Insider: Thumbs down to passing game
THE BIG PICTURE
With this shocking loss, the Packers look to be in total disarray. Losing twice on the road to quality teams was one thing; falling 18-16 at home to an awful Lions team is an indication that the wheels are coming off. Green Bay (6-3) dropped a game behind the surging Vikings, who won 30-14 at Oakland, in the NFC North. It's certainly not the way the Packers wanted to begin a stretch of four division games in a span of 19 days and casts their playoff worthiness into serious doubt. Forget catching Carolina (9-0) for the NFC's best record — a Green Bay loss next Sunday at Minnesota would put the Vikings in the driver's seat for the division title, and could force the Packers to fight for a wild-card berth.
The Packers' kickoff coverage team was badly burned at the outset of the second half by Ameer Abdullah, who brought the ball out of the end zone and rumbled 104 yards to the Packers 1. The Lions converted that into a touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Brandon Pettigrew and a 9-3 lead. Green Bay, which had dominated the first half but produced only three points, never recovered.
After facing two standout defenses against the Broncos and Panthers, the Packers hoped to find the airways more favorable Sunday. Things started well on the first drive, when Aaron Rodgers went 6-for-8, but it produced only a field goal. Little else went right the rest of the day, with the usually sure-handed Randall Cobb short-circuiting one drive with a drop of a wide-open third-down pass. Davante Adams hurt the team by carping at the officials about not getting any pass-interference flags, ultimately drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct that forced the Packers to punt. Rodgers looked to be out of sorts most of the game and lacking confidence in his receivers. He wound up with career single-game highs in both attempts (61) and completions (35) for 333 yards. But an erratic Rodgers raises the angst over the Packers' offense to a whole new level.
The Packers got good play from tight ends Richard Rodgers and Justin Perillo, each of whom had five catches and scored a touchdown. Rodgers has three TD catches in his last two games and seven in his short NFL career. Perillo gained a career-high 58 yards (11.6 average) on his receptions, including the 11-yard TD catch that gave the Packers a chance to tie in the final minute. "You're seeing what we get to see every day," coach Mike McCarthy said. "He just needed an opportunity. I thought he made some clutch catches there down the stretch." The Packers also soon will welcome tight end Andrew Quarless back from the injury list.
RANTS AND RAVES
RANT: James Starks was named the starter over Eddie Lacy in an effort to rejuvenate the Packers' ground game, but the move didn't pay dividends. Starks was fresh off a solid effort against Carolina, where he rushed for 39 yards and caught six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. But against Detroit's 26th-ranked rushing defense, Starks lacked burst and couldn't help set the Packers up with favorable down-and-distance plays. Starks rushed for only 42 yards on 15 carries. He flashed on a couple of late-game drives, converting screen passes into nice gains (he finished with six catches for 59 yards). Lacy, meanwhile, was inactive after being listed as questionable because of a groin injury.
RANT: The Packers' defense came out with a chip on its shoulder, playing with emotion and forcing three-and-outs on the Lions' first two possessions. The pass defense had been burned for huge yardage in the last three games, falling from fourth to 23rd in the league rankings, but welcomed back cornerback Sam Shields, who suffered a shoulder injury early in the Denver game and didn't play against Carolina. They gave Stafford fits early, but he managed to hit Pettigrew on a 2-yard TD pass when Julius Peppers slipped in coverage. Poor tackling by Sam Shields and Morgan Burnett on a 43-yard reception by Golden Tate set up the decisive Lions touchdown in the fourth quarter.
RAVE:Jared Abbrederis gave the passing game a boost, hauling in a huge 32-yard pass midway through the fourth quarter that set up the Packers' first touchdown. He left the game after taking a hard shot to the ribs on the play. Earlier, Abbrederis had recorded his first NFL reception and on the day had four catches for 57 yards (14.3 average) as the Packers finally expanded their arsenal of wide receivers.
RANT: The Packers' offensive line struggled yet again, failing to pave the way for the running game and allowing the Lions to harass Aaron Rodgers and sack him three times. "Aaron has been hit way too much three weeks in a row," McCarthy said. "I don't feel good about it. No one feels good about it, and I'm sure he doesn't feel very good."
DID YOU NOTICE?
» Davante Adams, a second-year receiver, caught a single-game career-high 10 passes on a whopping 21 targets for 79 yards.
» Randall Cobb extended his streak of regular-season games with at least one reception to 49 with a first-play-from-scrimmage catch for 11 yards. That ties Max McGee (1959-63) for the eighth-longest streak in franchise history.
» Tim Masthay punted on nine consecutive possessions Sunday (not counting an end-of-the-half kneel-down). He’d never before been called upon to punt nine times total in a game.
» The Packers slipped to 15-4 (.789) overall against the Lions under coach Mike McCarthy.
» Green Bay’s record against NFC North opponents fell to 41-14-1 (.741) under McCarthy. Still, only the Patriots (45-12, .789) and the Colts (41-14, .754) have a better divisional record since 2008.