Instead, they ended up as the 11th victim for the Green Bay Packers in 2011, with the headlines ‘earned’ by Ndamukong Suh for his antics, as opposed to an encouraging defensive display that kept the Packers in check for large portions of the game. It’s something of a shame that won’t be mentioned more, but an inept offensive display meant the Lions never capitalized on a golden opportunity to pick up a Thanksgiving win.
The Packers secured the win, but at what cost? By the end of the game they were down three starters, losing both inside linebackers and star right guard Josh Sitton. The severity of the injuries are unknown, but any long lasting damage to any of the three, especially Sitton and Desmond Bishop, could have huge implications down the road. Let’s look at some of their replacements and more in our performances of note.
Green Bay – Three Performances of Note
Protection problems? Not today
Going into this game I figured if the Lions were to stand any chance they were going to need to get plenty of pressure on Aaron Rodgers, they didn’t. While I expected Marshall Newhouse (+2.3) to have his hands full with Kyle Vanden Bosch, it never really worked out that way with Newhouse giving up just the one hit that was nullified by offsetting penalties when KVB was deemed to have roughed the passer. Outside of that, he gave up nothing all day, with the only player to have any real issues being Bryan Bulaga (-2.2). The Packers’ RT gave up a sack (on which he was also called for a penalty) to Cliff Avril and a hit when Andre Fluellen beat him on his inside shoulder. All in all though it was a great day for the Packers’ protection unit which saw Rodgers only pressured on five of 34 drop-backs.
Speaking of protection how did Evan Dietrich-Smith (-0.4) do? Not too badly, would be the obvious answer, as he gave up just the solitary pressure to Sammie Lee Hill after being on the receiving end of a stomp from Suh. He didn’t have much to do in the run blocking department (just 17 snaps in this regard), but didn’t make the kind of errors that raised too much alarm. On the defensive side of the ball Robert Francois (-1.0) may have walked away with the highlight reel interception, but it was D.J. Smith (+2.2) who impressed when starters Bishop and A.J. Hawk went down. Francois didn’t help his grade by giving up two first downs in coverage and missing a tackle, while Smith did help his by picking up a pressure and beating Brandon Pettigrew on his inside shoulder (Q1 00:21) for a tackle for no gain.
I have a bit of an issue with tackling in the NFL at the moment, as you could have guessed if you read my Stories of the Season: Missed Tackles article. There are simply too many tackles being missed, and after Green Bay gave up that touchdown run to LeGarrette Blount, you’d think it is something they’d have worked on in a short week where mistakes like missed tackles could have been vital. They owe a debt to some poor play on offense because they missed another 10 tackles in this one, with the chief culprits being Charles Woodson and Charlie Peprah, who missed three each. We’re at the stage now where we’re breaking down the Packers trying to find a weakness that might make them seem human, and their poor tackling may be the biggest reason. It didn’t hurt them this week but who’s to say it won’t come back to haunt them in the future?
Detroit – Three Performances of Note
No excusing bad decision making
You can make all the excuses in the world for Matthew Stafford (-3.4), citing the fractured finger as a reason why the Lions QB has become a turnover machine, but does the finger explain the flat out poor choices he’s making? It may account for missing wide open receivers at times, but it doesn’t explain the numerous bad decisions he’s making right now. All in all, Stafford forced throws five times, and took an unnecessary sack when he got spooked in a clean pocket to allow B.J. Raji to pick up a sack. In a game where the Lions defense was able to largely go toe-to-toe with the Packers’ offense, they needed their franchise quarterback to make plays. Instead he turned it over three times and watched as another pass was dropped by Tramon Williams. There isn’t a bigger reason why the Lions are stumbling right now than the play of Stafford, and as crazy as it sounds, the longer he plays like this, the more shots of Shaun Hill on the sideline we’re going to get.
The forgotten man
When you have a defensive line rotation that boasts Suh, Corey Williams and Nick Fairley, it’s easy to forget about Sammie Lee Hill (+2.4). The 115th overall pick of the 2009 draft looked lost as a rookie and then excelled when his playing time was limited in 2010. This year hasn’t quite gone to plan for the third year man but his recent performances are suggesting more playing time could be on the cards. The ejection of Suh saw Hills’ playing time jump to 39.06% of all defensive snaps for the game, up on his season average of 31.73% before Week 12. The former Stillman Tiger picked up a pressure on Dietrich-Smith, but his most impressive work was in run defense. He had joy against T.J. Lang, standing him up at 2:12 in the first to force a cut-back from James Starks, while his best play came against Scott Wells when he drove the center back at the goal line (Q2 5:27) to bring down John Kuhn for a tackle for a loss. Other players may not have stepped up with the nation’s glare on them, but Hill did.
The Lions will be hoping that Chris Houstons’ (+1.3) injury isn’t serious, especially if it means more playing time for Brandon McDonald (-2.1). McDonald hasn’t played badly in the 107 snaps he’s been on the field in the first 11 weeks of the season, but nothing went right for him in this one. Three times he was targeted, and he gave up receptions on all three for 83 yards and two touchdowns (even if Chris Harris didn’t exactly help him out on that second touchdown). Throw in a pass interference penalty that led to the first touchdown and you have just an all round bad day. Given that Rashied Davis saw snaps as a slot cornerback at the end of the game, perhaps there was an injury to McDonald, or perhaps (as is more likely) he got benched after the long James Jones touchdown when he made his solitary appearance as part of the base defensive package.
- Checkdown much? Stafford completed went 3-of-7 for passes that went 10 or more yards in the air. By contrast, Aaron Rodgers went 7-of-13, including going 3-of-6 on balls thrown 20 yards or more (where Stafford went 0-of-2).
- The three tackles Eric Wright missed represent a season high.
- Woodson missed just the one defensive snap when he had to readjust his shoe. Not something you often see.
PFF Game Ball
I’ve tried not to speak about him because it’s so obvious, but there’s no getting away from another game where Aaron Rodgers (+7.6) looked like the best player in the entire NFL.