First, the good news.
The Packers generally held the Lions and talented rookie running back Jahvid Best in check throughout the first half of Sunday's 28-26 win over Detroit at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
The Packers came into the game giving up an average of 5.0 yards per carry, tied for 28th in the NFL. So when they limited the Lions to 37 first half rushing yards on only 9 carries (4.1 yards/carry), it could only be seen as an improvement.
The bad news is when the Lions failed to generate a consistent ground game, they took to the air.
"Well, they couldn't run the ball, so give credit to them. They realized that, and they put the ball in the air," said cornerback Charles Woodson. "And they made a lot of things happen doing that, putting guys in motion and getting in space, getting the ball to their backs, getting the ball to Calvin on some plays underneath."
The Lions proceeded to dominate on the offensive side of the ball. Had it not been for two turnovers and a 13 to 3 deficit in turnover margin, there may have been no stopping the Lions' aerial attack. The Packers defense had a tough time getting off the field, and as a result got tired, which only contributed to their defensive struggles.
Coach Jim Schwartz's offense controlled the football just short of a two-to-one margin, winning the time of possession battle 37:37 to the Packers' 22:23. They also ran 78 total offensive plays compared to the Packers' 40.
"If they were as tired as I was, they had to be pretty tired," said Woodson. "It just seemed like a long game for us, being out on the field defensively. But again, it doesn't matter. You go out there to play this game to win. You feel like your preparation puts you in a position to win. And again, when your number is called, you've got to make a play to get your team off the field."
Lions quarterback Shaun Hill, despite being primarily a journeyman backup, performed better than just about anyone expected.
Hill completed 34 out of 54 passes for 331 yards including two touchdowns to star receiver Calvin Johnson in an effort that took advantage of what the Packers defense gave them.
"A lot of their plays were check downs and they were able to get up the field, quarterback scrambling for 40 yards," said safety Nick Collins. "So it wasn't anything major downfield. It was just all short routes. But we've got to tackle better, play better as a whole team."
Even though the Lions running backs weren't able to significantly dent the Packers defense rushing the ball, they still made an impact in the passing game.
Recognizing defensive coordinator Dom Capers' blitz heavy schemes, the Lions utilized the screen pass to counteract the Packers' inherent aggressiveness. It was particularly effective against Green Bay's 1-5-5 "Psycho" package.
"Screens are really defeated by a team," said linebacker Brady Poppinga. "It's everybody reading that it's a screen and reacting accordingly. It can be frustrating, but that's just part of the deal. You've got to be able to read and react accordingly."
Best had 5 catches for 34 yards while fellow running back Kevin Smith added 4 receptions for 22 yards as part of the short passing game that found faults in the Packers defense.
Whether future opponents use the same gameplan as Detroit is worth watching as the season progresses.
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