The Green Bay Packers have lost three games to teams with worse records: When Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews didnít finish, and when Matthews didnít play.
Itís tough to win in the NFL without your star players.
Before Rodgers got hurt, the Packers were getting beat on the line of scrimmage both ways, but would have been up 7-0 had it not been for a fluke pick off a Greg Jennings drop. Itís hard to imagine that the Packers wouldnít have made the one or two plays that it would have taken to turn their 7-3 loss to Detroit into a victory if Rodgers hadnít been lost with a concussion.
The run blocking
The pad level the Packersí line plays with isnít conducive to running the ball. When you play against guys who are bigger and stronger like the Packers did Sunday, youíve got to play with better leverage. Granted, the guards and center had their hands full. Ndamukong Suh is everything he was cracked up to be. Corey Williams has been resurrected now that heís back in a 4-3 scheme and playing next to Suh. Suh might be playing as well as any defensive player in the league right now.
Scott Wells, Josh Sitton and Bryan Bulaga usually play with decent pad level. But even Sitton struggled in this game. First-and-5, 14:01 to go in the third quarter, Suh crossed Sittonís face so fast that Sitton didnít have a chance, and it was a loss of 2. The same with Wells. Thatís his game: To out-technique people. But Suh and Williams were too good for him to handle.
Chad Clifton never gets pad level and Daryn Colledge isnít much better. When Colledge got hurt, the Packers put in Jason Spitz and he got tossed around like a rag doll. Then T.J. Lang, a bigger guy, came in and he didnít give them a boost, either.
The pocket also was getting collapsed in the middle of the line. Even without Kyle Vanden Bosch, the Lions have a good front four. And adding Suh covers up for a lot of weaknesses in that back seven.
For example, with their zone scheme, the Packers are combo blocking at the point of attack almost every play. But if the blockers canít release because of the penetration of the other teamís tackles, theyíre not going to be able to pick off linebackers, who make the plays. With the pressure they got from their front four, the Lions didnít have to blitz and expose their weaknesses at corner.
The offensive tackles
It appears that Clifton might be running out of gas and Bulaga might have hit the proverbial rookie wall. Both look as if theyíre wearing down.
Bulaga isnít the same player he was earlier in the year. It looks as though heís losing weight. Heís not shocking people anymore with his initial punch in pass pro. Part of it against the Lions was that they line their defensive ends up so wide. But both those tackles were on skates the entire game.
Clifton is getting beat to the edge. Thatís a bad sign for a tackle. Thatís a speed and quickness issue. His drop-step doesnít seem to be as quick as it was at mid-season.
He completed 63 percent of his passes, but didnít make a single play. Thatís what the game is all about. He had a chance to make some plays in the passing game and he didnít do it. Heís just a guy. He doesnít have the snot on the ball that Rodgers has. Flynn can dink-and-dunk underneath, but he canít throw a dart because he doesnít have the arm strength. About the only good thing you can say is that he didnít look rattled.
When a team plays it as safe as the Packers as far as throwing the ball down the middle against Cover 2 and, instead, has its quarterback taking off running as much as Rodgers has this season, chances are heís going to get hurt at some point. Rodgers has made a ton of big plays running from the pocket, but thatís why Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Brett Favre have always taken their chances winging it in to tight coverage.
This was the first game since last year where B.J. Raji appeared to be taking plays off.
And as good as Matthews is, he isnít getting it done when they need someone to get a sack or make a big play when the game is on the line. Where was he on the Lionsí scoring drive?