4 Downs: Rodgers' knee, Ha Ha's lapse and rookie mistakes
Every week I’ll share four observations the day after the Green Bay Packers' game. Here they are after the Packers’ 31-23 loss Sunday at Detroit:
Aaron Rodgers practiced full time last Thursday and Saturday and even was removed from the injury report by the end of the week, but his injured left knee came out of the game in worse shape after he took an early hit. It came on the Packers’ sixth offensive play of the day, when he converted a third-and-four by scrambling and fighting for the first down. Lions linebacker Christian Jones landed on Rodgers’ legs as he tackled the quarterback near the sidelines. It wasn’t enough to cause a noticeable limp, but Rodgers said his knee was sorer Sunday than after the past couple games. It’s unclear how that will affect Rodgers’ practice availability next week, though the Packers don’t play until Monday night. He also said he was able to switch to a lighter knee brace for this game. “It’s going to be a little sore (Sunday night), and we’ll see what my status is this week with an extra day, which helps,” Rodgers said.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s highly uneven play at safety continued Sunday. He appeared to be primarily responsible for a red-zone touchdown pass for the third time this season. On the Lions’ eight-yard touchdown pass at the end of the second quarter, the Packers rushed only three players and blanketed the end zone with eight men in zone coverage. Lions receiver Marvin Jones ran along the back end line, and cornerback Kevin King passed him off to Clinton-Dix. But for some reason Clinton-Dix drifted so far toward King that they nearly overlapped — it appeared Clinton-Dix might have trying to read quarterback Matthew Stafford’s eyes — and that left Jones uncovered for the score that put the Lions up 24-0 at halftime.
Third-round pick Oren Burks saw the first extended playing time of his rookie season, mostly as one of the two inside linebackers in the Packers’ nickel defense. He adds an element of speed to the middle of the Packers’ defense and had decent coverage on a couple plays, but the play that jumped out was a chains-moving missed tackle in the third quarter. On a second-and-10, he had a chance to hold Lions running back Kerryon Johnson to a short gain on a swing pass, but he misread Johnson’s speed and took a bad angle that allowed Johnson to turn the corner and pick up the first down. Burks finished with four tackles on the day.
Receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling bounced back from a rookie mistake early to make a few plays in the passing game Sunday. Late in the first quarter on an out route he caught the ball along the sideline but inexplicably didn’t do a double toe-tap and instead got only one foot down in bounds on what would have been a first down. Instead, it was an incompletion, and on the next play, a third-and-seven, Rodgers was strip sacked, which set up the Lions for a field goal. On the Packers’ next possession, though, Valdes-Scantling got both feet down on a similar pass for a 14-yard gain and finished the game with seven catches for 68 yards and a touchdown.