Man, Thursday night games are the worst, aren’t they?
OK, we can now officially say we’ve seen everything. For the better part of the first two quarters, I was scanning the sidelines to see if Dan Devine and Randy Wright were back running the show. But everything changed when Julius Peppers stripped Matthew Stafford and we all know what happened next.
The Miracle in Motown will mask the reality of where this team is right now. From halftime to halftime the last two Thursday nights, the Pack was shut out (a Mason Crosby doink helped contribute). The running game, which awakened against the Vikings and Bears, could get nothing going against the Lions, who have improved in that category since their bye. Part of that could be the backups playing on the offensive line, part of that is the inability to count on Lacy to carry the load, week after week.
Down Lang and Bulaga, pass protection was sketchy, as you’d expect against a talented, aggressive defensive line. But outside of Richard Rodgers, who had an excellent game before the winning TD catch, the receivers were again mostly missing in action. The most notable play was Randall Cobb’s 16 yard catch and run that kept the Pack alive, trailing by nine late in the game. That play set up Rodgers’ TD run that closed the gap to two.
Everyone will remember this game for the Hail Mary, the longest game winning touchdown pass in NFL history. But the Packers defense deserves most of the credit, for holding Detroit to just 6 points over the final three quarters. Guys like Mike Daniels, Datone Jones and Jake Ryan made big plays and Sam Shields contained Megatron for most of the game. As dangerous a receiver as Theo Riddick is, he was held to 27 yards on five catches–the Pack’s defense has made huge strides in defending the screen game; they’re much faster on the edges than they were a couple of seasons ago.
So the defense is solid, but the offense is still a mess. No third down conversions in the first half. Three fumbles and an interception. And an offensive line that looks like a MASH unit right now. But maybe the events from mid-third quarter on will spark them over the final quarter of the season. Maybe Richard Rodgers has arrived as a legitimate threat (must be the imminent return of Andrew Quarless that got him going). Maybe Ty Montgomery will return from the worst sprained ankle in history and his fellow receivers will play like legitimate NFL receivers.
The Packers have warts right now, but they were kissed by the princess on Thursday night and we’ll find out over the season’s final four games whether this fairy tale has a happy ending.