Streak Lives On, But Matthews' Thumb Injury Looms Large

When news broke about 90 minutes before kickoff that Megatron would miss the game, you probably thought what I thought. OK, there will definitely be no upset today. The defense will likely dominate--but won't get much credit because, well, Calvin Johnson didn't play.

That's okay, we'll take the win--a game won by the defense and the suddenly sure leg of Mason Crosby, who converted on five field goals as the Pack's third down offense stalled throughout the day. After going one for seven on third downs in the first half, the team improved to six of nine in the second half. But too often on this day they settled for three--it was enough against the playmaker-challenged Lions, but it will cost them down the road unless they figure it out. Settling for field goals in Cincinnati didn't work out so well, as you'll recall.

Unfortunately the game was costly to the Packers defense. Clay Matthews broke his thumb and as I write this we don't know whether he can play with it. Without #52, the defense looks completely different, and opposing offenses can game plan accordingly . Fortunately, the next three opponents (Baltimore, Cleveland, Minnesota) have not been exactly high-powered so far. But if he's out, the learning curve for Mike Neal needs to be over. Neal and Nick Perry had very good games. We may be counting on them for a while.

On top of that, Robert Francois is lost for the season with a torn achilles, costing the team a special teams ace and its top inside linebacker backup. He was in there because Brad Jones became the 47th Packer this season to suffer a hamstring injury in the game.

Once again the Packers running game continues to impress. The 180 yard total is skewed by Randall Cobb's 67 yard gallop, but Eddie Lacy showed he can move the pile and give you three to five yards at will. It was nice to see him finish the game, barely missing his first 100 yard game as a pro.

The passing game was hit and miss. The 83 yard touchdown to James Jones was the highlight, but the Lions did a better job in coverage than expected. Some great catches by Nelson and Cobb prolonged drives, but Rodgers and the passing game can play better and will, if the running game continues to excel.

We forget how young this team is and that it is a work in progress. The goal is to continue to get better so you're playing your best down the stretch. The 22-9 win over Detroit showed us the defense is improving: Nick Perry and Mike Neal stuffed the stat sheet. Five sacks of Matthew Stafford overall. They kept Reggie Bush in check--most of his yards came when the Pack had taken a big lead. Morgan Burnett made a difference in the back end: great to have him back.

So the longest streak of dominance in NFL history continues. 22 straight regular season home wins over the Lions. And with the Bears losing as well, the Pack is just a half game back of the division lead. On to Baltimore, where the Ravens return home after a narrow win over the Dolphins. Very glad to see them win--wouldn't want to face them in their house, following two road losses. It will be a test, but the Ravens have not looked great so far. I expect the Pack will be a 2-3 point favorite on the road next week.


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