Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 24, Lions 20 All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Aaron Rodgers
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers looks down the field against the Lions on Sunday

It was ugly but when it comes to winning division games, the Green Bay Packers will take any kind of victory.

In their 24-20 win over the Detroit Lions, the Packers made enough plays on defense plus one spectacular Randall Cobb catch late in the fourth quarter to come out on top to go to 7-3 on the season and 2-0 in the NFC North.

The Packers had their issues on offense but the defense was spectacular.   Matthew Stafford was sacked five times and intercepted twice, including one that was returned for a touchdown.  Even without linebacker Clay Matthews, the defense was aggressive and the young players in the secondary came up big when a play needed to be made.

The offense, on the other hand, was another story.   With Bryan Bulaga now out for the year, TJ Lang was moved to right tackle and Evan Dietrich-Smith got the start at left guard.   Their inexperience at their respective positions was evident thanks to multiple holding penalties and quarterback Rodgers often running for his life.

Let’s take a look at the good and the not-so-good from Sunday’s game. There were many standouts, but here are three that played well and three that left room for improvement.

Game Balls

TE Jermichael Finley

We have all been pretty tough on the Packers starting tight end, but to finally be able to put him in the Game Ball part of this column is an absolute thrill.

Finley came up big against the Lions during a game in which the Packers struggled to get in any kind of tempo on offense.  Finley finished the game with three catches for 66 yards and a touchdown.  His 20 yard catch and run gave the Packers their first lead of the game and he had a clutch 40 yard catch late in the fourth quarter that helped set up the go ahead touchdown catch by Randall Cobb.

Finley’s issues with his hands and his mouth are well documented.  He was feeling the heat from many fans especially with the big play emergence of Tom Crabtree in the passing game.  Hopefully this game can serve as a springboard to bigger and better things for Finley which would add just one more explosive element to an offense that is not short on weapons.

LB Dezman Moses

There was major concern over how well the linebackers would perform without Matthews when they already were missing Desmond Bishop, Nick Perry and DJ Smith.   Rookie Moses was one of the players under the spotlight going into the Lions game and he did not disappoint.

Moses caught the eye of many fans during training camp and the preseason but he found himself buried on the depth chart.  Thanks to the aforementioned injuries, Moses got his chance against the Lions.   He finished the game with one tackle, a sack and a forced fumble.  His performance cannot be measured in pure statistics as he was disruptive and was getting to Stafford even though he only brought him down once.  His forced fumble halted a Lions drive that could have potentially put the Lions up two scores and would have forced a struggling Packers offense to take more chances.

While you can’t just replace someone like Matthews, Moses showed enough in his first start to at least give some fans some hope the Packers can hold their own without their biggest playmaker on defense.

RB James Starks

Much like Finley, many were waiting for a good showing from Starks.  When Cedric Benson went down with a Lisfranc injury, it was expected that Starks and Alex Green would split time in the backfield.  With Green struggling to develop into an every down back, it was Starks’ turn this week to step up and try his luck.

Starks over the past season or so struggled with being a more decisive runner and making his cuts.  He showed none of that on Sunday as he looked like a man who was running with a purpose.  Starks carried the ball 25 times for 74 yards, which averaged for just under three yards per carry, but he got big first downs when the Packers needed them.

What was really eye opening was the power in which Starks ran.  He often was able to get an extra couple yards even after the Lions had him wrapped up.  Mike McCarthy did not want to go away from the run and was sometimes even stubborn in continuing to run the ball, but Starks played well enough that he warranted continued commitment to the run.

S M.D. Jennings

Jennings was robbed of that interception of the end of the infamous game against the Seahawks.  Karma owed him one and he got it against the Lions.

Jennings’ 72 yard interception return for a touchdown was the catalyst that sprung the Packers to victory.   He only had one tackle on the day otherwise but sometimes all it takes to make your presence known is one play and that’s what Jennings did on Sunday.

Lame Calls

K Mason Crosby

It’s now a fact and it’s not even debatable: there is something severely wrong with Crosby.

All confidence Crosby once had in himself seems to have completely vanished.  He missed consecutive 50 yard field goals (one wide right after a timeout was called then wide left on the following attempt) and then missed an inexcusable 38 yard attempt.  In a game that was going back and forth, there was a good chance the game could have come down to a field goal.  Did anyone really think Crosby could have made it?

In his postgame press conference, McCarthy said that Crosby needs to make kicks and that his job status is performance based yet later on said he “wouldn’t blink” in standing by Crosby.  The Packers really have no choice but to at least bring in a kicker to push Crosby or possibly replace him.  The Packers are not running away with the division like they did a year ago, and games going forward have a fair chance of coming down to a final kick.

Crosby can’t be counted on to make such plays.  Therefore, something needs to be done.

G Evan Dietrich-Smith

When Bulaga’s injury was announced and Dietrich-Smith was named a starter for this game, it was feared Dietrich-Smith would be a liability at left guard with Lang moving over to right tackle.

Those fears turned out to have merit.

Dietrich-Smith had his share of penalties, both holding and false start, and was beaten by the Lions defensive line regularly.  He is one of two linemen tasked with protecting Rodgers’ blind side and he is hopefully going to improve as time goes on.

If he does not, then the Packers may have no choice but to bring in another offensive lineman or even reshuffle their current line again.  Rodgers cannot continue to be under the pressure he has been. His athleticism can only extend plays for so long.

CB Tramon Williams

It’s always tough to defend Calvin Johnson, but Williams absolutely was owned by Megatron on Sunday.

Johnson finished the game with five catches for 143 yards and a touchdown.  Williams was constantly beat by Johnson and struggled all day to keep pace with him. It was a tough assignment to be sure, but if Williams wants to be known as one of the best corners in the league then he is going to have to handle the league’s best receivers.

Williams handled Brandon Marshall in Week 2.  He didn’t fare so well against Megatron

Head Coach Mike McCarthy

Since the Packers won, it would not be fair to label this one the worst games McCarthy ever called but he definitely did not call his best game.

The ugliest part of the game for McCarthy was his clock management at the end of the first half.  Rodgers had just been sacked at the Detroit 32 yard line and instead of taking their second timeout with around :25 remaining, the Packers were content to let the clock run all the way down to :03.

Crosby then missed a 50 yard field goal and the Packers went to the locker room down by three instead of the game being tied at 10.

McCarthy also had some questionable play calls on third down.  McCarthy would rather go for the home run at times rather than just being content with just getting the first down ball.  McCarthy has to realize he is going to have run his 2010 offense instead of the 2011 version thanks to the injuries the Packers have along the offensive line and at receiver.

The Packers need to take advantage of every yard the defense gives them.  Getting 10 yards and a first down sometimes is just as good as a 40 yard gain.  Getting their wounded defense as much rest as possible will be key going forward and the Packers will need long drives on offense to do that.


Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for 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


34 thoughts on “Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 24, Lions 20

  1. There are a few things McCarthry may have missed yesterday, like thaking the 1st and 5 instead of 2nd and 2, and then not converting it. And clock management. But did you notice how balanced the offense was and it really paid off.

    The offense didnt loof as bad as many are saying. Crosby missed two kickes which means with an old Crisbey those would have counted as scoring drives, and we would be taking about how the Packers hung 30 on the Lions. Instead Rogers earned a 4th quarter comeback, I call that great.

    Megatron was controlled pretty well, he is Megatron after all.

    The packers O line played better in adversity than i expected.

    Dezman Moses is another UDFA and a rookie, Ted Thompson knows how to find Talent.

    1. I would always take first and five rather than second and 2. and just about every coach would as well.

      1. I don’t know… I kind of see it as “six of one, half dozen of another.” Though I do tend to side with taking the 1st-and-5, it really comes down to what you do with that first down.

        1. if i am correct, after they took the 1st and five they ran the ball for 4 yards and were left with a second and 1.

          1. No They ran Starks for a loss of 1 yard on that play. This is the problem they generally run it on first down and lose a yard or two. Starks did do better than Green on first downs yesterday in the first half of the game.

  2. I would like to add Casey Heywards name to game balls, not the he would replace any of this weeks standouts, but he did get a pick and had 5 passes defensed, that is an outstanding game. He is emerging as an elite CB and he is just a kid!

  3. I’ve been rough on A.J. Hawk and even though he couldn’t cover grandma he’s been solid in the run game. Last year when he made a play it was always after a 6 yard gain. This year he seems to be flying around making plays. Another is Brad Jones. Jones played well yesterday. He was in Stafford’s face on several pass plays and was flying to the ball. I was really proud of the Packers yesterday. Defense came through when they had to and Rodgers was able to get a game winning drive in 4th quarter. Maybe now that obnoxious piece of crap “Skip Bayless” will shut up about our boy Rodgers! GO PACK GO!

  4. Finley’s 40 yd reception led up to the Cobb TD, not the last FG, which came after the Lions went 4 and out…

  5. I would give a Packer Game Ball to the Lions Nick Fairley for ‘NOT’ ending our season when he could have thrashed Rodgers to the ground and possibly putting him out for the season…I gasped when the opportunity for a dirty play arose and I clapped for him when he didn’t follow through.

    1. Why are we handing out gold medals to people who don’t do the wrong thing?

      Sad state of affairs.

      1. Because one of out own Packers followed through with the same play, Charles Martin put Jim McMann out with a pile driver move after a turnover

    2. I couldn’t agree with you MORE!!!! I posted on facebook today, “Thank you Nick Fairley for not ending our season and maybe Rodger’s career!” Class act from a GREAT guy!

  6. I will preface this comment by saying that this was a great win. Road games in the division are the toughest games to win. Especially when you are missing a guy like CM3, he is the person that really makes the packers defense work. So all in all, excellent win.

    Tramon just looked lost. He looked lazy. His technique was awful. He had safety help over the top, and CJ abused him. On the long pass play to CJ Tramon just simply never entered the play. He was running but not sprinting to close on the play. Megatron could have had a bigger day if Stafford did not miss him.

    Saturday was just as bad or worse than EDS. He had no chance against Fairley’s power and quickness. Saturday has been a decent stop gap, but he cannot be the center next year.

    Raji is so slow off of the ball. At the end of the game he finally got a couple pressures, but in multiple plays the other lineman were 2-3 steps out of their stance and Raji was just getting moving. His motor is not running all the time.

    Okay, enough with negative. I thought capers did a fine job. Once again with a depleted unit he put people in position to make plays. Brad Jones and Casey Hayward missed the easiest sacks they will ever get on clean blitzes. I thought Stafford looked confused often. He did the right thing in using bracket coverage on CJ, but Tramon was bad. Players have to play the scheme.

    Cobb was fantastic again. Running and receiving. Rodgers is really starting to put a lot of trust in him.

    Starks numbers do not look too good, but this was the first game in a long time where I felt the back got everything he could out of each run. There may have been a lane here or there that he missed, but his YAC was impressive.

    Burnett had another quiet solid game. He did have a sack so not that quiet. He gave up the TD to megatron, but he did everything right. It is just not that often that a WR will have to go around a WR that is 6-5 and 240. Also, a lot of guys not named Megatron will drop that ball when the DB flashes.

    When it is 3rd down I would like to see more Neal, Worthy or Daniels and less Raji. Getting to the QB quickly is just not his forte right now.

    1. I thought the same things… TW was still on his bye week vacation, Saturday is not the answer at center, I’m glad we have Raji in the rotation, but his play is not indicative of a large contract coming up, Starks played hard and fought for every yard.

    2. MM watched the tape and was very dissappointed in how many yards Starks left on the field, apparently he was missing major cut back lanes left and right.

  7. Williams got his azz handed to him, plain and simple he was outclassed… The only reason we won this game was because Detroits qb missed at least 4 wide open receivers for touchdowns…

  8. Calvin was targeted a total of 10 times, if I remember correctly. 50% completion rate on Megatron? I’ll take that game. Also…take off the yards and catch on the final play before assessing too much blame on Williams.

  9. Tramone Williams played a credible game. The TD pass was a fluke, went through Burnett’s hands and was not against William’s coverage. The last catch by Johnson was meaningless. That leaves three catches for about 70 yards by arguably the best receiver in the league.

    1. Calvin Johnson had a drop and was just overthrown a couple of times when he was pretty open. My problem with Tramons game was that his footwork was lazy and he had safety help over the top, but still got turned around often. Megatron is a beast and will get catches, but Tramon just did not have his A game.

      1. According to Packerpedia…Megatron had not one ball passed his way for 18 crucial minutes until the last pass at games end..Tramon did his job.

    2. Dude, Williams was up to 10 yards away when Johnson was catching or dropping passes. If Williams wants to be even an average corner he has to do better than that. Has he played worse games? You bet, but he has to step it up a notch to play in this league. He will have to cover a good receiver every week, by your analogy if he is covering good receivers he is always having a good game…

  10. My favorite part about this team is the new speed on defense that was lacking last year. What a difference a year makes. It’s also nice to see the Packers generating turnovers again.
    Mcmillian and Hayward were two draft picks that surprised me but as we know, never doubt TT. These guys have mostly looked great and House has looked good as well.
    I’m glad Starks got some love. On more than a few of his runs I was expecting about a yard and he would instead lower his shoulder and grind out some more yards.
    On a negative note, the offensive line continues to struggle and it will be interesting to see if TT does anything in the draft.
    7-3 and the Pack have not peaked!
    Go Pack Go

  11. Name one “shutdown” corner in the league who plays off coverage? The answer is zero.

    You can’t play off coverage against CJ and hope for it to go well. It was a very bad game plan. The advantage corners have against CJ is that they are much quicker than he is. Quickness only matters off of the line of scrimmage. If CJ is allowed to build up his speed unchallanged corners and safteys are at a major disadvantage.

    Tramon played off coverage all last year because of his shoulder. How well did he do? So all of the sudden this year he is going to be good at off coverage?

    There is a simple truth to the matter. If your a shutdown corner you play press coverage most often. If your a corner who plays off coverage a lot, your going to have bad games.

    1. disagree up to a point. press man against megatron can be a bad idea. he is 6-5 and about 240lbs and just as quick as most DBs. i do not mind playing off, but the DB needs to understand where his help is and close the gap quickly. megatron can absolutely abuse press coverage at the line. he has thrown DBs off of him like rag dolls. but i would have liked to see tighter coverage underneath.

      1. I think you are both right. You need to do both on Megatron. Mix it up by playing up and jamming some plays and others you run with him. But always play him with a safety over the top. By jamming before (he can get started) him some plays and mixing it up will definitely throw off the timing of the pattern,…and you always have help over the top. Detroit does not throw or distribute the ball to others well enough yet so you can play double coverage on Megatron.

  12. RE: Starks Lovin’

    Apparently, after grading out the game tape, McCarthy was adamant that the RBs left way too many yards out on the field, that the OL actually had a pretty darn good showing vs. the Lions’ DL in regards to opening up the running lanes, and too often the RB made the wrong decision and went the wrong way.

    He also said it was a mistake not getting the ball in Green’s hands, and moving forward there would be much more balance between the two.

    As I stated before, objectivity is often lost on us fans. Last week, Green out-produced Starks, but Starks was seen by fans as being clearly superior to Green… Vs. the Lions, Starks averaged less than 3 YPC, and everyone is lauding the performance.. Except the head coach and the RB coach.

    I hope Starks puts it together, but so far this season, he hasn’t done enough to warrant all the love.

    1. The one thing I liked was his determination once contact was made. He fought every tackle and pushed the pile forward on a number of occasions.

      1. This is true, but I don’t hand out awards for guys who work really hard to gain 3 yards, when he could have followed the crease and perhaps ripped off 6 yards untouched.

        Not taking anything away from Starks fighting for yardage. I am saying you don’t get style points for tough yards when the coach watches the tape and says “Hey, there were double the easy yards out there you completely missed”.

  13. How quick we forget. What about Cobb? He needs some love for the “TD Catch”. I also think the block Jordy nelson gave to spring Finley after a 12 yard catch for another 30 yards was impressive. When jennings comes back this month, it will be awesome.

    The OL had a new RT and a new LG. Please, if MM says they graded out well I believe him. This was in Detroit and we did win.

    Saturday is not answer for next year. We need a real center to anchor the line for next 10 years and I don’t think EDS is the answer. Trade up and get the best center possible not just for next year but for the coming decade

    Cedric Benson comes back in two weeks and the running game is coming along at the right time. MM is paying attention to it and both Starks and Green will look much better by the end of the month. So will the OL.

    We need a dominate every down RB in this next draft. Someone who will stay healthy.

    I was worried about the Safety position but what I saw was we have the position restocked. Along with House and Hayward at CB the DB’s are looking good for the future.

    Pick is awesome and doesn’t get credit. When he isn’t in we suffer. Raji needs to pick it up. We need another big man to back these two up. I hope TT has that guy on the practice squad or targeted in the draft. 6’4″ 322 plus guys take time to develope and there are not that many around that can play

    Final Word: We are leading the division and wild card hunt. We are where we belong. (Kicker needs to practice allweek along with holder and LS)

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