Sure the game was a disaster, but it wasn’t all bad. There was a silver lining.
The fact that the Packers were even able to hang around in the 4th quarter was pretty amazing when you look at what they had to deal with:
- A very questionable call on a special teams play to start the game and shift the momentum
- Two out-of-character strip sacks from a very aware QB
- A momentum-instilling unsportsmanlike conduct call for looking a player (literally)
- Four (four!) missed field goals from a great kicker… in a dome… with no blocks… that tilted the field repeatedly
- Two almost-touchdowns from Davante Adams – one that was lost in the lights and another that was (correctly) ruled incomplete after review
That’s a lot of close things in a one-score game. Usually the close things even out, but when they all fall on one side of the ledger, it’s tough to win. Heck, it’s tough to even stay in the game in the 4th quarter.
Taking all that on while playing a division opponent on the road is tough, but they hung around. Why? In a word: defense.
Mike Pettine’s squad is looking solid. Watching the game, you could see they played hard, battled against momentum, and actually turned in a respectable performance.
They did let one big play get away from them and allowed the Lions to score before the half, but that was after they got the ball at the 22 yard line. Sure, an elite defense might have put the clamps down there, but this isn’t an elite defense, this is a defense 5 weeks into a scheme rebuild with a new coordinator and an overhauled roster. They don’t need to be elite, they just need to be solid.
And they were.
I don’t fault them for giving up the first touchdown on a 1 yard drive that followed their defensive stop. However, I credit them for holding Detroit to a total of 20 yards in the 4th quarter when the offense was mounting a comeback.
That’s an impressive number.
Here’s some more numbers from the game:
- The Lions only had 18 first downs (to the Packers 30) and 3 of them were on penalties (some questionable)
- The Lions were held to 5 of 13 third down conversions
- The Lions were limited to 264 total yards (to the Packers 521)
- The Lions were held to a 3.4 yard average per carry in the run game, which includes Blount being limited to 1.9 yards and Riddick mustering only 1.0 yards
- None of the Lions scoring drives were even 70 yards (while 3 of the Packers scoring drives were more than 70 yards – not including an 84 yard drive that ended in a missed field goal)
- The Lions had scoring drives of 1, 1, and 22 yards, which shows how tough it is to win when the offense continually gives them a short field
This is a young defense learning a new scheme. There were some rookie mistakes (most notably the interception that Josh Jackson lost in the lights), but they are coming together. This road division battle in the face of adversity showed that.
It’s something positive to build on.
I go into every season expecting to split each division series (which they’re on pace for) and have a throwaway game they should win (Redskins). It’s early, Rodgers will get better (as will Crosby), but the defense is coming to form and that’s cause for optimism.
I can be optimistic.