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.