QB Aaron Rodgers
Before the game started yesterday, all the buzz about the NFL MVP was suddenly around Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. After another multiple sack performance along with a safety, many were wondering if Watt could perhaps steal the award away from Rodgers.
That talk lasted all but an hour and a half.
Rodgers has displayed his toughness throughout his career, but there was no more impressive of a display than we he did against the Lions in a must-win game. After aggravating his hamstring injury from the previous week on a touchdown pass, Rodgers was carted to the locker room and Packer Nation was about at DEFCON 1. Was this historic season suddenly about to go up in flames?
It initially looked like that as the Lions came back to tie the game at 14-14, but Rodgers returned to the game and was able to direct the Green Bay offense while hobbling down the field.
It was just a gritty performance by Rodgers, a fitting cherry on top of his second MVP campaign.
LB Clay Matthews
Speaking of cherries on top, Matthews had a dynamite second half to the season and iced it with another great game against Detroit.
Matthews finished the 2014 regular season with 11 sacks, and 8.5 of those came in the final eight games. He led a defense effort that kept pressure on Matthew Stafford all day and his sack was a vicious (but clean) hit. Matthews was also active at the line of scrimmage and made some key stops on Joique Bell that kept the lead out of reach for Detroit.
Moving Matthews all over the field seems to have re-energized his game as well as a return to health as he played in all 16 games for the first time since he rookie season in 2009.
PR Micah Hyde
The Packers have their return man. Hyde’s 55-yard punt return served as a catalyst for the Packers and was the lone bright spot on a dismal day for Green Bay’s special teams.
This was Hyde’s second touchdown return of the season. He has deceptive speed and that will serve him well as (one would assume) he takes full control of the return job into the playoffs and the 2015 season.
Green Bay’s special teams started with a bang thanks to Hyde’s return but ended the game on whimper.
Another blocked field goal (that’s seven blocked kicks on the year) and an inexcusable turnover on the Lions’ free kick after the fourth quarter safety made this yet another burn-the-tape game for Shawn Slouch’s unit.
Thanks to the resurgence of the defense, Slocum has become the top Packers assistant to earn the ire of fans and rightly so. They haven’t cost the team a game yet (luckily) but one would think anything short of a Super Bowl ring means Slocum being shown the door and a new special teams coach being brought in.
LB Brad Jones
Jones’ knack for stupid penalties continues.
While some might consider the roughing the passer call on Jones “ticky-tack” as he only slapped the side of Stafford’s helmet, he has to know that he can’t have his hands anywhere near the head of the quarterback.
It’s a bad rule, but that was a very avoidable penalty that led to a Lions touchdown. We might be talking about a bigger margin of victory had Jones not committed that foul.
Suh is just an overgrown toddler. For whatever reasons, he likes to stomp on things.
A week after Lions center Dominic Raiola was suspended for stomping on Jimmy Clausen, Suh once again showed his dirty side as he stood with one foot on Rodgers’ bad leg (which along may have been an unfortunate coincidence) but then took his other foot and seemed to put his whole 300 lb frame on Rodgers’ bad calf.
Rodgers noticed this and pushed Suh away in completely legitimate anger. The fact Suh didn’t even react to Rodgers shows all you need to know about whether or not this was an intentional move by the defensive lineman.
The officials at the game missed this (not their fault, it was a subtle move by Suh which is how he gets away with this stuff) but the TV cameras did not. The league will see this and, given Suh’s previous history of dirty play, he very likely will sit at least for the Lions’ playoff game in Dallas against the Cowboys.
It was just another stupid play by a coward of a defensive lineman.——————
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