No lead running back? No starting tight end? No all-pro cornerback? No problem! The Packers M*A*S*H unit was the one doing the mashing on Thanksgiving, making a feast out of the Lions and pulling off a festive upset, 29-22, on the road against Detroit.
Indeed, Green Bay gave fans plenty to be thankful for during the Thursday matinee, playing easily their most complete and impressive game of the season thus far. The defense was ravenous, like they were angry they were missing Thanksgiving dinner and sought to take that out on Lions quarterback Jared Goff. Meanwhile Jordan Love and the offense miraculously started fast and looked great, clicking throughout the game despite missing critical playmakers like Aaron Jones, Luke Musgrave and Dontayvion Wicks. Overall, the Packers looked like a team beginning to finally put things together this sporadic season, while the Detroit Lions reminded everyone that they're still the Detroit Lions.
It won't be a holiday for long for the improving Pack, as they've got the Super Bowl champs Kansas City on deck next – but before we get either a present or coal from the Chiefs, let's savor the leftovers from yesterday's meal of the Lions.
1. Head's up
Even before the Packers started walloping on him, Lions quarterback Jared Goff was dented and bruised, looking red in the forehead during the anthem thanks to his helmet. It'd make a marvelous omen for all the dings and marks coming Goff's way across the next three hours.
2. A fabulous first course
The green and gold haven't taken the field on Thanksgiving since 2015 – and it's felt even longer since the Packers got off to anything resembling a strong start in a game. Both of those were amended on Thursday, though, as Green Bay came out hot on the very first snap with a 53-yard deep shot to Christian Watson – a welcome sight not only to see the offense move the ball well but also to see Watson go up and get a 50/50 ball, a struggle this sophomore season. The opening play was a great appetizer for the offensive feast the Packers – and Watson, who would lead the team in catches and yards as well as score a key touchdown later – would relentlessly serve the Lions on Thursday.
3. A Motor City miracle
I've been watching this clip of the Packers' first touchdown of the day on repeat since Thanksgiving, and I still don't know how Love's 10-yard strike actually made it to Jayden Reed unscathed. It's an incredible, damn near Rodgers-ian pass from Love – who would finish the first quarter alone with two touchdowns already on his stat sheet.
4. Unsung heroes
There were a lot of heroes for the Packers yesterday – but perhaps the most unheralded one was Zach Tom and the Green Bay offensive line, turning Lions star Aiden Hutchinson and the rest of the Detroit defense into non-factors while keeping Jordan Love unsacked and unharried. The big fancy Packers offensive strikes don't happen without Tom and company doing their jobs so well – so extra turkey and mashed potatoes for the big guys up front. (As if offensive linemen are ever underserved at meal time.)
5. Plenty of points to share
They may have been playing the Lions, but it was the Packers who were ferocious out there on Thanksgiving – particularly on defense, as the Pack constantly put pressure on Jared Goff, eagerly swarmed to the ball and made critical stops when they needed them. They even contributed a touchdown of their own to the Packers points potluck, as Jonathan Owens – who made up for last week's wimpy tackle attempts with an active and energized effort on Thursday – scooped up this fumble for a score.
If Anders Carlson had made the following extra point, the Packers would've ended the first quarter on Thanksgiving with more points than their previous ten first quarters, combined (20). Even so, they still ended the first frame on Thursday with a rarity this season: a commanding early lead, one they'd never really get close to relinquishing.
6. Nobody's perfect
Even in a performance as impressive as Thursday's, there are things for the Packers to work on and perfect. For instance: Don't do this. I'm no football expert, but I don't think that's not how that play's supposed to work. Thankfully, the Packers were already up 14 and wouldn't give that lead up – but if things had gone sideways, missing out on points thanks to this botched fourth-down conversion deep in Lions territory would certainly be more aggravating than amusing.
7. Tough day at the Goffice
It's never easy to work on a holiday – but Jared Goff had a particularly tough Thanksgiving shift thanks to the brutalizing and swarming Packers defense. The Lions quarterback was hit a dozen times on the day, sacked three times and had a trio of fumbles, all lost – including a helping of each on this particular sack attack from Rashan Gary, the human missile pictured above who made an absolute meal of the Lions offensive line on Thursday. The Pack's defense and coordinator Joe Barry have been a sour note for many fans for much of the season – but on Thursday, they were sweeter than pumpkin pie dessert. Hope they saved some room for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs next weekend.
8. Dan Can't-bell
Lions head coach Dan Campbell has won over Detroit and practically the entire NFL with his down-to-earth everyday guy vibe, his spirited quotes and his aggressive on-field playcalling. He took that final point a little too far, though, as Campbell tried a trick punt deep into the third quarter and deep in their own territory that blew up in their faces like deep-frying a turkey wrong. The Pack sniffed it out and stopped the run, then turned the Lions' overzealous decision into an even bigger deficit, scoring a touchdown three plays later on a nifty Christian Watson touchdown catch.
9. True love
Jordan Love haters, I hope you enjoyed gobble-gobbling your words on Thanksgiving.
For the second straight week, Jordan Love looked like he's really figured out this NFL quarterbacking business. He was in rhythm with his young receivers, constantly finding his open looks and hitting them where they needed to be. And when the team needed some big plays to drain the clock and help fizzle away any fears of a Lions comeback, Love was up to the task – especially on this third-down conversion, taking a designed run more than 30 yards down field in the latter half of the final frame. (Props to the defense for getting consistent stops throughout the game as well, including Quay Walker playing good pass defense on a critical redzone stop.)
So, one thing the Packers won't need to search and shop for this Black Friday? A new starting quarterback, for now and the future – because they're all set.
10. A bunch of turkeys
“For a turkey leg, we don’t have one.”
Fox now can’t afford a Turkducken on John Madden Turkey Day????? WTH?
I am so confused. ð¤£ð¤£ð¤£
ð¥ @sluggahjells pic.twitter.com/yaBYbNNPvQ — The Whole Delivery (@TWDTV1) November 23, 2023
Eating a giant feast. Avoiding political chat with the family. Falling asleep after it all on the couch. Some things are just iconic Thanksgiving traditions that it just wouldn't be the special day without – and one of those elements is the winning football team on FOX gnawing on a postgame turkey/turducken monstrosity. Unfortunately, that tradition's apparently gone the way of the dodo as Jordan Love, Rashan Gary and company were left without a Madden-approved drumstick devouring after the victory. That's OK, though: A win washed down with Lions tears was probably enough to sate any holiday hunger.
11. Hope for the holidays
Don't look now, but (*whispers*) the Packers are in the playoff hunt? Sure, it helps that the NFC beyond the Eagles and Niners is a horrifying wasteland of womp womp – but sitting at 5-6 after two straight wins, Green Bay's put themselves in contention for one of the final postseason spots. Obviously there's hard work still to come – very quickly, too, in the form of the Chiefs next weekend. But for an overt rebuilding season with a young squad, realistically low expections and some predictably ugly growing pains, being even remotely in the conversation for postseason play this deep into the season? That's just gravy.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.