Sunday, December 12, 2010

Packers' Grades vs. the Lions

Going up against a divisional foe with a 2-10 record with playoff hopes on the line, there’s no other way to grade this but with an epic fail.  The Packers seemed to do everything they shouldn’t have, and kept a poor team charged up and in the game.  The players seemed unfocused and unprepared for the game, and some head-scratcher playcalls from coach Mike McCarthy will lead to this critical loss being laid firmly on his shoulders. The Packers now need plenty of help to make the playoffs, and may be without quarterback Aaron Rodgers for their most critical games of the season.

The Packers shuffled in James Starks, Dimitri Nance, and Brandon Jackson, and none of them could establish anything on the ground.  In particular, Starks (who was the darling after a strong debut last week) couldn’t seem to find any footing on the artificial surface at Ford Field, contributing only eight yards to the 31 yards compiled by the three running backs.  To their credit, the offensive line, which lost G Daryn Colledge early to injury, had the backs avoiding defenders in the backfield almost immediately.

With the Lions’ passing attack mostly subdued, coach Jim Schwartz went to his running attack early and often (190 yards on 41 carries).  Maurice Morris did the most damage with 51 yards on the ground, but the Lions went for broke on several occasions by rushing quarterback Drew Stanton and diminutive returner Stefan Logan for some backbreaking gains.  Their run game didn’t help put up many points, but it did keep the Packers looking at long fields when they got the ball back.

Aaron Rodgers was already having one of his worst games of his career when he foolishly dove head-first on a scramble and suffered his second concussion of the season.  Backup Matt Flynn was called on to save the day, but forced a costly interception in the red zone, then badly overthrew Greg Jennings on a fourth down, potentially game-winning play.  Jennings also bobbled a ball for an interception, and Donald Driver looked terrible, catching only two passes on nine targets.  Again, the line was sieve-like, with aging LT Chad Clifton having a terrible game. 

For the most part, the Packers’ secondary kept third-string quarterback Drew Stanton off balance, at one point compiling a 0.0 efficiency rating in the third quarter.  Charles Woodson blanketed uber-receiver Calvin Johnson, who was limited to one catch on eight targets.  Tramon Williams and Charlie Peprah each had picks on poorly thrown passes.  But in the fourth quarter, the weary defense allowed Stanton to convert two third downs as he went 5-for-6 for 49 yards on the game-winning drive that covered 80 yards, culminating in the only touchdown on the day, a 13-yard pass to TE Will Heller.

The Packers’ special teams units couldn’t pull this game out for the Packers, but they did their part to keep the game close.  Punter Tim Masthay was busy, punting eight times for an impressive 50.5 average, putting three inside the twenty-yard line.  The punt coverage unit also did a good job keeping star returner Logan bottled up, making the Lions start in their own territory on every drive.  Mason Crosby made his only field goal attempt.  Tramon Williams had a lot of punt return opportunities, but returned only two as the Lions’ coverage teams were downfield in a hurry.

No comments: