ReFo: Lions @ Packers, Week 14
It was all going so well for the Detroit Lions. Up by two scores with possession of the ball in Green Bay territory. It was a strong position to be in, but not strong enough for a Lions team who have shown an immense capability for throwing things away.
And throw things away they did. With one of the most comical/depressing plays you’re likely to see in a while, Matthew Stafford fumbled untouched and failed to get control of the ball as he dived to the ground. Packers defensive end Mike Daniels returned it for six and the momentum turned away from Detroit, never to return.
Still, there was more to this matchup than one game-changing play. Let’s take a look at some of the top performers.
Detroit – Three Performances of Note
When I watch and then write about the Lions, I tend to come away frustrated. Frustrated because my eyes tell me that defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch has high character and a high motor but isn’t the player he once was. He wasn’t terrible (-1.2) against Green Bay, but the man who rotates at the DRE spot with him really upstaged him.
Lawrence Jackson saw two less snaps but generated a sack and four hurries compared to the one hurry of Vanden Bosch. Jackson did a good job of turning the corner and holding up in the run game, highlighted by his tackle for a short gain with 4:46 to go in the fourth quarter. Jackson could be an interesting free agent possibility in the offseason.
Stafford and his Struggles
It wasn’t just going well for the Lions early on. It was going well for Matthew Stafford (-1.7). It was a long time before he even used the wrong foot while forcing a pass into the close coverage of Tramon Williams with 1:16 left in the first quarter. Even then, he rebounded with three throws for first downs and another for a touchdown.
But then, after the fumble that we shall speak of no more, Stafford seemed to develop an erratic streak. Perhaps it was the conditions, perhaps it was his confidence, perhaps it was his faith in his receivers. In any case he was somewhat fortunate to walk away with only one interception, even if that was the result of a disconnect between him and his receiver. The Packers dropped interceptions three times, prolonging a game that Stafford seemed intent on ending early at times in the fourth.
Only Good on Their Heels
It’s a familiar story for the Lions’ offensive line this week. When Stafford drops back, they’re in their element. On only 10 of 47 drop-backs did he face pressure. Need to create a bit of running room? It doesn’t work so well. Personally I don’t think they’re helped by running so much from shotgun. I’d argue it doesn’t help their runners and they do it so often that it doesn’t catch anyone off guard.
Nonetheless, the Lions aren’t winning their matchups up front consistently. It’s not that they’re terrible, but too often one player lets an opponent get to work on his inside shoulder or cross his face, and they just don’t have the running backs to overcome that. Both B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett did it often enough that Green Bay got to grips with the ground game after a slow start .
Green Bay – Three Performances of Note
Shield-ing Against the Pass
We know Williams, who performed admirably matching up with Calvin Johnson (with some safety help), is the Packers’ top cover corner. We don’t know who the No. 2 guy is. Sam Shields (+2.7) has had to watch as Casey Heyward has rightly stolen plenty of plaudits, while sophomore Davon House has put forward his own case recently.
But this was a night for Shields, who had no problems being matched-up with the big Kris Durham. Shields allowed just two of seven balls into his coverage for 23 yards, while intercepting one ball, deflecting one and almost picking off another. A fine day that shows you how spoiled Green Bay is in the cornerback department.
Moses out of his Depth
Not that we needed any reminding, but the Packers could really use Clay Matthews. His replacement, Dezman Moses (-7.7), had one of those games to forget. It didn’t start well with two first-quarter penalties that saw him take a temporary benching/resting, but it didn’t get much better from there.
With just one quarterback hit on 38 pass rushes, and being bullied in the run game by both Will Heller and Riley Reiff, Moses looked every bit the undrafted free agent. Maybe one day he goes on to become a star in this league, but right now he’s a shining example of how this team has failed to provide depth, competition or a complement to Matthews.
Tough day for Newhouse
Both tackles for Green Bay had their problems in pass protection. An early fumble by Aaron Rodgers was caused primarily from Ndamukong Suh beating Don Barclay on his outside shoulder. But while Barclay redeemed himself in the run game, Marshall Newhouse (-3.9) was unable to, getting beat for three tackles for short gains in addition to six hurries. It’s worrying that after a good start to the year Newhouse is reverting back to some of his 2011 form. With five of his past seven games being negatively graded, there’s some real pressure to step up and find that early-season form.
– Aaron Rodgers completed only two of eight passes when under pressure.
– Kris Durham was on the field for 79 of 85 snaps. Mike Thomas? 18.
– The Packers missed only two tackles.
PFF Game Ball
Did any player really stand out? I’ll give it to Sam Shields, but this was more of a unit effort.
Follow Khaled on Twitter @PFF_Khaled