ReFo: Lions @ Packers, Week 5
Not for 22 years had the Lions beaten the Packers in Wisconsin and next year they’ll now be talking about that number being 23. A Detroit team that was showing real signs of improvement in 2013 unfortunately reverted to its old form with the pressure on; five dropped passes, Ndamukong Suh playing marginally against the run, Reggie Bush bouncing everything away from the point of attack and achieving little. The real question is, was this just a blip or a regression?
Similarly for Green Bay, is this a group turning the corner into a better stretch or simply one team beating another they never lose at home to? For the most part, the running game looked solid and Eddie Lacy (the fumble on the hand-off aside) had a good day. Also, with Clay Matthews looking a shadow of his usual self, both Mike Neal and Nick Perry stepped up to provide outside pressure from the linebacker position. Playing in Baltimore next week will provide a better litmus test for the team.
Detroit – Three Performances of Note
The Book on Reggie Bush
I was genuinely excited to see the new and improved Reggie Bush (-1.8) and left feeling he was the same player that flashed magic before underperforming in nearly every other season he’s played. Disappointingly it’s now ingrained with me; my “book” on Bush says he’s difficult to cover in space. Check – easily beating Jerron McMillian from the slot on an out to pick up a first down. But that he’ll also drop passes. Check – two of six targets. I also believe that when rushing, more often than not, he’ll change the designated point of attack to suit himself. Unfortunately another check – of his 13 runs, on seven occasions he veered away from the intended gap and those attempts netted him 13 yards at 1.9 YPC.
The other weakness in Bush’s game was thankfully left unexploited. His inability to pass protect was not tested as he was never once left in to block. That’s been a trait this season; only staying in on six drop-backs all year.
The most dominant defensive tackle of the first month of the year, particularly as a pass rusher, has been Ndamukong Suh (-1.1) so it’s not surprising that Green Bay took precautions to neutralize his dominance. Of Rodgers ’30 passes, 18 were made in less than 2.4 seconds and a third in 1.7 seconds or under. The result was Suh, who was averaging seven pressures a game, managing only a single hurry (he actually had two but the other was negated by his tripping penalty). He did make some plays against the run but the stats look better than reality with one of his four stops being of the clean-up variety and another coming in garbage time. Indeed, for much of the time, his penetration into the backfield (usually well controlled by T.J. Lang) left his linebackers badly exposed.
Run or Pass?
Did DeAndre Levy (+0.7) have a good or bad day? It depends whether you are taking about pass coverage (+3.3) or run defense (-2.6). Regarding the former, he had an excellent day, dropping into coverage 34 times but allowing the only two balls into his coverage to net two yards while knocking down another pass meant for Randall Cobb.
Playing the run was a different story; of his five tackles, four were effectively unblocked and he was regularly controlled at the second level by not only the offensive linemen but also tight ends. With 8:14 gone in the second quarter watch how far Ryan Taylor drives him off the ball after picking him up in space.
Green Bay – Three Performances of Note
Keeping Them Honest
It’s been a while since the Packers have had a back they could rely on but maybe Eddie Lacy (+1.1) will be the one. He’ll have better numbers (99 yards from 23 attempts at 4.3 a pop) but it was more the manner in which he gained them that impressed. He picked up 51 yards after contact and broke or avoided four tackles while running into every one of the eight gaps at least twice. He seemed to have a feel for the hole that was diametrically opposed to what we saw with Reggie Bush and much better vision within the confined space behind the line of scrimmage; of the eight times he changed the point of attack (35%) he averaged 5.0 yards or 0.7 better than his overall average.
Another issue Green Bay has contended with for some time is finding a bookend for Clay Matthews at OLB. In this game they had two players step up. Firstly Nick Perry (+3.5), playing 40 snaps (21 rushing the passer), did an excellent job of getting pressure on Matthew Stafford. He picked up a couple of sacks (including a forced fumble) and also added four hurries. However, not only did Mike Neal (+4.6) do an equally good job rushing (a sack and five hurries) but he also had a superior day against the run making life difficult for both tackles as well as Brandon Pettigrew.
Although certain parts of the defense look to be improving, A.J. Hawk (-2.6) continues to underwhelm. Since we began grading in 2008, we’ve never once graded him positively over an entire season and this year looks like no exception. It does make you wonder if he’d been drafted 205th overall as opposed to fifth, exactly where he’d be right now.
Of his seven tackles, only two were stops (and one of those was unblocked) while in coverage he allowed six of seven balls thrown at him to be completed for 68 yards with the odd one out being the interception, thrown straight at him, which he dropped.
– Detroit RG Larry Warford kept another clean sheet in pass protection; his third time in five games.
– Playing mostly over Randall Cobb, slot corner Dwight Bentley had one of his better days. Of his 36 snaps in coverage he allowed only two balls to be completed for -2 yards.
– On balls thrown 20 yards or over in the air, Aaron Rodgers completed five of seven for 200 yards and a TD. It would have been six of seven, 227 yards and two touchdowns if James Jones had better placed his second foot on the perfectly lofted pass late in the fourth.
PFF Game Ball
Aaron Rodgers made the big plays when needed and came back from a poor showing against the Bengals with an excellent display here.
Follow Neil on Twitter: @PFF_Neil