This looked like a game that would end up being an easy win for the Packers, but the Lions were able to find a weakness in the Packers pass protection with short passes in the middle of the field and attacked it. The Packers’ outside cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams had a combined +4.4 pass coverage rating, while the rest of the Packers defense had a -4.4 rating.
While the Lions attacked the middle of the Packers defense, they were able to keep the Packers off the field. The Lions had a total of 85 offensive plays to the Packers’ 45. However, the Packers came up with touchdowns both on offense and defense, while the Lions could only manage field goals most of the time which allowed the Packers to get the victory.
Lions: Three performances of note
The Lions struggled on defense, with the entire starting front seven winding up in the red. The worst of all of these performances was by DE Kyle Vanden Bosch (-6.0). He was brought in because of his pass rush skills and went up against LT Chad Clifton who had been struggling, but Vanden Bosch had no QB sacks, hits or pressures. He was the best of the front seven against the run with a -0.4 rating, but what killed his rating was four penalties, along with another two declined penalties.
On offense, backup QB Shaun Hill (+2.2) had his fourth straight positive performance. Hill excelled this week in having a bunch of receivers go deep, and then dumping the ball off to a RB or TE in the middle of the field. In passes to the middle that were less than 9 yards, Hill completed 19 of his 23 throws for 178 yards. He was also the best runner for the Lions, rushing for 53 yards on three scrambles. The 49ers must be wondering why they were so quick to sit Hill behind Alex Smith.
What allowed Hill to be so successful was the play of his offensive line. All five players scored in the green, and the team has a +9.3 rating in pass blocking. This was highlighted by the play of LT Jeff Backus (+3.0). Clay Matthews lined up at ROLB for the majority of the game, so Backus was responsible for blocking him, and through the entire game only allowed one sack with no other hits or pressures. The strong pass blocking gave Hill the time for the plays to develop to give the ball to the underneath receivers.
Packers: Three performances of note
One player making a case for the Pro Bowl is RG Josh Sitton (+5.5). Most of that score came from a +4.4 run blocking rating on just 21 run-blocking plays. In pass protection Sitton hasn’t allowed a sack all season, for the third straight game didn’t allow a QB hit, and in this game he had no pressures either. He is quietly becoming one of the best guards in the NFL.
One player who had a game to forget was WR Jordy Nelson. Although he had a positive overall rating on offense, he was only in for five passing plays where he was only thrown at once with no receptions. On offense he was mostly used on run blocking in packages with many tight ends. Where Nelson’s problems really came in was as a kick returner where he had a -2.9 rating — the worst kick return performance by anyone this season. He lost two fumbles which left the Lions in good field position.
The Packers also had everyone with negative ratings in the front seven, highlighted by ILB Nick Barnett (-3.1). Barnett was thrown at eight different times in the game, and allowed completions each time for a total 64 yards. He had a -0.8 score against the run which was his worst game against the run since Week 2 of 2009. Barnett also rushed the passer 16 times, more than he typically does, but he only ended up with one QB hit.
For the Lions, the only two rookies to play were big name players RB Jahvid Best (-1.1) on offense and DT Ndamukong Suh (-1.3) on defense. Best lost some his plays to the return of Kevin Smith, but still performed okay. On 12 rushing attempts he had 54 yards, but had a fumble. He also had five catches on seven attempts, but one of Hill’s interceptions was when throwing to Best. … Although Suh had a negative rating, it was still the best of the Lions front seven. He played the entire game, had four stops on defense as well as one sack.
For the Packers, second-round pick Mike Neal (+0.1) made his debut on the defensive line. He mostly took away snaps from B.J. Raji, and was better vs. the run than in pass rush. OLB Frank Zombo (-2.9) had his worst game by far for the Packers. Even though he got the start, he had negative scores in run defense, pass rush and pass protection which led the Packers to split Zombo’s time with Brad Jones and Brady Poppinga. Safety Morgan Burnett (-1.2) started his fourth game for the Packers and allowed a touchdown before being injured and lost for the season. On offense tight end Andrew Quarless (-0.1) had five snaps but little impact.
Because of Sam Shields‘ injury, Jarrett Bush was the nickel cornerback in the game. Usually when the Packers play in the nickel, Charles Woodson goes up against the slot receiver. In this game Woodson stayed outside while Bush would go up against the nickel, which worked well as both Bush and Woodson had positive ratings.