Lions stalk Lambeau streak in Packers' home opener
Third in a 13-part series on the teams the Green Bay Packers will face in the 2016 regular season.
When the Green Bay Packers host the Detroit Lions in their 2016 home opener, they will hope to avoid a streak.
For ages — since 1991 — the Packers were on the right side of a home streak. They won 24 straight games against the Lions in the state of Wisconsin, a streak that stretched more than two decades. It extended through Brett Favre’s entire career and the start of the Aaron Rodgers era.
Now, that streak is over, courtesy of a stunning 18-16 loss to Detroit at Lambeau Field last November. The Packers will look to avoid a home losing streak when they host the Lions on Sept. 25.
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Of course, last season they quickly got revenge in Detroit on a Hail Mary play that will be remembered for a long time in Green Bay. If only the 2016 version of Packers vs. Lions will offer the same theatrics.
Here are three things to know about the Packers’ division rival.
» No more Megatron: Talent has been hemorrhaging out of Detroit the past two years. Last offseason, it was Ndamukong Suh who fled the Motor City to South Beach via free agency. In perhaps an even more painful exit, the Lions watched star receiver Calvin Johnson retire this offseason. The potential impact on quarterback Matthew Stafford can’t be overstated. While Johnson was one of three players to catch at least 80 passes last season — and he didn’t lead the team in receptions — his big-play ability is irreplaceable. Golden Tate had 90 catches last season, two more than Johnson. Tate’s 813 yards and nine yards per catch were not only well off Johnson’s 1,214 and 13.8, but they also were fewer than former Packers receiver James Jones. Running back Theo Riddick also had 80 catches and provides dual-threat ability out of the backfield, but he doesn’t stretch the field vertically. Only Johnson did that.
» What the Hail? You can watch football a long time, and you’ll never see anything as unexpected as Rodgers’ game-winning, final-play Hail Mary to tight end Richard Rodgers. But if it was an incredible throw and once-in-a-lifetime catch, the Lions also committed plenty of sins on the play. Their cornerbacks played press-man coverage even though they were 60 yards from the end zone with no time on the clock. They rushed only three players, even though the Packers' offensive line was thinned with injuries. Rodgers had plenty of time to allow his receivers to run downfield, where not nearly enough Lions defenders were waiting in the end zone because Detroit half-expected a lateral. Needless to say, the Lions will do things differently should they be in a Hail Mary situation against the Packers again.
» A coach with nine lives: Midway through last season, Jim Caldwell’s firing seemed imminent. The Lions entered their bye week 1-7 on Nov. 1, a disastrous start after Caldwell led them to the playoffs in his first season. Then they beat the Packers at Lambeau Field. Then they won another game against Oakland. Then another against Philadelphia. The Lions finished 6-2 in the season’s second half, with one of those losses coming on Rodgers’ miraculous Hail Mary. If that’s the group that shows up to start 2016, the Lions could have a chance to contend as they were expected to last year. If not, Caldwell’s seat could get awfully hot again.
Packers schedule glimpse
Sept. 25 vs. Lions, noon, Fox
Week before: at Vikings, Sept. 18
Week after: Bye
On the horizon: vs. Giants, Oct. 9
Jan. 1 at Detroit, noon, Fox (regular-season finale)
Week before: vs. Vikings, Dec. 24
Week after: TBD
Coach: Jim Caldwell (18-14, third season).
2015 record: 5-11, third NFC North.
Scoring offense: 22.4 points per game (T-17th in NFL).
Total offense: 346.7 yards per game (20th).
Scoring defense: 25 points allowed per game (23rd).
Total defense: 349.6 yards allowed per game (18th).
Series: Packers lead 96-68-7 (2-0 postseason).
Last meeting: The Hail Mary. Final play. Miracle on the football field. A full description is unnecessary for the Packers' 27-23 win Dec. 3, 2015, at Detroit. It also was the first of three straight victories late in the regular season, a stretch that ensured the Packers would make their seventh straight postseason trip. That shouldn’t be forgotten about the Hail Mary. Not only was it an amazing moment, but the stakes were huge.
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