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Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions match offensive futility

Dec. 12, 2010
 
Green Bay Packers Tramon Williams intercepts a Drew Stanton pass in front of Detroit Lions Bryant Johnson in the end zone during the first quarter of Sunday's game at Ford Field in Detroit.
Green Bay Packers Tramon Williams intercepts a Drew Stanton pass in front of Detroit Lions Bryant Johnson in the end zone during the first quarter of Sunday's game at Ford Field in Detroit. / Julian H. Gonzalez/Detroit Free Press

Thud down

Since 1954, first halves in which the Packers and their opponents failed to convert a third down.

Date Teams (3rd downs)
12-12-2010 GB (0-6), Lions (0-8)
10-4-1970 GB (0-8), Vikings (0-6)
10-8-1978 GB (0-7), Bears (0-7)
10-9-1988 GB (0-4), Patriots (0-4)

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The Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions should both have been attired in throwback uniforms Sunday.

Their scoreless first half and failure on third down turned the opening two quarters at Ford Field into a game more befitting the Great Depression than the 21st century.

With much of the offensive play as ugly as Green Bay’s replica jerseys from a week ago, the Lions needed just one touchdown to knock off their longtime rival 7-3. It was Detroit’s lowest scoring win over the Packers since Glenn Presnell beat them 3-0 with a 54-yard field goal in 1934.

The first half of this downer in the dome featured 12 punts and 11 drives without first downs. The longest play was an 18-yard dash by Aaron Rodgers, a run on which he sustained a concussion that ended his day after that series concluded.

Green Bay picked up 68 yards in the opening 30 minutes. Detroit gathered 127.

The Packers ran but one play on Detroit’s side of the field. Tight end Andrew Quarless fumbled away that possession after hauling in a 12-yard pass from Rodgers.

The Lions got off 10 plays in Packers’ territory. But like Green Bay, their deepest penetration resulted in a turnover as cornerback Tramon Williams stepped in front of receiver Bryant Johnson to intercept Drew Stanton’s pass in the end zone.

But for all their ineptitude, the Packers and Lions were at their ineffective best on third down. In the first half Green Bay went 0-for-6; Detroit was 0-for-8.

Twenty-two years have passed since the Packers and their opponent were shut out like that. On Oct. 9, 1988, Green Bay and New England each failed on four third-down tries in the first half of the Packers’ 45-3 victory over the Patriots.

Thirty-two years have passed since the Packers and their opponent failed on 14 combined attempts as they did Sunday. Both Green Bay and Chicago went 0-for-7 in a 24-14 Packers win on Oct. 8, 1978.

Not surprisingly, the Packers had but 10 yards in six first-half third-down plays. Completions of 6, 5, and 4 yards to John Kuhn, Donald Driver and Brandon Jackson, respectively, were offset by Turk McBride’s 5-yard sack of Rodgers.

On two other plays, Rodgers fired incomplete and backup quarterback Matt Flynn completed a pass to Jackson for no gain.

The Lions fared about the same. They gained 10 yards on seven pass plays, and Jerome Felton was brought down for a yard loss by A.J. Hawk on a third-and-one late in the first quarter.

The Packers supposedly had improved on third down. In their four games prior to meeting Detroit, Green Bay converted 31 of 56 opportunities (55.4 percent).

Those 56 third-down plays resulted in 454 yards for an average of 8.1 yards per play. They also netted five touchdowns.

To be fair, the Packers were faced with some long odds against the Lions in the first half. They needed 1, 13, 14, 11, 17 and 17 yards for an average of 12.2 yards to secure a fresh set of downs.

The Lions had less real estate to cover, aside from a third-and-25 set up by Clay Matthews’ sack of Stanton. Toss out that long try and Detroit needed an average of six yards to move the chains.

Both teams finally broke the ice in the third quarter. Flynn did so first with a 12-yard scramble on a promising drive that ended with him throwing an interception to DeAndre Levy in the end zone.

Detroit countered with Stanton’s 3-yard flip to tight end Tony Scheffler on the next series. Five plays later, Dave Rayner pushed a 48-yard field goal attempt wide left leaving Green Bay clinging to a 3-0 lead.

In the fourth quarter, the Lions converted two third downs on their way to Stanton’s touchdown pass to tight end Will Heller. Detroit finished 3-for-15 in third-down conversions.

The Packers got one more—an 18-yard hookup from Flynn to James Jones on their final drive that died at the Lions’ 31-yard line with 57 seconds left. Green Bay was 2-for-12 on third down.

Eric Goska is a Press-Gazette correspondent, a Packers historian and the author of "Green Bay Packers: A Measure of Greatness," a statistical history of the Packers. E-mail him at aegoska@sbcglobal.net.

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