Packers Insider: Thumbs down to the defense
THE BIG PICTURE
This 30-17 loss to the Lions was a sobering setback for the Packers in their quest to stay in playoff contention and keep open the possibility of an Aaron Rodgers return later this season. At 4-4 and riding a three-game losing streak, they are two games behind the first-place Minnesota Vikings and tied for second place with the Lions. With five of their last eight games on the road, this truly felt like a must-win situation, and the Packers came up empty.
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The Packers were still in the game trailing 7-0 when Lions kicker Matt Prater hit the crossbar on a 55-yard field goal attempt early in the second quarter. But after an encouraging drive to open the game, the Packers’ offense went three-and-out for a second straight time. The Lions got the ball back at their 9-yard line and proceeded to march 91 yards in 13 plays, with Ameer Abdullah scoring on a four-yard run that was so uncontested, quarterback Matthew Stafford signaled touchdown almost immediately after pitching Abdullah the ball. Much too easy.
Hard to find much positive in this one. On offense, a Packers passing game stuck in neutral most of the night flashed momentarily when Brett Hundley connected with Randall Cobb on a crossing pattern for a 46-yard gain that set up Green Bay’s first touchdown. The Packers’ defense was abysmal at getting off the field on third down, but the embattled unit did make a goal-line stand at the start of the fourth quarter. Three times the Lions were stonewalled trying to score from the 1, with Blake Martinez forcing a fumble on second down that the Lions recovered. Detroit was forced to settle for a field goal.
Hundley was largely ineffective, but he got absolutely no help from the defense. The Packers could muster no pass rush and were picked apart by Stafford, the best quarterback still healthy in the division. A Lions offense that has struggled this season gashed the Packers with jet sweeps and play-action passes and consistently converted big plays. Even the first appearance on defense of rookie linebacker Vince Biegel (which came in the second quarter) didn’t provide relief. Stafford had a field day, completing 26 of 33 passes for 361 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions for a passer rating of 132.4 against a Packers defense that never forced a punt.
BOX SCORE: Lions 30, Packers 17
NFL: Scoreboard | Standings
PACKERS CHAT: Ryan Wood at 1 p.m. Tuesday
Hundley spent the bye week in Green Bay taking a crash course in how to succeed as the Packers’ starting quarterback. After being constrained by a conservative game plan in a loss to the New Orleans Saints, Hundley again played it close to the vest at the outset, rarely risking downfield throws. Of his 18 first-half passes, 13 were for five or fewer yards downfield, according to ESPN. On the night, Hundley completed 26 of 38 passes for 245 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions and a passer rating of 86.0. He also ran four times for 22 yards and scored for the second straight week, this time on a sneak. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he's the first quarterback in team history to rush for TDs in each of his first two career starts.
Word gets around the league quickly when a rookie running back exceeds the 100-yard rushing mark in his first two NFL starts. Such was the case with the Packers’ Aaron Jones, who was a marked man in the eyes of the Lions’ defense. With little threat of the deep pass, the Lions were able to stack the box and limit Jones to 12 yards on five carries. One bright spot: Ty Montgomery, who opened the season as the starter before losing the job to Jones, gained 33 yards on five carries and had an 18-yard pass reception.
Packers defensive lineman Mike Daniels, who on Saturday vowed to “deliver some blows” in retaliation for injury-producing hits on Davante Adams and Rodgers by division rivals this season, was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for a head butt on the defense’s third snap. Instead of having to punt, the Lions got a first down and scored their first touchdown six plays later. Not a smart play from a supposed team leader.
The bad injury news isn't letting up for Green Bay. After welcoming back Morgan Burnett, who had been sidelined since suffering a hamstring injury in Dallas, the Packers lost their veteran safety again to a groin injury in the third quarter. That’s a key loss because Burnett wears the radio helmet on defense and plays a pivotal role in getting everyone into the right spots. On the other side of the ball, the Packers’ regular offensive line started a game together for only the second time this season. But the reunion didn’t last long as right tackle Bryan Bulaga was carted off with what appeared to be a serious knee injury early in the fourth quarter. His replacement, Justin McCray, sustained an ankle injury on the game's final series.
BITS AND PIECES
» The Packers’ revolving door at long snapper bit them at the end of their opening drive. Derek Hart, cut in training camp but brought back last week after an injury to Taybor Pepper, rolled a snap that contributed to Mason Crosby having his 39-yard field-goal attempt blocked by Detroit's A'Shawn Robinson. The field-goal unit fared much better at the end of the first half, rushing onto the field with the clock running down and no timeouts left. Crosby converted a 35-yard attempt as time expired to get Green Bay on the board.
» Cornerback Damarious Randall once again was in the right place at the right time. Randall, who had interceptions in each of the previous three games, recovered a fumble forced by inside linebacker Jake Ryan in the third quarter.
» Paid attendance was announced as 77,575, marking the 331st straight regular-season sellout at Lambeau Field.