It started out ugly but the Green Bay Packers pulled out yet another early victory and swept the season series against the Detroit Lions with a 27-20 victory at Lambeau Field.
It was a rather unusual win for the Packers. They gained nearly as many yards on the ground as they did through the air and after 35 consecutive games, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers did not throw a touchdown pass at Lambeau Field.
The emergence of the running game was the story of this contest, as well as the Packers not panicking after spotting Detroit an early 14-0 lead. They showed once again that no team handles adversity better than they do and that will serve them well going into the playoffs. If the running game can continue to grow, then Rodgers will go from being deadly to unstoppable. A solid Packers rushing attack is the last thing many opponents want to see.
Here are the good and not-so-good performances from the game against the Lions.
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WR Randall Cobb
What else can be said about Randall Cobb that has not already been said?
On a night where the Packers pretty much ran the ball better than they threw it, Cobb was the game’s leading receiver with six catches for 107 yards including another incredible one handed grab that has gone from stunning to borderline ho-hum for the budding superstar out of Kentucky.
Once Jordy Nelson returns to health, the Packers will once again be at full strength at the receiver position and with a decent running game possibly now in tow, the Packers very well could be hitting their stride offensively at the perfect time. If the running game takes some pressure off of Cobb, then look out.
RB Alex Green
With James Starks now sidelined, all eyes were on Green this week as the newly re-signed Ryan Grant likely was not seeing much action in his first week back with the team.
Green finally began to show potential as an every down running back and gained 69 yards on 13 carries, which is good enough for 5.3 yards per carry. He didn’t get into the end zone, DuJuan Harris had that honor, but he showed good burst and timed his cut backs well to give the Packers running game a spark that it’s going to need going forward.
If the Packers can get Grant going, that will make things much easier for Green. The two-headed attack seemed to be working well for the Packers and with Grant good in pass protection, Green very well could be ready to rock and roll.
CB Tramon Williams
You never will take Calvin Johnson completely out of a game, but Williams still did an excellent job Sunday night. Even when Johnson caught the ball, Williams was right there. He was not getting beat like he was in 2011 and if Williams can do that against Megatron, then he will be fine going into the playoffs.
The secondary as a whole played really well but Williams had the toughest assignment of them all and did a great job. The return of Sam Shields also was welcome news and the secondary is peaking at the right time for the Packers.
LB Frank Zombo
The entire pass rush was basically anemic, but Zombo gets the nod over the rest here because he got blown up….by Matthew Stafford.
Zombo has not panned out the way the Packers were hoping. He’s been injured frequently and when he has been in the game, Zombo has largely been ineffective. Thanks to the ridiculous amount of injuries the Packers have suffered at linebacker, he’s sadly needed at this point. Come 2013 however, Zombo is by no means guaranteed of a roster spot.
Officiating once again
One play in particular here: Morgan Burnett was flagged for hitting a defenseless receiver when he clearly ducked and didn’t even hit the Lions receiver’s head.
These kind of missed calls are happening all over the league and it’s getting ridiculous. Everyone is in agreement in improving player safety, but when you are unnecessarily softening the game a little bit of that mystique surrounding pro football dies a little bit.
Throwing penalty flags for just playing football is a disturbing trend and it needs to stop.
Yet another sluggish defensive start
Dom Capers deserves a lot of credit for getting his defense ready to play given the injuries the team is currently dealing with, particularly at the linebacker position.
That said, without Clay Matthews the Packers pass rush is non-existent. The Packers could not get anyone near Stafford Sunday. On top of that, the defense got off to yet another rough start and the Packers quickly found themselves down 14-0.
The team apparently has enough talent on defense to make a good unit, even with injuries. Yet they’re still getting beat badly early and often in games and the offense has to play catchup. Thankfully Mike McCarthy didn’t panic this week and stuck with his running game, which was key in the Packers overcoming the deficit and winning the game.
The Packers still can’t keep spotting teams two score leads early in games and expect to advance in the postseason. This falls on the coaches here. The talent is apparent, but what good is it when they’re not put in position to make plays?
That falls on Capers and his staff. It’s a trend they need to revers e if they want to make it to New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII.——————
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