Wayne Larrivee's pregame primer for Packers-Lions
Brad Jones, A.J. Hawk, Mike Daniels. Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
By Wayne Larrivee. CREATED Oct 5, 2013
It is the 168th meeting (including post season) meeting between two of the NFL’s oldest rivals - the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers Sunday at Lambeau Field.
The Packers have won 22 straight over the Lions on Wisconsin soil. The last time the Lions won at Lambeau Field was December 15th, 1991.
Led by QB Erik Kramer, running back Barry Sanders and head coach Wayne Fontes, the Lions went into Green Bay with a 10-4 record on way to a 12-4 regular season.
Detroit defeated the Packers 21-17 and has not won here since. Current Lions signalcaller Matthew Stafford was 3 years and 10 months old the last time the Detroit Lions won in Wisconsin!
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is 13-1 against the Lions with the only setback coming at Ford Field (7-3) in 2010.
That game saw quarterback Aaron Rodgers leave in the first half due to a concussion.
Looking over my spotting charts for this game, here are some of the matchups and factors I’m looking for:
The obvious matchup is the defensive tackle combination of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, the most dominant duo in the game today, against the interior of the Green Bay offensive line Josh Sitton, Evan Dietrich-Smith and T.J. Lang.
Securing the interior of the line is key to both the running game and passing attack.
You can run on these Lions, as they rank 28th in the league allowing 5.2 yards per running play by their opponents.
Running the football will also help slow the pass rush.
The Packers are perilously thin on the offensive line to begin with, and this week will not have the services of backup center Greg Van Roten due to a foot injury.
If anything happens, my guess is T.J. would slide over to the center position, Don Barclay would play at right guard and Marhsall Newhouse would take the right tackle position - but again, that’s just a guess.
PACKERS' PASSING OFFENSE
The key for the Packers passing attack is to get this game into the secondary, and specifically to the corners of the Detroit defense.
This week, starting left corner Chris Houston missed a good portion of practice due to a hamstring injury while the other starter, Rashean Mathis, was banged up last week and did not finish the Chicago game.
We could see a lot of rookie Darius Slay and second-year corner Bill Bentley on the corners of the Lions defense.
If Aaron Rodgers gets time, he will attack with his outstanding trio of wide receivers Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jordy Nelson. They have combined for 54 receptions, 791 yards and 6 TDs in three games this season.
How the Lions deal with the Packers’ “big three” wide receiver sets will tell us a lot about what kind of game tight end Jermichael Finley might have.
When the Lions go nickel, they take out one outside linebacker (usually Ashley Palmer) and keep MLB Steven Tulloch and OLB DeAndre Levy on the field. Cornerback Bentley is the extra defensive back.
Assuming they will cover the wide receivers with corners, the matchup to look for is Levy (7 career interceptions including 2 this season) or either safety Glover Quin or Louis Delmas matching up on Finley.
Levy is a good coverage linebacker and the safeties have played well this season, but a tight end with Finley’s skill set must win this matchup.
One other key for the Packers passing game is the return of fullback John Kuhn.
He is integral to what the Packers are able to do in the passing game because he is the one back they trust on blitz pickup.
Kuhn has been out the past couple of weeks with a hamstring injury, and the Packers have gone to a more lateral passing game: quick passes to the flank of the defense off two-and-three-step drops to nullify the pass rush while compensating for protection problems.
Kuhn’s ability in blitz pickup is a big key in giving Rodgers the time to allow plays to develop down field. In other words, get this game to the corners of that much-improved Detroit defense.
On the flip side, the Packers have beaten a usually one-dimensional (passing) Lions offense like a drum in the past few seasons.
But the Detroit offense is one-dimensional no more.
Reggie Bush changes all of that for Detroit. He has given the Lions their biggest running back threat since Hall-of-Famer Barry Sanders who retired just before the 1999 season.
Bush is an all-purpose threat who is second in the NFL in yards per game from scrimmage at 144.3. He tore up the Chicago Bears defense last week to the tunes of 139 yards rushing on just 18 carries.
With Johnson on the outside, Bush a threat in the backfield and Brandon Pettigrew an athletic pass catching tight end, talented quarterback Matthew Stafford has the kind of weaponry it takes to exploit the best of defenses.
Bush has become an exceptional between-the-tackles runner. He has quick light feet and his jump cuts and spin moves in traffic are something to behold!
Reggie is an explosion waiting to happen in the passing game, and the Lions won’t hesitate to move him in and out of the slot or just send him out wide. Bush is finally the nightmare opposing defenses anticipated he would become when he came out of USC with a Heisman Trophy.
RESTED AND READY
The Packers come out of the bye week rested and healed-up for the most part. Getting Morgan Burnett back in the secondary is very important.
Getting Eddie Lacy lathered up to run the football and slow the rush will be huge.
But as is the case with most games in the NFL these days, it will probably come down to quarterback.
In nine career games against the Lions, Rodgers is 8-1 with 18 touchdown passes and just 5 interceptions, posting a passer rating of 111.4.
Matthew Stafford is 0-5 against Green Bay with 9 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions, a passer rating of 68.8.