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By CHRIS HAVEL
Green Bay’s 34-27 win against Detroit forces young defenders to grow up quickly in 2nd half
The Packers relied on four Aaron Rodgers touchdown passes to build a 28-point first-half lead before a Lions’ comeback left Green Bay limping to the finish.
The Packers’ 34-27 win over Detroit Sunday at Lambeau Field won’t be among the more memorable this season. It did serve several key purposes though.
First, Green Bay (2-1) goes into its early bye week with at least several answers to go with the lingering questions:
The Run Game
Lining up in the I-formation or offset I-formation with Aaron Ripkowski paving the way for Eddie Lacy is a move in the right direction. It allows head coach Mike McCarthy’s team to run out of that formation and with that personnel group (two tight ends, one wide receiver, a fullback and a running back). It also allows McCarthy to throw out it effectively, especially when defenses begin to creep up to defend the run.
Ripkowski’s solid performance before a first-half back injury put him on the shelf suggested he could play a key role.Lacy also seems more comfortable out of the I-formation, which allows him time to read the defense and set up his blocks.
Lacy’s 103 yards rushing in 17 carries was good for an obnoxious 6.1 yards per carry.
Meantime, James Starks was almost non-existent. I would be surprised if the Packers don’t work out several running backs during the bye week. In fact, if C.J. Spiller is serious about playing for the Packers he would be a much-welcome addition.
Jordy Nelson is back.
The Kansas State wonder-boy caught six passes (out of seven targets) for 101 yards, two touchdowns and a long completion of 49 yards.
“Just got on the same page,” Rodgers said of Nelson. “Hitting Jordy for some big plays helps. Jordy and I are connected. Whenever we’re doing that it kind of opens other things up for the offense.”
DaVante Adams and Richard Rodgers caught two passes each with Rodgers otherwise spreading around the football.
Defensively, the Packers can generate an effective pass rush when Clay Matthews is sidelined by an injury. Matthews, who missed Sunday’s game with ankle and hamstring injuries, figured to be a key absence in the game.
In fact, Nick Perry stepped up and played huge. Perry had seven tackles, two sacks, two quarterback hits and one pass defended. It ranks among Perry’s best games as a pro and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
If Perry can sustain this he would be a prime candidate for an in-season contract extension.
Offensive & Defensive Lines Resilient
The Packers’ offensive and defensive lines continue to play well despite injuries and absences due to suspension.
Lane Taylor has held up in place of Josh Sitton, at least that’s what I’m going with considering he hasn’t been mentioned at all.
Also, J.C. Tretter continues to be one of the league’s best young centers, while David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga seem determined to have a championship season.
The defensive line is without Mike Pennel who is out the first four weeks while serving a PED suspension. In his absence, Mike Daniels has been dominant while youngsters Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Christian Ringo, etc., continue to play well despite their inexperience.
Letroy Guion and Datone Jones also were playing well before injuries KO’d them against the Lions. The bye week should get both that much closer to being healthy for the Oct. 20 Bears game.
Offensively, McCarthy was pleased with the run-pass mix.
Aaron Rodgers was an efficient 15 of 24 for 205 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He was sacked twice but otherwise received good protection. His 129.3 quarterback rating was his first of more than 100 in a 15-game span, easily the longest of his illustrious career.
“Offensively the focus was to be a good, healthy mix of run and pass, so we accomplished that today,” McCarthy told reporters.
Rodgers’ top-flight performance against a beat-up Lions defense wasn’t surprising. However, the fact that the Packers’ offense showed good balance by running effectively as well as throwing it is a bright spot going forward.
Also, Devante Adams looked smooth on his 14-yard touchdown catch, which is likely to be good for his psyche going into the bye.
Defensively, the most frustrating aspect of an overall decent performance was the Packers’ inability to have an answer for the Lions’ Marvin Jones. Jones hauled in six passes (out of eight targets) for 205 yards and two touchdowns. Jones averaged a ridiculous 34.2 yards per catch.
Why Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers didn’t use double coverage against Jones is a mystery. He needed to have a safety over the top with a cornerback underneath. Instead, Capers never forced the Lions to look elsewhere to make plays.
Matthew Stafford hit on 28 of 41 passes for 385 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He was sacked three times, although he did manage a respectable 112.3 quarterback rating. The Lions (1-2) just had too far to come back.
Now, the Packers have the bye week to get healthy both physically and mentally.
Look for more of the straight or off-set I-formation with Lacy lining up behind a fullback. Expect Rodgers to throw to Richard Rodgers even more until Jared Cook returns from an ankle injury that could sideline him four to six weeks.
Also, don’t be surprised if the Packers add a running back in the mold of Spiller, if not in fact Spiller.
The Packers’ performance showed they have enough depth behind the defensive starters to win games. It also showed that McCarthy is willing to make changes if necessary.
It’s all about winning and defining roles along the way. In Sunday’s win over Detroit, McCarthy and Co. did both.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games. Also check out our new Podcast: Between the Lines for more Packers insights. New episodes every Wednesday.