ReFo: Packers @ Lions, Week 13
Well, that wasn’t pretty.
As everyone settled down for a fun Thanksgiving day with their families, the Green Bay Packers served up something rotten as they conspired to make life ridiculously easy for the Detroit Lions. Indeed, the only surprise was it took the Lions so long to put the misfiring Green and Gold out of their misery.
That leaves the Lions in control of things in the NFC North, while Green Bay are desperately hoping a healthy Aaron Rodgers can end the season perfect and somehow push them into the playoffs. A long shot, but right now it’s all they have.
Green Bay – Three Performances of Note
Shielding Himself From Criticism
It was an interesting day for Sam Shields (+1.3). One of those where if you missed a few plays you might be astounded by the generosity or harshness of this grade. In truth he had a difficult task in tracking Calvin Johnson and for the most part did a good job with one glaring exception. The savvy Johnson isn’t just about physicality and jump balls, and was able to work Shields over with slant routes, faking to the outside before releasing inside in a manner Shields just couldn’t contend with, press coverage or not. It’s telling that four times Johnson was targeted like this with three going for first downs and the other being a drop that would have been a chain mover.
But that glaring weakness aside Shields will be content with his day’s work. He was able to break two passes up with some close coverage and then picked off a ball in the end zone (even if it was slightly overthrown). But the end of the day he’d allowed 46 yards on three receptions, while the biggest play he surrendered would be to a fantastic grab to Kris Durham that owed less to the coverage, and more to the strong hands of the Lions’ number 18.
What a Difference Two years and Three Teams Make
The last time Matt Flynn suited up for the Packers against the Lions he set records. Heck, in Week 17 of the 2011 season he earned a +5.5 grade such was his brilliance. Fast forward to the present day and things didn’t go quite so well. He was worth every bit of the -3.5 grade he picked up and still showed the old problems of holding on to the ball too long, seemingly uncaring of the oncoming pass rush.
Holding on to the ball an average of 2.71 seconds (Rodgers is at 2.48 on the year) Flynn invited a Lions pass rush to him that had previously had some issues converting pressure into sacks. Not this week, with 53.8% of all their pressure turned into a sack. Regardless of whether there was or wasn’t pressure, he just couldn’t get the job done, with just two completions on balls thrown over 10 yards in the air all game (one of those requiring some heavy lifting from James Jones).
Not every member of the Packers’ offensive line had the kind of day to forget. As bad as the numbers looked it was early on a case of one man getting beat or a free defender making a play. But when Evan Dietrich Smith (+2.5) went down so to did the performance of the rest of the line (aside from Josh Sitton).
The chief problem came at the center and right guard partnership which looked anything but on the same page as neither man slowed down Ndamukong Suh on his way to a safety, while Marshal Newhouse was also flagged for a truly unnecessary hold that took the team from potentially being in the Lions’ half to deep in their own. T.J. Lang didn’t fare much better, but then you really have to cut him some slack and wonder just how the Packers find themselves in a situation where they’re an injury away from putting him in at center.
He’s inexperienced at the spot and on early evidence unsuited to it and the hope is it won’t be a prolonged exercise.
Detroit – Three Performances of Note
He does like making a splash on Thanksgiving, doesn’t he? Another Thursday night showcase for Ndamukong Suh (+7.1) to make some plays and hurt one quarterback (only this year he didn’t even need to accidentally crotch-kick anyone). Chiefly, Suh did his damage against the pass with a sack, hit, and four hurries, with his safety being the pick of the bunch as he knifed through two defenders and then carefully placed the Packers quarterback on the ground. If we graded restraint he’d have got himself a positive there because as earlier hits of Flynn showed (Q1, 7.40), Suh had very little regard for him.
What was nice to see though was that Suh didn’t just make plays rushing the passer, contributing in the run game as well, even if it didn’t show up on the stat sheet outside of four assists. It’s his ability to penetrate that causes such problems, and while the Packers tried to slow him down with a couple of trap plays, they never developed the kind of drives where they could really put him on the back foot.
Running Game In Sync
The Lions really couldn’t have scripted a better game from their rushing attack, with the backs and offensive line firmly on the same page to take full advantage of the Packers’ defensive woes.
The line themselves combined for a +12.3 run blocking grade, but it was the running backs who were the stars of the show, even with that fumble from Reggie Bush. The scheme called for them to make quick decisions as to which holes to attack with a lot of cutback lanes set up, as well as a number of counter plays that were designed to leave them one-on-one at the line of scrimmage with the Packers’ backside contain (usually a defensive back). Suffice to say that both Bush and Joique Bell won these battles on nearly every occasion, turning what could be a 2-yard gain into 6 yards or more with regularity. It’s telling that of the four missed tackles forced by Bush running the ball and two by Bell, all of them came against DBs.
Young Defensive Ends Stand Up
I’ve been one of those wanting a little bit more from fifth overall pick Ziggy Ansah and after an injury enforced layoff he seems to be ready to deliver on that enormous potential, posting his second grade in the green (+1.4) in a row. The two sacks may be eye catching but, as ever, that can be something of a flawed statistic with him generating no other pressure on his 17 other pass rushes. Instead it was his work in the run game, where he was simply too strong for David Bakhtiari, that resulted in the positive grade and bodes well for the future.
While Ansah played well, it was the impact of Devin Taylor (+3.7) that was even more noticeable. He walked away with a strip sack, hit, and pressure on just 10 pass rushes while also picking up a +1.0 grade against the run. The biggest compliment you can pay him is that he appeared on the field far more than 15 snaps would suggest.
– Former Packer Jeremy Ross played four snaps on offense and turned them into 29 yards and a touchdown.
– Eddie Lacy ended up with more yards after contact (18) than yards (16)
– Green Bay missed eight tackles to zero from Detroit.
While you might consider given the line this or even Matthew Stafford, the big plays of Ndamukong Suh get him the nod.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled