that can’t be made once the playoffs begin for the Packers in two weeks. Mike McCarthy’s bunch has been too disciplined all season (least penalized team in the NFL) for those bone-headed mistakes to start happening now.

Other observations

The Packers Divisional round playoff game will take place on Sunday, Jan. 15 at 3:30 CT. The game will be shown on FOX, the NFL announced…The 51 total passing touchdowns (Aaron Rodgers 45, Matt Flynn 6) for the Packers in 2011 ties the NFL record set by the Indianapolis Colts in 2004. The 55 total (four rushing) are the most in the NFL history…Stafford’s 520 yards was the most in an NFL game since 1996…Ryan Grant showed some straight-line speed in out-running the Lions defense for an 80-yard touchdown. Could he be the same kind of spark that  James Starks was last postseason?…How important was Randall Cobb? The Packers special teams aren’t so special without the rookie returning punts and kicks…The 560 points the Packers scored this season is the second-most in NFL history. They eclipsed the 1998 Minnesota Vikings with their final touchdown…Both Vic So’oto and Brad Jones had sacks.

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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.

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  • Savage57

    It’ll be interesting to see how MM approaches the playoff bye. Will he stay true to form and try and maintain the level of repiition and predictability that have become his hallmark?

    It would be interesting to see if he schedules one of the padded practices for Sunday afternoon just to keep the weekly schedule and the rhythyms the same in terms of “playing” on Sundays.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      hadn’t thought about padded practices during the playoffs… How many are they allowed?

      • EP

        One per week from what I saw

  • Bernardo Harris

    The Pack will either play the Falcons or Giants….both are running teams. We are going to have to be able to stop the run….hopefully the Packers get fresh legs and are able to get it fixed over the bye.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      The Giants are much more balanced on offense than Atlanta. Manning is playing very well, they’ve gotten their receivers back healthy. They worry me more than Atlanta.

      • Ron LC

        If Lions beat the Saints, there will be another game with them. Packers will play the lowest seed that advances. I know it’s unlikely, but just say’n.

        • http://www.wcoffensive.blogspot.com Tom Freeman

          True, but I think the Saints will destroy the Lions. The Saints won’t be sitting any of their starters.

          • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

            I agree. Saints will beat the Lions easily in the Superdome.

    • Manitou

      The Packers could play against either the 4th (Giants), 5th (Falcons) or 6th (Lions) seeds. Since the Packers are the number one seed, they will always play against the lowest remaining seed. The only team they will not play in the second round is the Saints. If the Saints win, they will play the 49ers.

  • Bernardo Harris

    The Packers are in great shape right now. You could easily say that the hottest teams in the NFC…BESIDES THE PACKERS….are the Lions, Saints and 49ers. Only ONE team comes out of that bracket ALIVE to play the Packers. I know that the Falcons and Giants are good, but they don’t have the fire power that the other two teams have…and their records show it.

  • Bernardo Harris

    Biggest questions are if Clifton gets the start, and who is going to start opposite CM3 at OLB. At this point and time, I saw the MOST from Sooto. Brad Jones looked decent as well. Zombo has done nothing and Walden is a joke. Jones actually tried to BEND to the QB a couple times, and Sooto got home. I know that they are liabilities in coverage, but it’s not like Walden or Zombo are these great athletes when asked to cover anyway. We need pass rush…..let Sooto get the shot!!

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      As raw as So ‘oto is, your point is valid. At least he give you a shot at making a big play. And you’re not losing much by sitting one of the other guys…

  • Philip

    Don Hutson had 17 TDs in 1942. That puts White Lightning at 3rd in team annals.

    • Zach Kruse

      Fixed. Thank you Philip.

  • EP

    They keep calling the defense a Bend but Dont Break. It may not be broken but it is certainly cracked…40+ pts. I hope it’s all been a plan that gets in gear now…with the exception of J Bush’s mouth that is…..

  • Dan

    I hope ATL beats NYG, my wish is to play ATL, then SF , then Ravens in SB. With the way our O-line is playing, The Pack can score on all these teams and none have an elite QB. I think this is our best chance…..your thoughts?

    • Zach Kruse

      Dan, I think without a doubt that’d be the Packers easiest trip to the Super Bowl. Agree 100%.

  • http://none GalaxyM81

    Hey Al: What blows me away is how bad the defense basically played all season and the Packers end up 15-1??? I have never seen anything like this in all my years. I guess old Vince is spinning on his elbows…..God Bless the Offense!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Zach Kruse

      I’d get used to it…I think this is how the NFL is going to look now-a-days. Defense is dying.

  • http://firefox oscar

    i like the green bay packers because they are a beasty and they are hard to beat. green bay packers number#1 okay.

  • Shavager

    The HOTTEST team in the playoffs are not the Lions or Packers–it’s the SAINTS, hopefully the Lions or 49ers have enough to knock off the Saints before Packers have to play them. IF Packers can overcome the Giants in a game that should be close again, they’ll likely face the Saints, the one team in NFL that can compete on both sides of the ball with GB. Saints have a better running offense, defense is better than Packers but Lambeau field home advantage will help Packers some.

    • Zach Kruse

      I agree that it’s likely to be the Giants coming to Lambeau next weekend. That certainly wouldn’t be a cakewalk. Not sure if the 49ers can slow the Saints either…The NFC is so even this postseason.