The Detroit Lions have spent the last 22 years searching for a win against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, and thanks to a day of non-existent offense and plenty of other struggles, they'll have to wait a 23rd year for a fresh crack at taming history.
Detroit got the worst news early in the day when Calvin Johnson was forced to sit out thanks to a knee injury. Without Johnson, the Packers simply stacked the box, took away Reggie Bush and turned up the heat on Matthew Stafford, who had no time to find his blanketed targets. It was an unsuccessful hunt again in Wisconsin again, but the Lions maintained their hold on first place, for now. The Hunt Report talks what fueled a continuation of futility at Green Bay.
Minus Calvin Johnson, The Lions' Offense Is Worse Than Bad. Often times, it's easy for fans to overlook the fact that defenses have to respect Johnson and write that off as cliche or a media talking point, especially considering he's only missed five games as a Lion. After this Sunday, that shouldn't be the case anymore. The Green Bay defense had an easy time defending Detroit, save for a meaningless late touchdown. Bush wasn't a difference maker, none of Stafford's other targets could get any separation and the Lions just wilted. There's never any excuse for poor play and unforced errors, but with the game's best receiver in the fold, Sunday's game would have had a much different feel.
This Game Was Officiated In A Bizarre Manner. Certainly, Jerome Boger isn't completely to blame for Detroit's loss, but he made some strange calls, didn't he? First, there was the mysterious tripping call on Ndamukong Suh, then, a weak defensive holding call prolonged another Packers drive. Both calls helped the Packers to a 6-0 lead. Meanwhile, refs seemed to ignore offensive line holding calls, and plenty of defensive holding both ways. That's not to excuse the bevy of penalties the Lions took, but with such a question as to what calls were, there was no chance for either team to get into a flow. Blame Boger, long regarded as one of football's worst referees, for creating this inconsistency.
The Offensive Line Had A Bad, Bad Day. Whether it was Riley Reiff getting worked off the edge, or an injury to Jason Fox, Detroit couldn't catch a break or make a pass or run protection to save their lives. The Lions gave up five sacks, and Stafford rarely had time to set his feet or throw in the pocket. For the first four weeks, the Lions had one of the top offensive lines in the league. Now, after getting kicked in the teeth a bit, they'll have to respond.
Detroit's Secondary Needs To Elevate Their Game. Chris Houston was dinged up, but lost his battles to James Jones on Sunday. Jones is the type of receiver that Houston should eliminate. Getting beaten by Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb is understandable, but Houston has to go toe to toe with Jones and win. He was slowed by injury, as was Glover Quin and Louis Delmas, so perhaps there's some justification for their problems. Rashean Mathis had a rough day as well. For one quarter (the fourth against Chicago) and one game, the Lions' secondary is showing its first signs of regressing a bit.
Green Bay Doesn't Feel As Invincible As In Year's Past. Without Johnson, the Lions played the Packers close, minus one touchdown. The defense, though not with issues and definite chances for improvement, still forced five field goals. All day, the Packers didn't give the feel of a team busting out against the Lions and assuming dominance. Meaning? The Thanksgiving Day game could be mighty interesting, especially if Johnson and others are healthy for Detroit, and the game still maintains some divisional implications. That game might mean more in the long run than this one in early October, and a good performance on the holiday could completely erase this game from Detroit's collective psyche.
Lions? Brandon Pettigrew continued his redemption tour with some fantastic catches and a nice hurdle. Ndamukong Suh was still a difference maker in the middle of the line, and Sam Martin was clutch, pinning the Packers deep with excellent punts. Other than that, not many positive players on Sunday afternoon.
Lambs? Aside from the offensive line and secondary problems, Tony Scheffler had a few costly drops, notably in the fourth quarter with Detroit on the move.
Stat Of The Day: 5, which represents the number of sacks the packers had of Matthew Stafford. Entering the game, Detroit had only surrendered 3 total against some good defenses. What's to blame? Certainly poor offensive line play, but without Calvin Johnson, the Packers had the freedom to commit more players to pressuring, or simply sit back and let the pressure come to them. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how the line does against Cleveland and Cincinnati in subsequent weeks, as they are two other teams who can get after the quarterback.
What About The Five Things? Coming into the game, we said it would be important to watch and see if the old ghosts reappeared. Perhaps with Johnson mysteriously absent and Detroit's inability to do anything as a result, they did. Johnson's production was rendered null and void without him in the game and secondary health might have been a factor, as they looked a step slow. Green Bay slowed Reggie Bush, and won the special teams battle behind the leg of Mason Crosby, despite a strong push from Sam Martin to steal the show.
Stalking The Next Prey: The Lions stay on the road to face the resurgent Cleveland Browns next Sunday afternoon. The game will start at 1 p.m. and will be broadcast on Fox.
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