Is Your Cup Half Full or Half Empty?Posted:Sep 26th, 2016 2:03 am
There are two paths you can choose to take following the Pack's 34-27 win over the Lions. You can take the path that celebrates the first half offensive awakening and stout defense that had the Pack up by 28 points. Or you can take the other path, the one that can't get past the Lions comeback, where Marvin Jones channeled his inner Stefan Diggs and the Packers offense went dormant.
I'll be taking the first path. Was I thrilled with the second half? Of course not. We'll get to that in a bit. As usual, Aaron Rodgers responded to the national criticism as he always does. Four first half touchdowns and a near perfect opening 30 minutes--hitting all kinds of throws to all kinds of receivers and suddenly it was 2014 all over again. And the running game was humming along as well.
The only thing that gave us pause, was the end of the half bomb to Marvin Jones, sprung when Josh Hawkins lost his footing and missed a tackle. Suddenly it was 31-10, the Lions had a faint pulse and they would be getting the ball to start the second half.
Credit Matthew Stafford, who got into a rhythm in the third quarter, even though the Pack's run defense--along with its big lead--made the offense one dimensional. The Lions have plenty of receiving weapons and Jones and Ebron were tough matchups for the depleted Packers defense.
Much was made of the defensive injuries to both teams going in, with the Lions missing their top two players, Ziggy Ansah and DeAndre Levy. The Pack had to dig even deeper, missing five defensive starters and causing Dom Capers to rely on guys who have had few, if any snaps before this game--guys like Brian Price, Marwin Evans, Kentrell Brice, Jarwin Evans and Dean Lowry. Plus Jayrone Elliott and Chris Banjo were getting their first snaps of the season.
That's one reason I'm not going down path number two. It's not realistic to expect defensive excellence when the unit is missing half of its starters, including key guys at each level: Guion, Matthews, Shields and Burnett. Yet the defense was more than sufficient in this game. Things started to break down late, but the guys were gassed--a number of guys were asked to play a lot more snaps than usual, including Peppers and Perry. Perry was the defensive star of the day, with seven tackles, two sacks, a pass defended and two QB hits.
And when the game got a little too close for comfort in the fourth quarter, the defense got a stop, when it needed it most. Hopefully the unit will be a lot healthier when they take the field next, in prime time against the Giants (the G-men will be coming off a short week, playing that Monday night at US Bank Stadium).
As for the offense, when you put up 31 points in a half, it seems you invariably slow down in the second half. The Pack only got the ball once in the third quarter, when a nine play drive stalled and they settled for a field goal. The Lions hit pay dirt before and after that drive and it was 34-20 early in the fourth quarter.
The teams traded punts, and then the Packers had their worst drive of the day--at the worst possible time: a three play series with Eddie Lacy on the sidelines, featuring a run and catch by James Starks that netted eight total yards. Punter Jacob Schum may have saved the day by leaping for a high snap and getting a punt off. The Lions hit again when Damarius Randall tripped in coverage allowing Jones to score and pass the 200 yard mark. It was another tough day for Randall, despite an early interception, when he wrestled the ball away from Eric Ebron.
As you know, the Packers iced it by keeping the ball for the final eight plays, featuring a heavy dose of Lacy, who cracked the 100 yard mark on 17 carries. With Rodgers in sync with his receivers and Lacy looking like Lacy, all was right again for the offense. Except for the Jared Cook injury. He re-injured his ankle in the second quarter and was in a boot and on crutches after the game. Tests are forthcoming, but it doesn't look like he'll back on the field for a while.
It was the only real negative coming out of this one, except for those of you who are dwelling on how close the game got late. I'll still chalk it up to a defense stretched thin by injuries that was on the field a bit too much in the second half. Some of those young guys got some invaluable experience. Hopefully they'll be relegated to the bench in a couple of weeks as the regulars get back on the field.
Finally, gotta give my kid some kudos. Jackson predicted the score on the nose on "Packer Preview." He also thought his Vikings would win and their performance in Charlotte will have many across the nation jumping on their bandwagon. And rightfully so. With Arizona, Seattle and Carolina looking vulnerable, the Vikes will be atop the NFC power rankings heading into week four.
The Packers showed they're starting to figure things out. They're not yet where they want to be, but Aaron Rodgers looked like his old self, as did Jordy Nelson. And for this Packer fan, that's what I really wanted most to see on this September Sunday.