Packers 22, Lions 9
Strategy: The Packers have built their offense around former league MVP Aaron Rodgers. They love putting him in the shotgun, using three-wide sets and keeping defenses on their heels with the no-huddle. They attack the whole field with Rodgers, who can throw a bubble screen on one play and a bomb down the sideline the next. They are an aggressive, blitzing defense, with coordinator Dom Capers mixing man coverage with his zone-blitz looks. The Packers have a 3-4 base defense, but they often used two down linemen against the Lions.
Personnel: Only Denver rivals Green Bay's talent at the skill positions. Wide receivers Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones combined for 13 catches for 244 yards. Tight endJermichael Finley is an inconsistent but capable pass-catcher. And rookie back Eddie Lacy is one powerful dude. Their reshuffled offensive line is coming together, but rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari can be exploited. On defense, the Packers have a lot of youngsters in key roles. The pressure is on Mike Neal and Nick Perry to fill the big shoes of pass rusher Clay Matthews, who broke his thumb sacking Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and is likely out Sunday.
What went right: The Packers are known for throwing the ball, but they are also one of the NFL's most productive rushing teams. You could probably count on one hand the number of times Rodgers was under center in the first three quarters, but they still had an effective running game out of the shotgun. Rodgers rushed for just 8 yards, but he used his legs to avoid the rush and attempt throws downfield. The Packers defense was able to corral Lions running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell without committing numbers to the box. They sacked Stafford five times and slowed down their passing offense, though it helped that Lions star wide receiver Calvin Johnson did not play.
What went wrong: The Packers defense, despite allowing 16 completions to running backs and tight ends for 169 yards, played well throughout the game, waiting until garbage time to allow a touchdown. But Rodgers and the offense left plays on the field in the first 40 minutes of the game, which is why they only led by six points midway through the third quarter. The Packers weren't all that sharp on third down and they did not score on two trips inside the red zone. Bakhtiari and right tackle Don Barclay struggled at times, allowing pressure on Rodgers. The Packers also fumbled twice, but the football bounced back to them both times.
Turning point: Despite being in complete control of the game, the Packers led, 9-3, late in the third quarter when they blew the game open with an 83-yard touchdown strike. They ran three vertical routes against the Lions' Cover Two look. Jones blew by cornerback Chris Houston, who must have thought that safety Louis Delmas had his back, but Delmas was drawn to Cobb in the slot. It was a beautiful ball by Rodgers and Jones won the footrace to the end zone.
X-factor: With four catches for 35 yards, Cobb had a quiet day as a receiver. But he is a playmaker that must be accounted for at all times, which isn't easy. He does much of his damage as a slot receiver, but the Packers use him all over the field. During the third quarter, they shifted him into the backfield in one no-huddle personnel package and he rushed for 67 yards then 5 yards on consecutive plays. Cobb is also dangerous if he gets the ball in his hands on screen plays.
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun