Going into the Thanksgiving showdown between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions on Thursday, my prediction for a Lions upset victory was admittedly tenuous. I knew the Packers had more skill, more talent, and more depth; nevertheless, I was wary about Detroit’s ability to stun opponents with their comeback play. Green Bay has consistently been unable to drive the dagger deep into most of their opponents, and I thought that would come back to bite them against an emotionally-driven team in such a hostile environment.
Boy was I wrong.
Part of the concern for most fans and even beat writers was the list of match-up problems playing against the Packers. The Lion’s infamous front four would be squaring off against an offensive line that had been giving up some pressure in recent games. And Matthew Stafford with his corps of receivers (led by Calvin “Megatron” Johnson) was more than capable of putting up yards against a Packers secondary who found most of their success in turnovers rather than consistent stops.
At face value, it seemed like such a perfect recipe for Green Bay’s first potential loss of the season. The Detroit Lions apparently had the fire and wild energy to disrupt the cool focus of Aaron Rodgers and his teammates.
Fortunately, there was one thing we seemed to be glossing over. One thing that can turn match-up problems into mostly non-issues. One thing that can mean the difference between a hard-fought victory and a heart-breaking loss.
And that thing is teamwork.
Now, I’m not talking about just the players, because this level of teamwork extends all the way up to the coaches and even the front office.
In reality, the Detroit Lions showed that they are largely the antithesis of what the Green Bay Packers have become. What used to be the Minnesota Vikings’ role as the characteristic foil of the Packers has now been bequeathed to the Lions. They have become the “yin” to Green Bay’s “yang.”
For starters, the injuries sustained by both sides on Thursday were handled in bright contrast.
When the Packers lost both of their inside linebackers (and the ability to communicate to the defense by radio), back-up players D.J. Smith and Robert Francois made their presence known with some big plays. Smith landed a number of big tackles, while Francois snatched a game-changing interception out of the air. It’s also hard to ignore the efforts of Evan Dietrich-Smith and Brandon Saine on the offensive side of the ball.