Lions Look: A Tectonic Shift?
A once one-sided series may be turning into a more even battle of divisional rivals.
For over twenty years, the long standing series between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers has been a lopsided affair, as the Packers have virtually owned the Lions during the combined Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers eras of Titletown quarterbacks.
Today's result might be a harbinger of change in this dormant rivalry.
The Lions jumped out to a 24-0 halftime lead, fueled by three Packer turnovers, and withstood a second half rally to defeat Green Bay 31-23 at Ford Field. The lede out of this game was the surreal struggles of Packers PK Mason Crosby, whose 4 field goal misses of 41, 42, 38, & 56 yards, as well as an extra point try are garnering the most attention. Crosby, a 12 year veteran of the team whose reliability is the cornerstone of his long tenure, had not only the worst game in his career, but the worst game for an NFL kicker since 1980. When a team loses a game by 8 points and one player accounts for leaving 13 points on the field, it becomes an elementary, if not partially inaccurate, conclusion. But placing the blame solely on Crosby takes too many others off the hook. Rodgers was strip sacked twice, losing the ball both times. The offensive game called by head coach Mike McCarthy left some wondering why he did not try to exploit the Lions' league worst run defense. The Packers defense, fresh off pitching a shutout last week, were gashed for big plays consistently by the Lions offense, with WR Kenny Golladay (4 catches, 96 yards, TD) the biggest weapon toward that end. Where the turnovers and Crosby's poor performance will draw the most criticism, this was a failure at the team level, one not often seen with Rodgers as a starter. The 2-2-1 Packers will need to put things in order if they wish to return to postseason action after last year's hiccup.
This is not to demean the Lions' efforts. Statistically, it looks awful, as Green Bay carried a near 2 to 1 ratio in total yardage, but those 3 fumble recoveries translated into 17 points. The four score lead entering the third quarter may have taken the edge off Detroit, which would be a factor in the Packers rallying back. Green Bay would get as close as 10 near the end of the 3rd before Matt Stafford hit Golladay for a 5 yard strike to essentially put the game out of reach. Due to the constant misses by Crosby, the Lions never lost momentum throughout the game, even with equally reliable Matt Prater badly hooking a 55 yard field goal attempt right.
If you are a Lions fan, this win carried significant weight in this series. Entering the game, Rodgers' record versus the Lions was 13-3 as a starting quarterback. But now, Detroit now has a three game win streak over the Pack, the first such streak since 1990-91 (For the uninitiated, this was before Favre came to Green Bay). Detroit is also 5-4 in their last 9 games against Titletown. While this may not be the Rosetta Stone to a Super Bowl title, becoming competitive with divisional rivals is key in turning into a consistent winner, which is the ultimate goal. Making the games against Green Bay competitive match-ups instead of Packer speed bumps is a step in the right direction.
The 2-3 Lions head into their open date on a high note, glad to have the time off to heal from a physically demanding campaign. After the week off, the Lions head south to face the surprising Miami Dolphins, whose 3-2 record has them tied with the New England Patriots. While the 'Phins have won in unspectacular fashion, they've won regardless, which will be a test for these Lions. We'll see what shakes loose in Week 7.