Nick Perry sacks Matthew Stafford

Once again the Green Bay Packers could rely on the Lions coming to town to get themselves back on the winning track. The Packers finish the first quarter of the season 2-2, the same record they had last year at this point.

9:22 1st Quarter – The Detroit Lions start with the ball after the Packers win the toss for the third time in four games and elect to defer, which I believe is a wise strategy — defer at home and take the ball on the road.

The Lions proceed to drive into Packers’ territory before stalling and having to punt.

On 1st and 10 from the 20, the Packers line up in their nickel. The Lions start with both Reggie Bush and Joique Bell in the backfield. Bell takes the hand off and goes 9 yards over the left guard. The key to the play was that Brad Jones takes himself out of the play by pursuing Reggie Bush even well after Bell has the ball, vacating the middle of the field.

After the Lions get a first down with an easy 5-yard pass to Bush, they get another 9-yard gain on first down with a quick pass to Patrick Edwards. Perhaps still dazed and confused that his matchup with Megatron turned into one with Edwards, Sam Shields plays off coverage and then whiffs on the tackle. Morgan Burnett appears to wait for Shields to make the tackle and is slow to recover when Shields doesn’t. And that is how the Packers alleged two best defensive backs gave up a 9-yard catch to a guy named Pat Edwards.

After the Lions move the ball into Packers’ territory with an easy 11-yard slant to Kevin Ogletree in front of soft coverage by Davon House, the Packers decide to switch things up. They come out with their base defense and blitz six. The Lions are caught completely by surprise and Brad Jones gets a sack to back the Lions up 6 yards. The Lions would fail to recover and have to punt.

1:28 1st Q – The Packers take their first drive and hold the ball for nearly eight minutes, going 72 yards in 15 plays.

The Lions are playing the expected coverage — two deep over the top, tight man underneath. As it did against the Bengals, this defense leaves the Lions vulnerable to the run game. Eddie Lacy takes advantage from the get go, repeatedly battering the Lions for 4 or 5 yard gains during this drive.

The Packers convert their first third down on a tripping penalty against the Lions. Big surprise. They convert their second on a quick out to James Jones. Then on 3rd and 6 from the Detroit 41, they get their biggest play of the drive when Randall Cobb makes a one-handed catch on a corner route for 22 yards.

From there, a 7-yard run by Lacy and a quick pass to Nelson give the Packers first and goal from the 4. Even though Lacy hasn’t had a run of less than 3 yards yet, Rodgers attempts a pass on first down. Everyone is covered initially. Rodgers could escape to his right, but he gives the receivers another moment to get open. It doesn’t happen. He sees Ndamukong Suh coming from his left and tries to juke left, running right into Ziggy Ansah for Detroit’s only sack of the game.

A 1-yard pass to Jones and then an incompletion on third down would lead to a field goal, making the score 3-0 Packers.

11:20 2nd Q – After a three and out by the Lions, the Packers would go 36 yards in 12 plays, taking up another four minutes, to go up 6-0.

The Packers do an amazing thing at the start of the drive by running the ball four straight times. Lacy gets 14 yards, moving the ball to the Green Bay 44. From there, Jermichael Finley would take a short out and bull his way for 10 yards, moving into Lions’ territory.

After a 6-yard run by Lacy on first down, Rodgers would miss Cobb and Jones on consecutive plays. Perhaps playing overaggressive, considering the opponent, the Packers go for 4th and 4 from the 40 and appear to fail when Finley gets an easy catch knocked out of his hands by Louis Delmas. However, a soft holding call on nickel corner Bill Bentley gives the Packers another first down.

Two plays later, Rodgers hits Ryan Taylor wide open at the 10-yard line, but Taylor is apparently playing with two broken thumbs and drops the ball. Somewhere, Tom Crabtree says that he would be in the end zone flexing his tats by now.

Rodgers follows by missing Cobb against tight coverage by Glover Quinn, and Mason Crosby rescues the Packers from getting nothing by making a 52-yard field goal.

3:50 2nd Q – After a four and out by the Lions, the Packers would hold the ball for another 9 plays and 5 minutes, but this time they would fail to score.

The Packers would drive from their own 4 to midfield, thanks mostly to two great Jordy Nelson catches on third down and an 8-yard run by Lacy. On 3rd and 1 near midfield, Rodgers would try the quick pass to Cobb, and linebacker Dwayne Levy would knock it down, forcing a punt.

0:20 2nd Q – The Lions would run out the rest of the first half with a drive that netted them a 53-yard field goal to make the score an anemic 6-3 at half. The drive is mostly a 22-yard pass to Ryan Broyles on 3rd and 10, and a 25-yard pass to Brandon Pettigrew where he ran through M.D. Jennings and then lept over Davon House.

The drive would end with the help of a holding call that would force 3rd and 15. Strangely, Matthew Stafford would take a shot at the end zone and get the ball knocked down.

12:25 3rd Q – With a couple runs by Lacy and two short passes to Finley, the Packers move their first drive of the second half to their 40-yard line. At that point, a false start on Don Barclay turns into a 3rd and six. On that play the Lions blitz six. The Packers do well to pick it up, but David Bakhtiari apparently forgets the snap count and Ansah runs right by him before he can get out of his stance. Ansah forces Rodgers to run out of the pocket and throw the ball away.

7:30 3rd Q – The second half begins to take on the personality of the first half as the Lions hold the ball for another five minutes only to end up punting.

The Lions pick up two first downs, the second coming on a 10-yard out to Reggie Bush out of the slot against Jerron McMillian. However, two plays after that, Nick Perry would dip beneath the block of the left tackle and get his first sack of the season. The Lions would fail to recover and would have to punt.

5:05 3rd Q – On the first play, from the Packers’ 11, Randall Cobb would take a pitch to the left, split between blocks by Josh Sitton and Andrew Quarless, make Delmas miss, and then sprint up the left sideline for 67 yards.

The Packers would go three and out from there, oddly sticking with Cobb as the lone guy in the backfield, even on 3rd and about a foot from the Detroit 13. On 3rd down, Rodgers would fake to Cobb and roll to his right. Unfortunately, Lions defensive end Willie Young didn’t get a hard enough push from Quarless and got immediate pressure on Rodgers. Rodgers threw wide of Jordy Nelson in the end zone.

Another field goal would follow to make it 9-3 Packers.

3:12 3Q – The Lions would go three and out, and the Packers would answer with a three and touchdown.

On 2nd and 15 from the Green Bay 17, the Packers would have Cobb take the seam route while Jones does a fly on the sideline. The Lions are in two deep and therefore protecting against the deep ball. Unfortunately for Louis Delmas, who was a star in the first half, his aggressiveness comes back to bite him here. He cheats towards the seam route to Cobb and sets Jones loose down the sideline. Rodgers hits Jones in stride, and Jones goes the distance for an 83-yard TD strike.

I believe James Jones’ first end zone celebration of his career is what Deion Sanders calls the Tina Turner. Hilarious.

The long score finally gives the Packers some separation at 16-3.

14:50 4Q – Needing an answer, the Lions would appear to be heading for one as they drive past the Green Bay 40.

On the first play of their next drive, Bush took an end around that seemed to catch the Packers, at least Nick Perry, by surprise and goes 20 yards. A couple plays later, Bush would get the edge when Robert Francois blows his Achilles and go for 12 more, down to the Packers’ 40.

However, on 3rd and 9 following that, the Lions would fail to block Clay Matthews and give up a drive-ending 12-yard sack. Even though he is unblocked, Matthews would nearly get juked by a Stafford spin move and have to go to the ground to take Stafford down. He breaks his thumb in the process.

10:10 4Q – The Packers essentially end the game by taking another five minutes off the clock and adding a field goal to make it a 16 point game at 19-3.

The 56-yard drive includes 13 yards on three runs by Lacy and 31 yards on another miraculous sideline catch by Nelson. It also would include a Steve Young-like scramble for 6 yards by Rodgers on 3rd and five.

The drive would stall at the Detroit 24 when Levy makes another great tackle to keep Finley short of the first down.

7:05 4Q – A frantic Detroit drive would end on downs at the Packers’ 30. After a Tony Scheffler drop on 3rd and 3, Chris Durham would fall down on fourth. Packers ball.

3:50 4Q – The Packers would drive for a 70-yard TD to turn the game into a blowout at 26-3. Oh, except for the NFL official in the replay booth.

The Packers drive the length of the field with 15 yards from Lacy on two runs and one 39-yard pass to Jones where he leaped over Chris Houston. Just three plays after that, Rodgers would hit Jones for an apparent 27-yard TD. The referee standing right at the goal line rules it a TD.

It goes automatically to replay. The replay seems to show that Jones’ second foot, his right foot, came down out of bounds. However, after the referee tells Lambeau Field the bad news, the slow motion replay from the front seems to show that Jones’ toe of his right foot is still on the ground when he first secures the catch. That would make his left foot his second foot in bounds — touchdown.

The truly baffling thing about the reversal is that the play was ruled a touchdown on the field. That means it should not, theoretically, be overturned unless there is conclusive proof. The frame by frame replay seems to show conclusive proof that it IS a catch, and yet, the replay official claims it is conclusive proof of the exact opposite. Amazing.

We need say nothing more about that play since it affects nothing other than the final score and player stats, but in all games this season, all around the NFL, I can’t remember ever seeing so many replay challenges where the ruling seemed to be the exact opposite of what the replay appeared to show. It is either grand incompetency or grand larceny. One or the other.

After the robbery, I mean, ruling, Crosby would kick his fifth field goal to make the score 22-3.

The Lions would drive for a meaningless score and fail at the two point conversion to make the final tally the bizarre 22-9.

Yes, let’s get the obvious out of the way, Calvin Johnson sitting out this game made the Lions a two-score underdog, at least. Still, the Packers did what they had to

Their one sack allowed and no turnovers was a great improvement over their last contest. They ran the ball effectively for the third straight game and stopped the run again as well. They sacked Stafford five times, including one from Mike Neal and two from Nick Perry, who both had their best games of the season.

Josh Sitton is playing at a Pro Bowl level once again. He dominated Nick Fairley and made him a complete non-factor. T.J. Lang also continued his great play from the Cincinnati game and shut down Suh. The Lions don’t have premier pass rushers on the outside, and that helped Bakhtiari and Barclay greatly improve their performances.

The line controlled the line of scrimmage and gave Eddie Lacy wide spaces to run through. I don’t think linebackers Dwayne Levy or Robert Tulloch missed a tackle all game, but Lacy would still bull through them or fall ahead for an extra couple yards every time. Its a shame that a meaningless holding call would keep Lacy from 100 yards, which would have been three straight games by three different running backs. If that isn’t a proud mark for an offensive line, then I don’t know what is.

The Packers now rank 5th in rushing yards per game and 2nd in yards per rush. They now have a real weapon with which to break the shell defense that has been used against them. However, the Packers won’t be fully utilizing their running game until they use it to convert short yardage and red zone situations.

The Packers offense didn’t actually play as badly as the score at half and in the third quarter might suggest. The Packers only had the ball three times in the entire first half. If they get the TD to Jones at the end of the game, they score 26 and it looks a little better on paper. Also, the Lions tackled about as well as I’ve ever seen them. Their sure tackling kept the Packers from making big plays until Cobb’s big run broke the seal.

I believe the Packers will continue to get a pass rush from Mike Neal and Nick Perry with Matthews gone. As long as that is the case, I feel pretty confident that the Packers can go 3-1 or 2-2 at the worst during the month Matthews is sidelined.

After this contest, we still don’t know if the Packers are going to be a contender in the NFC this season. However, what I believe we do know, is that no one in the NFC North is going to run away from them. If they merely go 2-2 over the next quarter, they will still be in the hunt once Matthews returns.