Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 22, Lions 9

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Morgan Burnett and A.J. Hawk helped contain the Calvin Johnson-less Lions offense.
Morgan Burnett and A.J. Hawk helped contain the Calvin Johnson-less Lions offense.

Kickoff was scheduled for noon in Green Bay, but the game between the Packers and Detroit Lions got underway mid-morning with the surprising news that Calvin Johnson was inactive.

Johnson, regarded as the best receiver in football, may be as important to the Lions offense as any non-quarterback is to his team around the league. And although the Lions added Reggie Bush this offseason to give them a more complete offense, it’s Johnson that makes the wheels go round.

With Johnson out, the Lions were unable to get anything going against the Packers defense.

Coming into the game, Bush—whom the Lions move all over the formation and utilize him in the passing game—looked like a tough matchup for a Packers defense that struggles in the middle of the field, but Detroit’s new offensive weapon managed just 69 total yards on 17 touches.

It’s hard to say what might have been had the Lions’ offense been at full strength, as the high-flying Packers offense only posted 22 points themselves. But in the end, five Mason Crosby field goals and a James Jones touchdown was all the Packers needed to get their second win of the season.

And as things currently stand, the Packers (2-2) trail the Lions and Bears (3-2) by only one game atop the NFC North standings.

Game Balls

Mason Crosby

After a disastrous 2012 season and ugly Family Night Scrimmage, Crosby has brought his A-game so far the regular season. With the offense struggling to punch the ball into the end zone, Crosby scored 16 of the team’s 22 points and left little doubt on his five field-goal attempts. I’m no kicking expert, so I often relate kickers to golfers. And right now, Crosby is hitting the fairways with his short irons and his driver. But of course, Giorgio Tavecchio would’ve been six-for-five with a hole-in-one.

Nick Perry

Welcome to the NFL. Sunday was unquestionably (right?) the best game of Perry’s NFL career, as last year’s first-round pick registered his first multi-sack performance. The Packers were unable to come up with the football after Perry forced a fumble on a sack of Stafford, but Clay Matthews’ book end showed flashes throughout the afternoon of why the team drafted him in the first round of last year’s draft. If the Packers are getting three sacks out of Perry and Matthews, they’re going to be tough to beat.

Wide Receivers (Jones, Nelson, Cobb)

Aaron Rodgers played better this week than he did against the Cincinnati Bengals, but his numbers were, once again, relatively pedestrian. His receivers, however, came to play. James Jones led the team with 127 yards and a touchdown, while Jordy Nelson made a couple sensational catches and added 82 yards on five catches. Randall Cobb only accounted for 35 yards through the air, but he added 72 on the ground, including a 67-yard gain in the third quarter that he nearly took to the house.

Eddie Lacy

Lacy was just a yard short of becoming the Packers’ third-consecutive 100-yard rusher. And if not for a questionable late-fourth quarter holding call on Jarrett Boykin, Lacy would have gone over the century mark. The team’s ground attack has been encouraging through the first quarter of the season, and while Lacy only has two full games under his belt, it’s pretty clear that he’s the No. 1 back when healthy. Dude is a load—in a good way.

Morgan Burnett

In his season debut, Burnett made his presence felt despite a pedestrian stat line. Burnett is undoubtedly the team’s best safety and arguably the most irreplaceable part of the secondary. Of course, on Sunday, the defensive backs benefitted from Calvin Johnson’s absence, but they certainly looked better than they did in the three games without Burnett. Chris Banjo, M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian each do certain things well, but relying on two of them to be every-down players is not in the best interest of the defense.

Lame Calls

Johnathan Franklin’s Fumble

For the second-consecutive week, rookie Johnathan Franklin put the ball on the ground. Prior to his blunder against the Bengals, Franklin put together an eye-opening, 100-yard day on the ground. But in his encore Sunday against the Lions, Franklin mustered just one yard on three carries and fumbled the football—which was recovered by Rodgers. The quarterback may have saved Franklin’s you-know-what from ending up in Coach McCarthy’s doghouse, but the skipper opted to use Cobb as a change-of-pace back following the near turnover. Even without James Starks in the lineup, Franklin can’t afford these miscues if he wants to remain part of the rotation.

First-Half Offense

No disrespect to Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Louis Delmas; the Lions have a lot of talent on that defense. But no matter whom the Packers are playing, they’d surely plan on scoring more than six points in 30 minutes of game action. There was plenty of blame to go around for the team’s lackluster first-half performance; going shotgun on third-and-one instead of pounding it between the tackles with, dropped passes, etc. The offense improved in the second half, but the Packers have two many offensive weapons to manage just two Crosby field goals in a half.

No-call on Rashean Mathis

Coach McCarthy was absolutely, pawsitively upset after Lions cornerback Rashean Mathis was not penalized despite having a handful of Jordy Nelson’s jersey in the end zone. Rodgers had escaped the pocket and fired a ball into the end zone in the relative direction of Nelson. The ball may have been uncatchable, but that doesn’t change the fact that Mathis was making significant contact with Nelson well past five yards. McCarthy was mad, Rodgers wasn’t happy, and the Packers settled for another field goal.

Ryan Taylor’s Drop

On a beautifully designed play, Taylor lined up in the backfield, snuck out on a wheel route, got behind the linebacker and found himself wide open in the middle of the field. Rodgers led Taylor perfectly up field and placed the ball right in his hands. The only problem with the play is that it resulted in an incompletion, instead of a touchdown—or at the very least, a first down. Of course, the Anti-Finley Committee may shrug this one off and point to No. 88’s drop (or great play by Louis Delmas) earlier in the game, but the fact is that Taylor dropped a flawless pass from Rodgers.

Clay Matthews’ Health

I’ve said it a hundred times, and I’ll say it again: Matthews is more important to the Packers defense than any other player in the NFL is to his team’s defense. The hamstring issue is likely going to continue to hinder Matthews throughout his career; it’s been that way thus far, and it’s a condition that doesn’t seem to improve without staying off your feet—which is tough for a professional football player to do. But after suffering a broken thumb Sunday, Matthews’ availability is in question. If an operation is needed, Matthews could miss extended time. If it doesn’t require surgery, he’ll likely be able to play through the injury with his hand wrapped in a club.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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  • Dobber

    I’ll be in the minority here because the general perception of Hawk is that he’s not up to snuff, but he played well yesterday…and has most of this season.

    • marpag

      Agreed. Hawk has always been underrated, and this year he is playing better than before.

      • John Willard

        No improvement suddenly in Hawk…Improved Defensive Line- a resounding Yes!

        • Ed Schoenfeld

          It’s pretty clear that Hawk is playing well, so if you mean he has always been underrated and was just held back by poor play on the DL from 2005-2012, I agree.

          But IMO it looks like he is playing a lot faster since dropping weight last year. Personally I wish he had done that a lot earlier in his career.

          • Slim11

            It’s the haircut!

            • Stroh

              Its the reverse Samson effect.

              • Dobber

                Sounds like the title of a Big Bang Theory episode.

        • John Zoul

          Here is what Pro Football Focus said about AJ Hawk’s performance,

          “A.J. Hawk

          While there weren’t many defensive losers for the Packers Sunday after a very good defensive performance, one that stood out was A.J. Hawk. Hawk continues to prove why he wasn’t worthy of a top-five draft choice back in 2006. Hawk is an average, at best, middle/inside linebacker in the NFL. In eight NFL seasons Hawk has been a relative non-factor for any Packers’ defense.

          Sunday, Hawk had his worst performance of the season grading out as the worst Packers’ defensive player with a grade of (- 2.6). Hawk was bad in run defense (-1.2) although he had seven tackles, he got locked up with Lions’ blockers on numerous occasions and failed to make a play.

          In pass coverage he was targeted seven times and allowed six catches for 68 yards — Stafford had a quarterback rating of 107.1 when targeting Hawk on Sunday.

          There you have it, the final grades from the bible of statistical analysis, Pro Football Focus. Keep it here at APC as we break down the big Packers’ win further and preview their non-conference showdown with the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.”
          Do many of you still believe Hawk had such a great game vs. the Lions?

      • John Zoul

        A.J. Hawk

        While there weren’t many defensive losers for the Packers Sunday after a very good defensive performance, one that stood out was A.J. Hawk. Hawk continues to prove why he wasn’t worthy of a top-five draft choice back in 2006. Hawk is an average, at best, middle/inside linebacker in the NFL. In eight NFL seasons Hawk has been a relative non-factor for any Packers’ defense.

        Sunday, Hawk had his worst performance of the season grading out as the worst Packers’ defensive player with a grade of (- 2.6). Hawk was bad in run defense (-1.2) although he had seven tackles, he got locked up with Lions’ blockers on numerous occasions and failed to make a play.

        In pass coverage he was targeted seven times and allowed six catches for 68 yards — Stafford had a quarterback rating of 107.1 when targeting Hawk on Sunday.

        There you have it, the final grades from the bible of statistical analysis, Pro Football Focus. Keep it here at APC as we break down the big Packers’ win further and preview their non-conference showdown with the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

    • Savage57

      Hawk’s not hard to like because he’s a lunch pail guy – shows up everyday and works his @$$ off within the limits of the talent and athletic ability God gave him.

      If other players with more God-given talent were as tough and worked as hard as he does, they’d be all-world

      • Robert Patreus

        Why do you think Hawk ‘accepted’ a substantial pay cut? Because he’s a Pro Bowler? Be real. He would not make the 49’ers team. He would not start on the majority of teams in the NFL. He is at best, a pedestrian ILB, nothing more…

        • marpag

          Last season Pro Football Focus ranked Hawk as number 25 out of 52 inside linebackers. I’m not saying that PFF is always right. But to say, as you did, that Hawk “would not start on the majority of teams in the NFL” is highly questionable at best.

        • John Zoul

          Unlike the other Hawk-loving sycophants, I see him for what he is…a slow, unremarkable ILB…

          • marpag

            Sadly, your impressive use of the big word “sycophants” was entirely mitigated and undone by your woeful misuse of the small word “other.”

            lol

            • Dobber

              Burn.

            • John Zoul

              Marpag, sorry a three syllable word is too much for you to handle. I’ll use something you do not have to dust-off your dictionary for, if you have one: Apple-polisher. Also, other in this case, means ‘more than one’ including you, moron.

            • Brett Johnson

              (marpag) Your insults are not improving your rather slim argument concerning Hawk. Stick to your opinions and the facts and cut the childish cuts.

            • John Zoul

              A.J. Hawk

              While there weren’t many defensive losers for the Packers Sunday after a very good defensive performance, one that stood out was A.J. Hawk. Hawk continues to prove why he wasn’t worthy of a top-five draft choice back in 2006. Hawk is an average, at best, middle/inside linebacker in the NFL. In eight NFL seasons Hawk has been a relative non-factor for any Packers’ defense.

              Sunday, Hawk had his worst performance of the season grading out as the worst Packers’ defensive player with a grade of (- 2.6). Hawk was bad in run defense (-1.2) although he had seven tackles, he got locked up with Lions’ blockers on numerous occasions and failed to make a play.

              In pass coverage he was targeted seven times and allowed six catches for 68 yards — Stafford had a quarterback rating of 107.1 when targeting Hawk on Sunday.

              There you have it, the final grades from the bible of statistical analysis, Pro Football Focus. Keep it here at APC as we break down the big Packers’ win further and preview their non-conference showdown with the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

    • John Zoul

      Playing ‘well’ is a relative term. He can’t cover anyone in pass coverage. He is slow. His days are numbered. Hawk is a weak link in the defense.

  • marpag

    I agree that it’s good to see Nick Perry making an impact. Being the pessimist that I am, however, I will also say that Perry has a good bull rush, but that’s it. Unless he develops a lot more slipperiness, he will never be more than an occasional contributer to the pass rush.

    That goes for you too, Mike Neal.

    They’re nice run players, though.

    • Packattack88

      Actually, both of his sacks came on shoulder dips yesterday. It might be due to him having better balance and body angles around the corner from the ROLB position as opposed to the left. On a related note, did you see that hump move Mike Neal put on? Yowzah.

      • marpag

        I guess we can debate how much shake and bake there was in Perry’s sacks. I’d say he “got the edge” on one, but probably not the other. Neal’s was a full-bore bull rush.

        But I think my point remains. Prior to the Detroit game, Perry had zero sacks and only four pressures. In addition to that, Andy Mulumba actually sees the field.

        So Perry’s not exactly greased lightning. And unless he improves, games like this last one will be few and far between.

        • Sven

          I have rewatched every game so far this season, and I always see plays in which Perry makes a significant contribution. This week was the best so far, and not just the sacks. When Bush was stuffed for like minus 6 in the second drive, Neal made the Tackle, but it was Perry that cut off the hole and drove bush to the pile of defenders.

          I was doubtful of him after training camp, but if he is to be judged by what he puts on game tape, then is good and getting better.

          • marpag

            I agree. All I’m saying is that Perry’s contributions have definitely been more to the run D than to the pass D. And despite the 2 sacks today, his pass rush ability is still spotty at best. He’s strong as an ox, jams up the run and bull rushes well, but his pass rush moves need work.

            • Packattack88

              I’m not disagreeing that he needs work, just that Perry’s performance stands as evidence that he has more than literally just a bull rush. Do they need work? Yeah, but they are there.

              PS – The hump move I’m refering to by Neal wasn’t a sack, but it was still awesome. I had a Reggie White flashback.

              • bubbaloo

                What was yesterday, Perry’s 10th or 12th game as a pro? I’m just happy to see anything from the guy.

            • Stroh

              Honestly he’s not really allowed to do much more than bull rush from his spot at LOLB. That’s the strong side and in the Packers/Pitts D scheme that OLB has to maintain rush lane integrity and gap discipline. Matthews get to “freelance” a lot more in his pass rush at weak OLB. We saw how Perry did this week when he got snaps at Matthews ROLB. 2 sacks… He showed he could still get the corner on the OT when allowed to rush w/o restraint. He might need some other moves but he’ll be turned loose more than ever now if he plays Matthews ROLB.

          • Bart Vanden Plas

            He sets a string edge, and can do that on either side. I did think he looked more natural on the right side though.

  • palmda

    Yes Hawk looked better but in most cases he is still not the first tackler. He comes in after the fact to tackle the person from behind. The fact that he is so stuck into backing up the defensive line will spell trouble if they play a team with a good passing game. He leaves the middle of the line open when he is in the center or backfield. Being better than bad is not impressive.

    • Stroh

      I would say the fact is… You simply don’t know what your talking about. Or Hawks role in the D. If you did you would have an understanding for his reason to, as you say show up late. Google 34 D and learn the responsibilities of each of the players in at least a general sense please!

    • John Willard

      Palmda, you my friend, are right on the money. Hawk is nothing more than a pedestrian ILB. It is kind of late in his career to turn him into a Pro Bowler. He would not start on most teams.

  • SchenySchen

    These days, we are just lucky that Hawk continues to suit up and play. I think he has been very reliable this year. Splashy? No, but very reliable and he suits up every week, which can’t be said for the rest of our LB core. GoPack!

  • Archie

    Hawk Sucks. Get over it!

    Perry did look much better from right side yesterday. Maybe CMIII can replace B Jones and we can have Perry, Neal and Matthews on the field at the same time. Glad to see Raji’s snaps going down – he is useless as pass rusher in nickel/dime fronts.

    Big worry re: CMIII’s thumb. If he is forced to miss many (maybe any) games, you can kiss 2013 season good-bye. People here love to claim TT is a great GM but after 9 years he has an offense and defense that are both reliant on one super player. Either one goes down and the whole team goes down. That is not good GMing in my book. W/o those two players. the Packers are probably a one or two win team. GM has not found enough blue chip players in the draft despite way more picks than the average team. All that aside, it is nice to see GB has added a running game to its offense. And, with return of D Harris, JC Tretter, Bulaga and Sherrod, offense looks well stocked. Needs a #1 WR type that can take top off defense. Defense slowly getting better but Raji and Hawk and T Williams contribute very little. If TT sinks big bucks into keeping Raji he needs his head examined. His short arms can’t reach around his belly.

    • Stroh

      Hawk is a good productive player! Get Over IT!

    • marpag

      You want to move Matthews out of position so that we can get the very middling Perry and/or Neal on the field????

      Um, no.

    • John Willard

      Agree with your premises on Hawk, Raji, and T. Williams. If they are cut after this season or not re-signed, they all can clearly be replaced.
      However, if Rodgers and Matthews were to be out for an entire season-heaven forbid- I still think we would win more than one or two games. How many more, let us hope we never have to find out…
      Having Burnett back and Calvin Johnson not playing, our defense played quite well…Let’s hope this continues…Funny, how a win makes every Packers fan, including me, much happier on the following Monday!

    • Sven

      Last year Mathews was injured in the week 9 game against Arizona, early in the game. He essentially missed 5 game. In those games the Packers were 4-1.

      So why would we kiss 2013 good bye if he misses a game.

      What would a #1 receiver look like? 6’3″ great measurable? that sort of thing. Or more of a Wes Welker type guy? I would argue that Nelson is the former and Cobb the latter.

      • Dobber

        Ya beat me to this one… ;)

    • Dobber

      Seems to me CMIII missed 3 (or was it 4) games a year ago and the Packers still won 11 games, the division, and a playoff game.

      His being out of the lineup wouldn’t be ideal, but it would be coming at a point in the schedule where the Packers would be better able to negotiate the loss.

    • John Zoul

      A.J. Hawk, report from PFF for the Lions game:

      A.J. Hawk

      While there weren’t many defensive losers for the Packers Sunday after a very good defensive performance, one that stood out was A.J. Hawk. Hawk continues to prove why he wasn’t worthy of a top-five draft choice back in 2006. Hawk is an average, at best, middle/inside linebacker in the NFL. In eight NFL seasons Hawk has been a relative non-factor for any Packers’ defense.

      Sunday, Hawk had his worst performance of the season grading out as the worst Packers’ defensive player with a grade of (- 2.6). Hawk was bad in run defense (-1.2) although he had seven tackles, he got locked up with Lions’ blockers on numerous occasions and failed to make a play.

      In pass coverage he was targeted seven times and allowed six catches for 68 yards — Stafford had a quarterback rating of 107.1 when targeting Hawk on Sunday.

      There you have it, the final grades from the bible of statistical analysis, Pro Football Focus. Keep it here at APC as we break down the big Packers’ win further and preview their non-conference showdown with the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

  • mark

    I know that TT doesn’t like to spend on free agents. Still, he did pick up Charles Woodson who tied the defense together better than the Dude’s rug tied his room together. I would have liked to see him pick up Osi Umenyiora to tie this defense together in a similar way.

    • Stevie

      Is Osi available?

      • Wagszilla

        Whole Giants DL is mediocre this season. Either they’ve given up or Father Time has caught up with them.

        Ted passing on Osi was the right move.

        • marpag

          Um… Osi is playing for Atlanta these days.

      • John Zoul

        No, Osi is not available…Playing for the Falcons, and still a solid contributor.

        • Stroh

          He’s contributing in a similar 43 D as he played w/ the Gents. The Packers 34 D is vastly different and Osi wouldn’t fit the scheme very well. He’s not big enough to play 34 DE or DT and he’s not adept at playing in space like a 34 OLB.

    • John Willard

      Agree with half your argument…that Woodson was a superlative pick-up…Osi is still playing well, but, is getting long-in-the-tooth…I frankly prefer developing Josh Boyd and Wilson and maybe picking-up another D-Lineman early in next year’s draft.

  • Wagszilla

    AJ Hawk deserved a game ball.

    • John Willard

      In my humble opinion, that statement is a hyperbole: an exaggeration. Game Balls: Crosby and Nick Perry…

  • Robert Patreus

    John, I agree with you. Game Balls to Crosby and Perry.

  • Nopainnogain

    I’d also give a game ball to the interior Oline. I know Rodgers helped them by getting the ball out quick, but EDS, Sitton, and Lang absolutley shut down Fairley and Suh and paved the way for 180 yards rushing.

    • John Zoul

      Solid rushing attack. Eddie Lacy is a stud hoss! Offensive Line continues improving…It sure helps when the defense gives-up only nine points…Watch out for the Lions when Calvin Johnson is back. Their defense is improved from a year ago.

  • Dobber

    On a different note: Raiders just released Matt FLynn. Think he ends up back in Titletown? Can anyone say “Doug Pederson”?

    • marpag

      Ah, yes. I remember listening to people bitch about how the diabolical Ted Thompson wasn’t willing to match the stupid-money that Seattle was shelling out. Yep, those were good times.

      • Brett Johnson

        (marpag) Wow! Two intelligent comments in a row. Must be some kind of record for you. Thank goodness the Packers let him sign with Seattle. It did not take the Seahawks long to realize he was a 3rd-stringer, at best. Why would we ever want this guy back, certainly not his ‘potential’. That has already been realized: zero.

    • John Zoul

      Matt Flynn…you are kidding, right? He is terrible, a veritable statue. I like what we have now, for 2nd string and on the PS.

      • Ed Schoenfeld

        I wish Flynn the best, but after blowing two prime opportunities to start, he needs some time in therapy to get his head on straight again. If that works, he might compete to be the backup again. If it doesn’t, his career is over even as a backup.

  • Oppy

    Marques, nice article.

    Typo/grammar alert, though:

    Read your second paragraph (About Calvin Johnson) and your last paragraph (about Clay Matthews)- You are mixing up than/as (it should be as/as) in the CJ paragraph, and in the CMIII paragraph it should be is/than as opposed to is/as.

  • Wkupackfan

    My goodness, some folks are totally misinformed, and others just can’t let go of misconceptions. There’s really too much of both above to respond to in this space. Briefly: 1) Hawk “sucks” (without any idea of what his responsibilities are); 2) Raji is “useless” (same response); 3) Perry was a bust before this week but now his sacks aren’t obtained by the proper method; 4) TT is a bad GM because he’s drafted no “blue chippers” other than AR and CM, or doesn’t sign a particular overpriced, aging free agent (by all means GB should repeat the Redskins/Eagles path to success), etc.

    It’s really enough to make one’s head hurt, especially after a win.

    • SchenySchen

      well stated. GoPack!

  • zack

    I was just ecstatic to see our defense perform, what I consider, well for the first time in like 2-3 years… They were genuinely impressive. It wasn’t just the fact that they made a few plays… The argument can be made that the defense has had games where they have made a few plays here and there for the first time in a long time. What was impressive was the intensity and focus across the board. They were hungry, aggressive and all seemed to play with a sense of purpose. They put in the work play in and play out that is necessary to be successful. I hope its a sign of things to come because we genuinely have a chance of having a great year if it is. I say the defense deserves a game ball for that reason.

    • Brett Johnson

      (Zack) I love your optimism. Great Balls!
      But, seriously, the Lions main weapon (Calvin Johnson) was out. Am looking forward to this weekends road game versus the Ravens. This will be a test as Baltimore is tough at home…and it looks like Clay Matthews will be out for 4-5 weeks.