The Green Bay Packers won their last 21 games against the Detroit Lions on Wisconsin turf, and so it was a good bet that the swirling winds and snow of a December game in Lambeau would blow their way and make it 22. They did, and the Packers prevailed 27 – 20. Although the win was the Packers’ seventh in their last eight games, this year the wins aren’t coming nearly as easily as they did last year. Nonetheless, the Packers banked a win and now they can clinch a Divisional title next week with a win over the Chicago Bears.
The Packers had a rough start in this game, falling behind 14 – 0 after two long, time-consuming Lion drives had Cheeseheads uneasy. The turnaround started late in the second quarter when the Lions’ quarterback fumbled and rookie defensive lineman Mike Daniels scooped the turnover up and ran it back for a touchdown. But the Packers’ offense struggled throughout the first half as their offensive line couldn’t effectively block the Lions’ talented defensive linemen. Aging Packer center Jeff Saturday struggled in particular. At halftime the Packers limped into the locker room trailing 14 -10.
The Packers were once again hobbled by multiple injuries keeping key players from participating. Injuries dictated that only four defensive linemen suited up for this game. Those injuries partially prompted the Packers to deploy their “nickel” defense (using two down linemen) almost the entire game. Initially that scheme didn’t work too well, but the Packer defense stiffened up in the second half, and, as customary, the Lions started to fall apart as the game unfolded.
In the second half, Aaron Rodgers ran for a 27-yard touchdown to put the Packers back on top and then early in the fourth quarter the Packers put together a beautiful seven-play, 59-yard touchdown drive that consisted of running plays exclusively. I can’t remember the last time that happened. Perhaps the Packers have finally developed a running game that just might force opposing defenses to respect it enough to enable the mighty Packer aerial assault to reassert itself. Unlikely newcomer running back DuJuan Harris provided the 14-yard touchdown run on the drive. I had not heard of this diminutive guy before last week but he looked quick as lightning.
The Packers’ linemen stepped up their play on both sides of the line of scrimmage as the game wore on. Some of that was likely due to the Lions assuming their role as perpetual losers as the cold and snow wore down their psyche, but credit also goes to the Packer players and the coaching staff for coming back from a 14-point deficit.
The Packers also got a boost from an odd source Sunday when the Minnesota Vikings upset the Chicago Bears. That development opens the possibility for an early clinch of the North division of the NFC if the Packers can defeat the Bears in Chicago next week. The Bears are beat up pretty badly too and they haven’t been playing well as of late. Hopefully, Clay Matthews III, Charles Woodson and maybe Jordy Nelson will return from their injuries next week to throttle the Bears. If those players are healthy, the Packers should be favored, even though the game will be played in the Windy City.
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