Monday, December 10, 2012

Packers hold off Lions 27-20, lead NFC North

The Green Bay Packers did what they needed to do last night in the snow flurries at Lambeau Field: beat an inferior team in the guise of the Detroit Lions, 27-20 (my prediction was 24-17...close!). In the process, the Packers kept their Wisconsin winning streak over the Lions going, now at 22 games. The last time Detroit won a game in the Badger state was 1991. There might even be a player or two on one or both teams who wasn't alive at that time, that's how long it's been.

But that's not the key takeaway from the game. Nor was it comic actor Will Ferrell's sideline cheerleading for the Pack during the game.

With the win, the Pack also went up a full game over division rival and this coming Sunday's opponent, the Chicago Bears. The implication is that if the Packers win at Soldier Field on Sunday the team will clinch the NFC North by virtue of its record and beating Chicago twice. Easier said then done, and we'll preview that game a bit closer to game day.

But let's do a quick review of last night's win, shall we?

Game recap
Firstly, the final outcome of the game began to be seriously in question very early in the game as Detroit went out to a quick 14-0 lead. The Lions also dominated the time of possession in the first half: 22:41 compared to 7:19 for the Packers. Yikes! It was enough to give you heartburn...the kind which Prilosec OTC Wildberry can tackle, that's for sure. (Better keep some on hand for the games coming down the stretch and into the playoffs!)

Detroit strung together two long touchdown drives on its first two possessions, running the ball effectively and passing to generally open receivers. After going 80 yards in 12 plays to go up 7-0, the Packers put on a drive of their own, going 55 yards to the Lions' 12-yard line. But on second down, as QB Aaron Rodgers was pressured in the pocket and began to move, he was sacked and fumbled. The ball was recovered by the Lions, who then put together an 11-play, 79-yard drive to go up by two touchdowns.

The Packers were then able to put together another good drive before stalling out. Head coach Mike McCarthy decided to try to get some points on the board, even in the blustery conditions. To that end, he sent out K Mason Crosby who proceeded to drill a 49-yard field goal attempt to make the score 14-3.

(Photo by John Klein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
On the next series, the Lions were again seemingly moving the ball at will and were in Packer territory when the football gods gave the Packers an early Christmas present: Lions QB Matthew Stafford dropped back to pass and as he began his throwing motion the ball slipped out of his hand. Rookie defensive end Mike Daniels scooped the ball up and scampered -- if that's a phrase that can be applied to a defensive lineman -- 43 yards to make the score 14-10. Coach McCarthy was quoted as saying, "Mike Daniels' play was the momentum shift we needed. That was the key." Indeed.

In the second half, Detroit was once beginning to move the ball, but on its first possession both quarterback and receiver were not on the same page. S Sam Shields, playing in his first game in about two months, intercepted Stafford. The Packers then put together a drive down to the Lions' 27, aided in no small part by a 15-yard roughing penalty against The Mad Stomper, Ndamukong Suh, for hitting Rodgers after a third-and-6 incompletion. Flushed from the pocket, Rodgers found running room and took it to the endzone untouched to put the Pack up 17-14 early in the third quarter.

Detroit picked up a Jason Hanson field goal to tie the game up at 17-17, aided by a very questionable blow to the head penalty to provide the extra yardage needed.

Mason Crosby had a miss from 51 yards out on his next attempt, as did Hanson shortly thereafter.

With 10:45 remaining in the game, the Packers played December football, rushing seven times for 59-yards, capped off with a 14-yard touchdown run by free agent RB DuJuan Harris to put the Pack up 24-17. (Harris actually had an explosive run in his first carry of the game in the first quarter which helped set the stage, perhaps, for this run. As Aaron Rodgers said about him in a post-game interview, Harris looks as if he might be "something special." Let us pray...)

Crosby added a 41-yard field goal with about 4 minutes remaining in the game to make the score 27-17. The Lions, out of time outs and much hope, hit a field goal with 7 seconds remaining to make the score 27-20. A pooched onside kick attempt wound up going out of bounds and finally securing the victory for the Packers.

Game synopsis
Merely looking at the stats you might well get the idea that Detroit won the game, or at least could have. Luckily, it's points not stats that give teams wins and losses. In first downs, third-down conversions, total yardage, total plays, and time of possession, the Lions bested the Packers. But on the scoreboard -- where it counts -- the Packers had the edge: 27-20.

As Rodgers said after the game, it was ugly but sometimes things break a certain way in a game and that's all that needs to happen. Daniels' fumble recovery and Shields' interception certainly helped a spotty defense hold its own. The rushing attack by committee -- Alex Green with 69 yards in 13 attempts, DuJuan Harris with 31 yards in 7 carries and even 1 carry by the recently-signed Ryan Grant for 13 yards -- worked well. And Mason Crosby's kicking problems have seemed to be resolved.

With the Pack set to get a few key players back in time for the game against Da Bearz, most notably Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews, the Packers look well-positioned to secure the NFC North title soon. Very soon.

Still time to enter the Sweepstakes!
Larry the Cable Guy was in Green Bay at last night's official tailgate party. You can check out what he got up to while in Green Bay at While there, you’ll have the opportunity to embark on an out-of-this-world flavor adventure of your own by entering the Wild American Flavor Sweepstakes. From now until January 7, 2013, enter at for a chance to win trips to three of America’s most flavorful cities, including tickets to some of the country’s biggest sporting events courtesy of new Prilosec OTC Wildberry. One winner will be chosen at random to receive the prize pack, including tickets to the big football game in New Orleans (February 3, 2013), the first big auto race of the year in Daytona Beach (February 24, 2013) and the basketball championship game in Atlanta (April 8, 2013), travel and accommodations (a two-night hotel stay and air transportation for each destination), and one $5,000 check to be used in any of these flavorful cities.

What are you waiting for, Packer fans? Git-R-Done!