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Monday, December 13, 2004
Lions at Packers - a tale of two games.
by Mark Lawrence
It was the worst of halves, it was the best of halves. The 5-7 Detroit Lions came to Lambeau field to face the 7-5 Packers. The Packers were coming off an extremely flat performance against the Eagles - Favre said, "We're not as good as we looked beating the Rams, and we're not as bad as we looked playing the Eagles." The Lions were coming into Lambeau with a bit of momentum, but coming into a freezing cold stadium with 35 mph winds, where Favre is 13-0 against the Lions and undefeated below 32 degrees.
Annoyingly, but unfortunately not too surprisingly, the Packers came out flat again. It always seems like this team has another bad quarter or two left in them after a particularly bad loss. Favre went 3 and out a surprising number of times, and threw 11 incompletions in a row. The Lions stacked the line against the run, and the Packers injured OL (1st and 2nd string centers and TE/Guard Barry out) was unable to open the kind of holes that Packer's RBs have come to know and love. Meanwhile, the Packers defense played like a bunch of guys with a hangover - actually, perhaps that is a very apt description of what they are. They managed to run up 6 penalties for 74 yards in the first half, with another 4 penalties declined.
Favre had a first half QB rating of 39, going 3 for 15 for 28 yards, and thankfully no interceptions. The Packers managed only 4 first down in the entire first half, none of which were in the highly forgettable first quarter. The packers running backs went 42 yards on 11 carries, a marginal performance at best.
Meanwhile, Detroit ran up 132 yards on the ground in 26 carries in the first half, and produced the first rushing touchdown against the Packers in 5 and a half games. The Packer's vaunted stop-the-run defense needed some aspirin. Joey Harrington went a very forgettable 4 for 15 for 28 yards, a performance eerily similar to Favre's. The result was that the Packers found themselves going into halftime with a score of 0-13.
The second half began with the Packers receiving, attempting to drive into the wind. The Lions did their best to make the game competitive, giving up three 15 yard penalties on this one drive, but the Packers managed only a field goal in spite of that. It was looking like another long day.
The Packers defense, however, apparently got those needed aspirins at halftime, holding the Lions to 46 yards on 13 carries in the second half. Harrington went another forgettable 2 for 10 for 27 yards. The Lions were unable to put together any kind of drive at all in the second half.
On their next possession, the Packers managed to put together their only compelling drive of the game, with Favre completing 6 passes for 2 TDs (one called back), and the Packers RBs adding four good carries. This brought the Packers within 3 points as the third quarter wound down.
In the 4th quarter, the Packers defense managed to continue to stymie the Lions 28th ranked offense, and the Packers managed to put together two short drives for field goals, leading the game for precisely the final (and most important) two seconds. Detroit contributed 8 penalties to the Packer's offensive cause.
In the second half, Packers RBs went 66 yards on 17 carries, rounding out their first half performance with an average for the day of about 3.8 yards per carry. Hardly the kind of ground performance this team was designed to produce in freezing temperatures and high winds. In the second half Favre went 17 for 24 for 141 yards and a TD, plus another 79 yards and a TD on one play which was called back due to our rookie 3rd center Scott Wells holding on the play.
All told, a poorly played game all around. The Packers were fortunate to have a large crowd and the weather on their side: they needed help from the 12th man, the snow, and the Detroit team's timely penalties to win this game. But, ugly or not, it's a "W." Meanwhile, the Vikings and Bears both continued their December swoons, leaving Green Bay as the #3 seed in the NFC.
Next week, the Packers play at Jacksonville, a team playing with success very similar to the Packers. Winning that game will require a much better performance than was shown this game. Then, 5 days later, a Christmas eve game at Minnesota, where the Vikings will have their shot at revenge. A difficult week for the wounded and inconsistent Packers.