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.
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.
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.
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