Packers 2-minute drill
By Jason Wilde ESPN Wisconsin
~DETROIT– Taking a closer look at the Green Bay Packers’ 40-10 loss to the Detroit at Ford Field, snapping the Lions’ nine-game Thanksgiving losing streak, dating back to a 2003 victory over the Green Bay Packers.
It didn’t take long for things to go awry. Yes, the Packers actually held a 10-3 lead after Morgan Burnett’s returned the Matthew Stafford fumble forced by Nick Perry early in the second quarter. But then the Lions scored 37 unanswered points, the defense gave up a mind-boggling 563 yards and the offense accomplished absolutely nothing.
Where do you start? With quarterback Matt Flynn’s performance (10 for 20, 139 yards, no touchdowns, one interception (51.9 rating)? The offensive line, which not only allowed seven sacks, but saw running back Eddie Lacy rush 10 times for 16 yards? Coach Mike McCarthy’s play-calling? Or what about the defense, which suddenly cannot stop the run (241 yards allowed) or the pass (Matthew Stafford completed 22 of 35 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions)?
It’s a tough choice, but the Packers’ failing run defense, which surrendered 474 yards in the first six games and has now ceded 473 yards in the past two weeks.
“We can talk about scheme, (but) I’ll go back to our conversations with our football team,” McCarthy said. “You try to learn from your experiences in the past. Scheme is not a crutch, when you’re in run defense, you play with leverage, you’ve got to get off the damn block and tackle the ball carrier. So you can cut it any way you want – and we’re not doing that right now. We haven’t done that in a month.”
Player of the game:
It’s hard to give it to a Packers player after a loss like that, so how about an ex-Packers player? Wide receiver/kick returner Jeremy Ross was released on Sept. 25, one day after a costly fumble that resulted in a touchdown at Cincinnati. Since Ross’ departure, the kickoff return game hasn’t improved at all – the Packers remain dead last in the league – but Ross certainly had a day to remember against this former team. He not only caught a 5-yard touchdown pass (his first career touchdown catch), return three kickoffs for 70 yards (including a 30-yard return) and four punts for 46 yards (most of it on a 35-yard return), but he also had a 60-yard fourth-quarter punt return wiped out by what certainly appeared to be a phantom holding call.
Asked if he played with more purpose against his former team, Ross replied, “Not really, man. I was just trying to go out there and play. It was good to be out there and play against my [former] team.”
Ross, who muffed a critical punt in the Packers’ playoff loss to San Francisco last January, got the nod when regular returner Micheal Spurlock was inactive.
Play of the day:
In a game devoid of highlights, Perry’s sack/fumble was a rare positive moment. The Packers, who came in having forced only 10 turnovers this season, came up with four on Thursday – A Reggie Bush fumble forced by Clay Matthews and recovered by Burnett; Stafford’s interceptions to Tramon Williams and Sam Shields; and Perry’s strip of Stafford after beating left tackle Riley Reiff on the edge. Burnett snagged the bouncing ball at the 1-yard line and carried it across the goal line for the score.
And yet, despite four takeaways, it was undeniably a poor performance overall.
“I’ve been through a lot of games statistically where it didn’t make sense what happened throughout the game,” Williams said of the oddity. “Those things tend to happen. You’ve just got to find a way to win, and we didn’t do that.”
Added Matthews: “I know statistics show that if you get three-plus turnovers you’re more than likely to win the game. But that also goes with giving up however many rushing yards and passing yards and so on (against an) offense having some struggles. It could have been worse without those turnovers.”
Inside the game:
McCarthy made it clear that he never considered benching Flynn in favor of Scott Tolzien, who was benched last week in favor of Flynn in the Packers’ 26-26 tie with Minnesota.
“I didn’t really feel Matt had a lot of great opportunities frankly,” McCarthy said, referring to the constant pressure Flynn faced. “Hey, he didn’t play clean either. (But) it wasn’t just one person’s problem today. Like I said, they dared us to throw the football at ‘em and we tried and they won.”
Indeed, the Lions stacked the box on Lacy and the approach worked. McCarthy got so worked up after Flynn’s fumble in the third quarter that McCarthy tossed his play-call sheet in frustration.
“When you have personnel matchups, you try to tilt it one way or the other. They felt they had a matchup up front and they tilted it, and they put it on their guys up front and they were very successful in a big way,” McCarthy said. “We felt that we would potentially have a favorable matchup on the perimeter, but we never got to it. So they tilted the game their way.”
“It’s one loss. We don’t feel very good about ourselves right this minute, I think that’s to be expected. Everyone understands what the expectations are every time you take the field, that’s to win football games. We’re a wounded team that got drilled today by a good football team. That’s’ the facts of the matter. We have a long weekend. Hopefully we’ll get some more people back. But frankly, you got to run the football, you got to pass protect, you have to get off blocks, you have to tackle better. We’ve had two months of that here in the last three or four weeks. Our team is a little different right now. That’s obvious to everybody but it’s no excuse, I’m not particularly happy, and it starts obviously with my performance. That’s not the type of football we ever want to go out and play. We got drilled today.” –Packers coach Mike McCarthy, on the loss.
The lone injury was a big one: Center Evan Dietrich-Smith left the game with a knee injury just before halftime. That meant moving right guard T.J. Lang to center, just as the Packers had against Philadelphia on Nov. 10 when Dietrich-Smith suffered a knee injury in that game. Only this time, instead of moving right tackle Don Barclay – making his first start in three weeks after injuring his knee against the Eagles, too – to right guard and bringing Marshall Newhouse off the bench to play right tackle, McCarthy simply inserted Newhouse at right guard, even though Barclay said Newhouse hadn’t taken a single guard snap in practice during the week.
“He’s coming into an unexpected role,” Barclay said of Newhouse. “Not getting any reps at guard, but it’s what the team (felt) was best. They put him in. He’s the most experienced. He was willing to fulfill that. It’s tough going against a great player like Suh and not getting any reps.”
Eventually, the Packers benched Newhouse in favor of rookie Lane Taylor. Barclay later was taken out so Derek Sherrod could see action.
“You have to bring a guard in that’s a guard and have him play center. You bring in the six man into the line of scrimmage, that’s two different guys switching positions. It’s tough,” said rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari, who had a rough afternoon, too. “You talk about the best offensive lines are the most cohesive offensive lines, so you want those five to go through everything, through thick and thin, good and bad, and it’s hard when one of them goes down. T.J. has been working guard all week. Evan was working center. Obviously again with his mannerisms, too, and his cadence, especially on the road that’s tough.”
Meanwhile, running back Johnathan Franklin, who was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Saturday, said he had only suffered a concussion in Sunday’s game against Minnesota. Franklin was listed on the injury report as having had both a concussion and a neck injury, but Franklin said his neck was not an issue.
The only other injury Thursday was to Ryan Taylor, who took a blow to the head. He was tested for a concussion and cleared to return.
Williams was flagged 15 yards for making contact with back judge Dino Paganelli after Joique Bell’s touchdown run to make it 33-10. Williams slapped Paganelli’s hand away from him as he was coming off the field and said afterward that he didn’t realize it was an official.
“I wasn’t really paying attention. I just saw a guy walk in front of me and kind of brush up on me, I just kind of knocked his arm off. That’s about it,” Williams said. “It was just emotions running. It wasn’t much. There wasn’t anything behind it.”
Williams called the penalty “a total misunderstanding.”
Sherrod, the team’s 2011 first-round pick who hadn’t played in a game since breaking his leg and requiring emergency surgery in Kansas City on Dec. 18, 2011, came in right tackle late in the game in pace of Barclay. Barclay wasn’t aware if he was benched or the coaches simply wanted to give Sherrod some snaps on offense.
“You’ll have to talk to my coach or something,” Barclay said. “I think it was just giving him a chance, I guess.”
Sherrod, meanwhile, had seen action on the blocking unit for field goals and extra points but had not played on offense until Thursday.
“I felt good just to get out there. Obviously, not the situation that I thought of but just having the plays out there, it felt good,” Sherrod said. “It has been a while since I’ve gotten actual a rep with the offense. It was definitely a milestone.
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