All week in Green Bay, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the receiving corps expressed little concern with the fact that Jordy Nelson was targeted 30 times in the first two weeks of the season.
We throw to the open receiver. It’s about scoring points.
All of the offensive players inside the team facilities expected to see Detroit roll safeties over the top of Nelson, which they said would open up opportunities in the run game, and for the other receivers.
They were partly right.
The Lions bracketed Nelson all game Sunday, but there were no other open receivers.
That added attention over the top also presented no additional opportunities in the run game, as the Lions controlled the line of scrimmage with their defensive line. Rodgers was often forced to move around in, and eventually break out of, the pocket.
As a result, the Packers didn’t score enough points in a 19-7 loss in Detroit.
The Lions controlled the game up front all game long, and the Packers (1-2) had just three second half possessions – including just one in the fourth quarter that ended in the Lions end zone when Rodgers forced a 4th-and-5 pass to a double-covered Nelson.
Green Bay managed just 223 total yards of offense, the only highlight coming at the end of the first quarter when Andrew Quarless made a contested catch to tie the game, 7-7.
The Packers offense was impotent for the final three quarters, as the Lions contained the Packers pass catchers despite entering the game with four defensive backs on the sidelines to start the game, and then losing Don Carey early.
Despite all of the substitutes, Green Bay receivers either couldn’t get open, or couldn’t break tackles after the catch.
The quartet of Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Jarrett Boykin combined for just 11 catches and 110 yards.
Quarless wound up being the Packers’ most effective receiver with four catches for 43 yards and the team’s lone score.
To make matters worse, the Lions defense scored nine points – the first being Carey’s 40-yard return of an Eddie Lacy fumble on the Packers’ second play of the game, and then DeAndre Levy’s safety of Lacy on the Packers’ second play of the second quarter.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Davon House both intercepted Stafford in the first half and Julius Peppers had a strip-sack of Stafford inside the Packers’ 10 in the third quarter, but Rodgers and company could make nothing of the extra possessions.
The defense kept the Packers within one possession the entire game at 12-7 until final the Lions run game wore the Packers out early in the fourth quarter when safety Micah Hyde collapsed too far down the line of scrimmage, allowing Reggie Bush room to bounce outside on a 3rd-and-2 play from the Packers’ 26.
Bush took the ball to the end zone for his first score of the season and a 19-7 lead.
It would have been hard to imagine a Packers defeat if you would’ve said before the game that the defense would allow just 10 points to the high-powered Lions offense, and that Calvin Johnson would be held without a touchdown, and that Stafford would turn the ball over three times – but the Packers offense has now struggled for the better part of three weeks.
Rodgers has thrown for less than 200 yards in two of the first three games, and aside from three possessions against the Jets, has been statistically mediocre.
In the run game, Lacy has yet to crack 50 yards in any contest after being held to 36 yards on 11 carries against Detroit.
What also can’t be forgotten is that linebacker Clay Matthews was injured again – and while it is yet to be determined if it will be serious long-term, it was concerning enough for him to miss the eventual game-winning Lions drive early in the fourth quarter and the eventual game-sealing possession at the end of the game.
The Packers aren’t out of anything yet, and they won’t face the caliber of defenses they’ve seen these first three weeks again until week seven against Carolina, but the offensive issues will need to be corrected soon in order for this team to stack wins together.
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.