Ouch. The Lions marched into Green Bay this weekend and were carried off on their shields. This ranks as one of the more painful losses of the season, and marks the first time the Lions have been shutout since 2001.
There is not much good to say about the game. The special teams were a disaster again as only a holding penalty against the Packers prevented the opening kickoff return from being a Green Bay touchdown. Although kick coverage improved after that, the Lions own return game was non-existent. The defense was able to get some pressure on Aaron Rodgers, but he nonetheless threw for 358 yards and 2 touchdowns. The offense felt the absence of Calvin Johnson and put together only two drives of merit. The first ended on a failed attempt to get the first down on a 4th and 1 play, and the second ended in an endzone interception.
On the plus side, the Lions defense continues to play tough against the run, holding the Pack to 107 yards and a 3.6 yard per carry average. Considering that the Packers had a big lead for most of the game and ran the ball a lot, it was a decent performance. About the only good thing you can say about the offense (which generated only 149 total yards and gave up 4 turnovers) is that they had a minimum of penalties. Hey, it’s something.
Individually, Daunte Culpepper proved again why he won the backup job to a rookie. His throws were average and his decision-making was awful. Drew Stanton actually looked better, though only marginally. Brandon Pettigrew also demonstrated why he was heralded as a blocking tight end in college, not a receiving tight end. On the defensive side, Cliff Avril could not seem to figure out where the neutral zone was, and confusion in the secondary made for far too many open Packer receivers.
There were some signs of improvement from Detroit’s younger players which give some hope for the future. Louis Delmas was a big reason that the Lions run defense is working well. DeAndre Levy looks better and better every game and had his first career interception. Gosder Cherilus still has some work to do in pass blocking, but he has solidified the right tackle spot for years to come and may end up being the 2nd best draft pick from the Millen era.
The Lions have a bye week to allow them to rest up, heal up and prepare to play another NFL bottom dweller on November 1 – the St. Louis Rams. The Lions may actually be favored to win for the first time in ages, and the pressure will be on for them to produce against another struggling franchise. Unless rumors of Matthew Stafford needing knee surgery turn out to be true, the Lions should have all their starters available on offense.
Lambeau Field is never an easy place to play, and the Packers are no pushover this year. The Lions were also without several key starters in the game. Nonetheless, they should be embarrassed by the shutout. There will be no excuses when the Rams come to town in two weeks.