24

November

Packers vs. Lions: 5 Instant Observations from Green Bay’s 27-15 Win over Detroit

Aaron Rodgers rebounded from a slow start, James Jones caught his fifth touchdown pass and the defense played arguably its finest game of 2011 season as the Green Bay Packers took down the Detroit Lions, 27-15, on Thursday at Ford Field.

Here are five observations from the game:

1. Defense states their case

On a day in which the Packers lost Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk and Erik Walden at various times, the defense may have played their best game of the 2011 season. Despite giving up over 400 total yards again, the Packers intercepted Matthew Stafford three times and held a shutout into the fourth quarter against an explosive offense on the road. Calvin Johnson, one of the NFL’s best receivers, was held to just four catches for 49 yards and a meaningless garbage time touchdown. Backup inside linebackers D.J. Smith and Robert Francois played surprisingly well in emergency duty. Considering everything involved on Thursday, you could make a strong case this was the Packers most impressive defensive performance of 2011.

2. Suh’s stomp changes game

Terry McAulay’s officiating crew were bad for both sides on Thursday, but they absolutely got it right when they ejected Ndamukong Suh in the third quarter. Not only did he stomp Evan Dietrich-Smith’s arm, but Suh also banged Dietrich-Smith’s head off the ground multiple times before the stomp. There’s simply no place for that kind of behavior in football, and Suh deserves to sit a couple of games, especially considering his history. Luckily for the Packers, Suh’s dirty play gave them a new set of downs at the Lions’ 1-yard-line, and John Kuhn promptly turned the break into a 14-0 lead 9:06 left in the third quarter. It wasn’t the decicing factor in the game, but Suh’s ejection and penalty turned the tides in what was a close contest at that juncture.

3. Rodgers rebounds

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers started slow on Thursday, but the Lions were unable to hold him down for a full four quarters. After being held under 100 yards passing and failing to convert a third down in the first half, the NFL’s best signal caller caught fire in the second half and finished with another stat line that Packers’ fans have come to expect. By the time the game was over, Rodgers had completed 22 of 32 passes for 307 yards and two scores, including a 65-yard strike to James Jones that put the Packers up 21 points. His 120.2 passer rating extended his NFL record streak for games over 110.0 passer rating to 11 straight. Rodgers was especially deadly on back shoulder throws in the second half. Anytime the Packers needed a big play, he found a receiver being covered by a corner with his back to the play. At that point, it’s stealing for Rodgers and this group of receivers.

17

October

McCarthy: Packers Won’t Overlook Struggling Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers are just two years removed from playing a pair of games that essentially decided the NFC North in 2009, but the franchises couldn’t have veered in more different directions since then.

The Packers rebounded from two crippling losses to Brett Favre in ’09 to win the Super Bowl last season, and they’ve started 2011 with six straight victories. Green Bay is the last remaining undefeated team in the NFL and the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl for the second consecutive season.

The Vikings, on the other hand, went through a circus year in 2010 which saw them stumble to a disappointing 6-10 record. Things haven’t gotten better this season under coach Leslie Frazier, as the Vikings are fresh off a 39-10 drubbing at the hands of the Chicago Bears which dropped them to 1-5.

But despite everything suggesting an easy path for Green Bay to get to 7-0 this week in Minnesota, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is standing firm that Sunday isn’t a game that his team will overlook on the schedule.

“We’re not overlooking the Minnesota Vikings, I can promise you that,” McCarthy said during his Monday press conference. “The Vikings are a different team in the Metrodome than they are on natural grass. Hard lesson this team has learned in years past.”

The Packers have won three of the past five games at the Metrodome, including a 31-3 win there last season. The two losses during that stretch came in ’09 when the Vikings beat the Packers, 30-23, on Monday Night Football,¬†and in ’08, when Adrian Peterson’s late touchdown run gave the Vikings a 28-27 win.

The Vikings quarterback situation is as foggy this week as it was at times during the 2010 season, when Favre was hurt for most of the year. Minnesota has started 34-year-old Donovan McNabb, whom they traded for this past offseason, in each of the Vikings first six games. But he’s struggled mightily at times, and McNabb has just a 82.9 passer rating with four touchdowns so far in 2011. In the second half Sunday night, Frazier pulled McNabb in favor of rookie Christian Ponder, and the first rounder showed some poise behind the Vikings leaky offensive line. Ponder saw both his drives end with completions short of the sticks on fourth down, but he finished the night 9-of-17 for 99 yards and wasn’t sacked.