Packers’ victory exposes holes; other notes
By: By Tom Oates, The Wisconsin State Journal, Superior Telegram
GREEN BAY — During the 2008 football season, linebacker DeAndre Levy was the third-best player on the University of Wisconsin defense.
One year later, he’s the best player on the Detroit Lions defense.
That’s all you really need to know about the team the Green Bay Packers routed 26-0 Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Nothing against Levy, who has shown enough in six games to think he has a bright future in the NFL, but the Lions, winless in 2008 and 1-5 this season, remain one of the league’s least-talented teams.
On top of that, they were playing without their one star (wide receiver Calvin Johnson), their quarterback (rookie Matthew Stafford) and three-fourths of their starting defensive line.
So while the Packers did what they had to do to dominate the Lions and raise their record to 3-2, there was a reason no one in their locker room was making any Super Bowl predictions afterward.
Despite having a bye week to iron out some of their early season issues and facing an inferior opponent, the Packers were long on field goals and short on style points against Detroit.
“Our main focus was to go out there and win the game and to try to do it impressively and show around the league that we are still here, that they can’t forget about us,” safety Nick Collins said.
The Packers only accomplished half of that mission. They got the win, but there were some aspects of their play they’d like to forget. Like the fact that they couldn’t score a touchdown after the middle of the first quarter and generally made things more difficult on themselves than they needed to be.
“It feels like a 50-0 game, but we didn’t quite get there,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “I felt we should’ve put more points on the board.”
The best that can be said about the game is that it was a step in the right direction for a team that had reached its bye week with more questions than anyone expected.
But despite a more aggressive defense, a return to the tried-and-true short passing game and a 435-149 edge in yards, the Packers didn’t find many answers Sunday. Indeed, they showed that many of the same issues they had in the first four games remain.
“We still have questions,” Collins said. “It wasn’t a perfect game. We have yet to play a perfect game. So we’ve still got to come in here (today) and look at film and correct all our mistakes and go from there.”
They’d better bring sandwiches and sodas because it’s going to take awhile. The shutout pitched by the defense was impressive, even if the Lions were down to their third-string quarterback in the second half, but the offense remains a work in progress and penalties continue to plague all three phases.
Facing what was essentially the backup line on one of the NFL’s worst defenses, the offense moved the ball through the air but struggled in every other way. The Packers couldn’t run, gaining a mere 30 yards through three quarters. They allowed quarterback Aaron Rodgers to be sacked five times, which is their average for the season. They couldn’t punch the ball in when they got close to the end zone, settling for four field goals. And seven of the team’s 13 penalties were called on the offense.
“You’ve got to keep working; there’s no easy solutions,” offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. “We had (435) yards. Some teams would be happy with that. We’re just not very efficient.”
That’s the understatement of the year. The Packers move the ball up and down the field but seldom reap the rewards because they have to overcome too many of their own mistakes. That’s why a game that should have been 42-0 or 49-0 ended with the Packers sitting in front of their lockers and having to explain themselves.
“At the end of the day, a win’s a win,” halfback Ryan Grant said. “Whatever team you play, wins are hard to come by. But we want to clean things up on our end — the penalties, not finishing in the red zone, different things. You can see we’re moving the ball pretty well, but we’ve got to finish. That’s the difference between a team that takes it to that next step — being able to capitalize with touchdowns instead of field goals.”
As the Packers have learned this season, that’s also the difference between beating a weak team and losing to a good one.
Driver sets record
Packers wide receiver Donald Driver has caught the most passes in Green Bay’s franchise history.
Driver made the 5-yard reception against Detroit early in the first quarter of Sunday's game for his 596th catch, one more than Sterling Sharpe. Driver has caught a pass in each of his last 116 games, also a Packers’ franchise mark.
He immediately knew the magnitude of the moment before the formal announcement at Lambeau Field.
He pointed upward and waved at Packers fans to thank them before making sure the ball was saved. Driver was a seventh-round pick by the Packers in 1999. He’s spent his entire career in Green Bay, playing in 150 games and starting 113 of them.
Changes at returner
Jordy Nelson took over as the Packers’ return specialist Sunday, but he bruised his knee in the first quarter and was held out of the game the last three quarters after coming back in briefly on offense.
X-rays taken on Nelson’s knee were negative.
Nelson replaced Will Blackmon, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in the loss at Minnesota on Oct. 5.
Tramon Williams was the first to take over for Nelson and had a 45-yard punt return to the Lions’ 29-yard line that led to a Mason Crosby field goal.
It was Williams’ only chance, as fellow cornerback Charles Woodson took over on punt returns the rest of the game.
Mayor seeks ideas
The Green Bay mayor is asking the public for suggestions to “tastefully” welcome back Vikings quarterback Brett Favre when he returns for a Nov. 1 game against the Packers.
According to the city’s Web site, Mayor Jim Schmitt is asking fans to send in ideas and he’ll select his four favorite ideas.
The site says one suggestion calls for making the world’s largest waffle in the shape of No. 4, Favre’s jersey number. It’s a playful jab at Favre’s indecisive approach to retirement.
One Packers site, cheeseheadtv.com, already has weighed in with a list of suggestions. Among them: creating a video montage of Favre’s interceptions and showing it before the game.
Copyright (c) 2009, The Wisconsin State Journal/Distributed by
Detroit 0 0 0 0 — 0
Green Bay 14 9 3 0 — 26
GB—J.Jones 47 pass from Rodgers (Crosby kick), 11:27.
GB—Kuhn 1 pass from Rodgers (Crosby kick), 7:20.
GB—FG Crosby 46, 7:22.
GB—FG Crosby 28, 1:56.
GB—FG Crosby 31, :05.
GB—FG Crosby 26, 7:43.
First downs 10 23
Total Net Yards 149 435
Rushes-yards 18-78 30-107
Passing 71 328
Kickoff Returns 7-106 1-29
Interceptions Ret. 1-5 3-4
Comp-Att-Int 11-25-3 29-37-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 5-34 5-30
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 3-1
Penalties-Yards 6-40 13-130
Time of Possession 19:12 40:48
RUSHING—Detroit, K.Smith 15-61, Brown 2-13, Felton 1-4. Green Bay, Grant 24-90, Rodgers 3-9, Jackson 2-6, Kuhn 1-2.
PASSING—Detroit, Stanton 5-11-2-57, Culpepper 6-14-1-48. Green Bay, Rodgers 29-37-1-358.
RECEIVING—Detroit, Northcutt 5-40, B.Johnson 2-27, Heller 1-22, Williams 1-7, Standeford 1-5, Felton 1-4. Green Bay, Driver 7-107, Jennings 6-64, Finley 5-54, D.Lee 3-39, Grant 3-17, J.Jones 2-55, Jackson 1-12, Havner 1-9, Kuhn 1-1.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.