Fifth Straight Win Has Pack Eyeing Lead in NorthPosted:Nov 19th, 2012 2:34 am
The Packers' fifth straight win was not the most artful, dominant, or comfortable of the season. But it was workmanlike: the offense converted a drive when it needed it most and the defense made a stop when it had to. The result: a 24-20 win over the Lions that has the Pack poised to return to the top of the North when week 11 is complete.
I thought the Packers' offense would move a bit more effortlessly, in light of the Lions' injuries in the secondary and the return of Jordy Nelson and John Kuhn to the offense. But Nelson did not appear close to 100% and the offense never found a flow, hampered by penalties in the first half and Rodgers was not his usual laser sharp self on this day in the Dome.
But what matters is the Packers found a way to get a divisional road win and continue their mastery over Detroit. They kicked dirt on the Lions' playoff chances, dropping them to 4-6 with the 9-1 Texans coming to town on Thanksgiving Day.
Here's what I liked: offensively, Jermichael Finley returned to the offense with a couple of big plays. He was inexplicably left uncovered on the Pack's first TD of the day and then made a nice catch and run down the sidelines late to set up the game-winning TD pass to Randall Cobb. Speaking of the mercurual second year receiver, he proved to be the difference again, catching nine balls and running the ball a couple of times. It was not his best day as a returner, but he's becoming the Pack's most dangerous pass catching weapon.
Defensively, the pass rush did its job despite the absence of Clay Matthews. Five sacks of Mtthew Stafford, including two by Erik Walden and one by Matthews-fill-in Dezman Mosses. Couple that with four takeaways and the Packers defense stood up tall on this day. Yes, they allowed Megatron to go off--and Morgan Burnett should have swiped the pass that he caught for a touchdown, but all in all they kept the Lions in check and made a great stand in the game's final two minutes that allowed the Pack to escape with a four point win.
Which brings us to Mason Crosby. My Twitter feed blew up in the second half with calls for the return of Ryan Longwell. Mason Crosby's funk has developed into a crisis. He missed two more on Sunday, before nailing a 39-yarder with a minute to go to extend the lead to four. But he is a mess right now and despite Mike McCarthy's announced commitment to Crosby after the game, the leash is getting shorter. It's incredible to watch a normally consistent kicker completely lose all confidence, but it's where Crosby is right now and he'll face another pressure cooker next Sunday night in New York.
But that's something we can worry about next weekend. For now the Pack sits at 7-3 and if the Bears lose in San Francisco on Monday night the Packers will be sitting atop the North through ten games, by virtue of their win over the Bears. Next up, we'll monitor the health of Matthews and Raji, who limped off the field late and see how many healthy bodies they haveready to go against the rested Giants in a big prime time affair next weekend.