Lions 19, Packers 7: Game Balls and Lame Calls

NFL, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, NFL Week 3, Packers vs Lions, Packers vs Lions 2014, Packers Lions, Packers Lions 2014, Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy, HaHa Clinton Dix, Dom Capers, Julius Peppers, Packers defense, Packers offense

Cue the Twilight Zone theme.

Imagine if you will, a game where Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers received a lot of praise from Packers fans while beloved quarterback Aaron Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy are facing loads of criticism.

This isn’t some bizarre alternate dimension. This is reality.
The Packers were defeated 19-7 by the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Ford Field. It was a game that saw the Green Bay defense more than hold its own against a very potent Lions offense. The Packers’ own powerful offense, however, sputtered like an old jalopy. The defense kept the Packers in it all game until a late touchdown sealed the win for the Lions.

It was the third week in a row the Green Bay offense struggled except this time the problems lasted a full 60 minutes. The unit never came to life unlike the previous week in a comeback win over the New York Jets.

Here is who deserves praise and who deserves a scowl after the uninspiring loss to the Lions.

Game Balls

S Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix

The rookie from Alabama finally broke one of the most notorious streaks the Packers defense has had the past several years. For the first time since 2012, a Green Bay safety made an interception.

Clinton-Dix also had a pass deflection as well. He’s struggled at times this season, but Clinton-Dix has shown plenty of potential that proves he was the right choice in the first round of this year’s draft. He also had a sack in Week 1 against Seattle.

There’s officially been an upgrade at free safety and the defense is going to be better off for it in the long run.

DE/LB Julius Peppers

The Lions were marching down the field late in the third quarter when Peppers made a crucial strip sack and fumble recovery of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford deep in Detroit territory. That play gave the Packers a shot to win the game, though the offense again sputtered.

Peppers has been making his presence known the past two weeks and should only get better as he grows more comfortable in his “elephant” role in Capers’ defense. General manager Ted Thompson doesn’t sign big name free agents often, but when he does they make an impact. Charles Woodson did and it looks like Peppers will continue that trend.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers

Capers has once again been under siege from Packers fans thus far this season and it’s been rightfully deserved for the most part.

However, credit must also be given when credit is due and Capers deserves praise for the preparation of his unit against the Lions.

The Green Bay defense allowed only 10 points against Detroit (the Packers offense lost a fumble for a touchdown and had a safety). That’s a remarkable job. They even held Calvin Johnson to six receptions for 82 yards and no touchdowns. Many were expecting the Packers to struggle mightily against the Lions offense but they made such an inspired effort it has renewed hopes the unit will be improved in 2014.

Next week against the Bears will be a bigger test, but Capers did a terrific job planning for Detroit.

Lame Calls

Head coach Mike McCarthy

McCarthy is on this list for the second week in a row. Not a good trend for anyone, especially the leader of the team.

Continued uninspired play calling and a stagnant playbook crippled the Packers’ offense. When you look at how depleted the Lions’ secondary is, one would think Green Bay would have had a field day against it. Instead, they had their worst performance since Rodgers took over as starter. The seven points scored was the lowest point total the Packers have had in a game Rodgers has both started and finished.

It sure looked like the Lions knew what was coming from the Green Bay offense. That’s solely on the play caller. That just so happens to also be the head coach with the Packers.

QB Aaron Rodgers

While it’s still a bit too early to mash down the panic button, it’s clear something is wrong with Rodgers.
No it’s not Olivia Munn. If you believe that, please close your browsers and seek help.

Rodgers has been holding the ball far too long again and seems to only be comfortable throwing the ball to Nelson. He’s also not as accurate or as efficient outside the pocket as he has been in the past.

Is McCarthy’s playcalling to blame or is it something else? It’s hard to tell but whatever the reason Rodgers stunk on Sunday.

Wide receivers not named Jordy Nelson

In a span of just three weeks, the talk has gone from excitement over a reborn Packers receiving corps to concern this is the worst group Green Bay has had under Rodgers.

Nelson has been stellar again, but the rest of the receivers? Yuck.

Jarrett Boykin so far appears to have regressed. Davante Adams is a rookie who has shown promise but still has much to learn and needs to be more efficient in his routes. Randall Cobb has seemingly disappeared.

This could also be another reason Rodgers has struggled so far, but the young receivers aren’t doing him any favors either. They have to get better and fast. If Eddie Lacy continues to struggle in his sophomore season, the passing game has to carry the load.
Surprisingly, they don’t look up to the task thus far.

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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.

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  • SchenySchen

    Ideally, the defense will continue to play better (6qtr’s in a row of good football) and give the offense time to grow. I think we are all surprised because regression is happening with a lot of players (Rodgers, Lacy, Cobb). You can’t win if your best players are trending downward. Offense will get in sync as the year progresses. Beating the bears would be a good place to start. GoPack!

    • dobber

      I was encouraged by what we saw yesterday, especially in the first half, from this defense. Seeing a more stationary target in the pocket helps, and Chicago’s dinged-up DL and statuesque Cutler should be an inviting target next week.

      It seemed to me that Detroit made adjustments in the second half to slow down the Packer pass rush (and Matthews got hurt), but the Packers still were in a position to win that game if they could’ve generated any consistent threat on O.

  • Big T

    Well, now I understand why all the MM and TT lovers drink malt liquor. You have to have some type of mind altering substance to continually worship these two morons. If you look at the rest of the schedule it would be amazing if we end up at 8-8. But for the malt liquor drinkers that is ok, still considered a winning season. Look at MM’s record they say, everything is A ok…

    • SchenySchen

      I’m not sure I understand your point. Didn’t kris Burke put MM in the falling category? Or is this just your usual blathering….? If that’s the case, carry-on.

      • Chad Toporski

        Some people are just lost on subtlety, reality, and the fact a range of possibilities exist between simply “great” and “horrible.”

      • Big T

        Shen my point is… no matter how horrible MM is at play calling
        there is always someone there to back him up and say it’s not his fault. Time to call a spade, a spade and tell it like it is…

    • Archie

      Morons indeed. I am a big Packer fan but MM can’t coach and TT can’t GM. GB has endured a major brain drain on offense and in the front office and it is showing big time. Yes, TT made two safe no-brainer picks in R1/2 but after that he went off the tracks. And McFatty can’t form a logical game plan to safe his life. Offense is stale and very limited/repetitive. Play calling is far worse than uninspired. Most fans are team worshipers and constructive criticism is lost on them.

      • SchenySchen

        Calling everyone “malt liquor drinkers” if they dont completely bash and trash the team in every post is now classified as constructive criticism?… Archie, you can’t be serious.

        • WKUPackFan

          What’s wrong with malt liquor? I used to enjoy a good Colt 45 back in the day.

        • Big T

          No Schen I am calling you a malt liquor drinker if you watched that game and still look at MM as your hero and mentor. Not about bashing anyone, just keeping it real and calling out MM for his assanine play calling.

      • WKUPackFan

        When Archie and Big T start formulating the game plans and calling the plays we’ll have a Super Bowl winner for sure! Oh, I forgot, they’ve never seen a pro football game plan and couldn’t understand the play calls if MM sent them to them through the helmet. Besides that problem, they’d make a great coach and GM.

  • Since ’61

    Kris – since Brett Favre began playing for the Packers in 1992 this is one of a handful of times when I can say that the offense cost the Packers a game. Yesterday, the defense played the best game that they have played in a long time against a very talented offensive unit on their home field. This gives me hope for the rest of the season. Surprisingly, what concerns me now is the play of the offensive unit, specifically the OL and Aaron Rodgers of all things! First, the OL needs to step up their play significantly or it doesn’t matter who plays, QB, RB or what the play calls are. It all begins and ends with those 5 guys up front. Beyond that, except for a few plays during the Jets game Aaron Rodgers has not yet shown up for the 2014 season. He looked great in the preseason. His throws were deadly accurate and his decision making was sound. Now he is hesitant on almost every throw and his accuracy is way off (for Aaron Rodgers). It looks like he is playing hurt ( which I am sure he is not) or he is playing like he’s worried about being hurt. In any case this is the first time in a long time when a Packers QB needs to improve his level of play. The Packers did not lose yesterday because of play calling, they lost because the offense played terribly and it began with the OL and Rodgers having his worst game since he became a starter. Credit to the defense they were great. If the offense returns and the defense maintains this level of play the Packers are in for a very good season. Consistency is the key going forward. Go Pack! Thanks, Since ’61

  • https://twitter.com/LeagueObservr LeagueObservr

    I think getting some good play out of their tight ends would help too in the passing game. Those guys need to step up and provide that seam-busting threat that Finley brought to the party. I believe this is also a reason for the slow start to the Packers running game this season, as the linebackers and safeties can cheat up to play the run

  • dobber

    Lacy continues to be a disappointment, but the OL in general has not played well. How much of this is a function of Linsley inside? We’re not seeing great tackle play, either. Whether this is on the players or a function of seeing top-tier NFL defensive front sevens over the first three weeks will show up next week against the Bears, who struggle to rush the passer and are average at best stopping the run.

  • WKUPackFan

    Cobb has 3 TDs and a 2 point conversion so far. Pretty sure he’s not the problem. It’s hard for Eddy to run when he’s dodging defenders behind the LOS. The Olinemen, specifically OGs and C, could have qualified for lame calls.

  • marpag

    Nice stuff, Kris. I agree with all of these. I would like to see HHCD do something a little more than catch a deflected ball that floated right to him, but I’ll take it. And like you said, he’s been a definite upgrade.

    Maybe I would give a “game ball and a half” to Peppers, and only half a lame call to McCarthy. This definitely wasn’t MM’s best game by any stretch, but I still think people are overreacting a bit with this “unimaginative play calling” thing. Anyhow, I don’t need to get into that here.

    Thanks for the article.

  • Brian A. Lee

    Offensive Problems: 1) Play design 2) Play calling, play sequencing, plays used in certain situations 3) Rodgers attitude towards the offense and his decision making
    1) The play designs for GB seems to be vanilla, old, tired, predictible and not creative at all. Think of the difference between the way MM has been calling plays and what you would see if you watched the New England Patriots play a game. New England has several plays each game where a reciever is wide open because of the disign and creativity of that specific play. With GB you almost never see that anymore. They run predictible routes and route combinations and rely on the WR to create the seperation. GB desperately needs more creativity of offense and to have the play calling be less predictible.
    2) The play calling and play sequencing have been disatorous this year. For example, this week, GB has the ball on thier own 1 yard line and Lacey lined up about 8 yards deep in the end zone. And what does MM call? A pass on a 3-step drop that has AR releasing the ball in about 2.5 seconds so the OL does not have time to get caught on a hold for a safety, and so the Pack get get a few yards breathing room? NO! Or a run like an extremely quick hitting trap straight up the middle so the DET Def does not have so much time to penatrate? No! MM call a DEEP hand off on an extremely slow developing outside run??? Lacey needs to run 8 yards just to get out of the end zone. That play had to be right near the top of the list for the stupidest play you could possibly call in that situation. And after the game MM made the comment that he would call that play again in that same situation??? Through the rest of the game MM proved he had the ability to kill ANY drive with his playcalling.
    3) AR needs to get back to the way he played in the end-of-season run all the way to the Super Bowl in 2010. When the Packers went on that magic run, AR was unstopable because he was PATIENT and he took what the defense was giving him. When it was 3rd and 4 he threw to the reciever that was open 5 yards down the field and moved the chains. Basically AR needs to stop being so greedy with the big play, and focus on just moving the chains. How often does AR have the ball out of his hands in less than 3 seconds??? When the def is in a two high, it does not make a lot of sense to spend your first 4 seconds in the pocket with your eyes 30 yards down field. Look at what the defense is giving you and stop drying to force the ball to the area of the field that the def is trying to take away.

    I hope they can get the offense on track against the Bears. Go Pack!

    • Erik Long

      Brian, I agree with your post. Poor play sequencing is a good way to put it. It’s hard to fully explain sometimes what I’m watching other than the fact that McCarthy seems to too often call the wrong play at the wrong time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pre-called the Packers next play (my kids think I’m a genius) hoping it wouldn’t actually happen. I’m not a genius, so I’m pretty sure if I know the play, the opposing defense does as well. I don’t know if it’s MM’s stubbornness, lack of talent, whatever, but I have a hard time believing he inspires much confidence in the team. I like McCarthy, he seems to have a good work ethic, I believe he really cares about the players, I’m just not sure he is talented enough to hold the head coaching job and also call the plays at the same time.

      • Thegreatreynoldo

        Kudos to Brian Lee for knowing the rules. If a lineman is called for holding while in the end zone, it is a safety, not half the distance to the goal line. For that reason a pass other than a very quick hitter (2.5 seconds is too long – that’s about the NFL average time a QB holds the ball while passing – is dangerous. Given that GB was at the half yard line, all of the O linemen would be in the end zone pass blocking almost immediately. Almost ANY hold turns into a safety. So a run is in order. Too bad TE Rodgers got trashed and Lang missed/whiffed on LB Levy. I will agree that I didn’t like that Lacy was aligned so deep behind the line on that play.