Turnovers, Running Game Help Packers Beat the Lions, Take Control of NFC North
The game didn’t start well for the Packers as the Lions were able to score a touchdown on their first drive of the game. When Green Bay had their opportunity on offense it looked like they were going to match the Lions on the scoreboard. However, when the Packers reached the end zone, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was stripped of the ball and the Lions were able to recover. The Lions then used the running game to take time off the clock and march their way down the field to take a 14-0 lead.
After a field goal by Mason Crosby, the Lions got the ball trying to expand on their 14-3 lead. Then quarterback Matthew Stafford fumbled the ball attempting to make a pass and it was picked up by backup defensive tackle Mike Daniels for a touchdown. While this had more to do because of a mistake made by Stafford, it was still a great play by the defense capitalizing on a mistake made by the Lions.
The Packers second turnover of the game was also at an opportune time. The Lions were driving into Packers territory and besides for the mishap by Stafford, the Lions were making things look easy. They didn’t have to punt the ball yet and the crowd was starting to get taken out of the game. Then cornerback Sam Shields, who just came back from injury, intercepted Stafford and changed the momentum of the game. After that turnover, the Lions offense was unable to do the things they were able to do early in the game.
As for the offense, they had nothing go their way in the first half. In fact they had less than 100 yards of total offense in the first half which was the worst start for the Packers this season. However, the second half was a completely different story. Oddly enough, the run game got it’s first big boost from Rodgers, who ran for a 27-yard touchdown to give Green Bay their first lead of the night.
What happened next is something that most people didn’t see coming. The Packers started controlling the clock by running the ball and doing it effectively. Alex Green, DuJuan Harris and even Ryan Grant, who returned back to the Packers this week, all made big contributions to the run game. All three runners ran for an average of 4.4 yards a carry or more even after having a sluggish first half.
This past month head coach Mike McCarthy has been trying to balance the offensive attack to help protect Rodgers who has been sacked the most out of any quarterback in the league. There hasn’t been much success to the running attack, but McCarthy has stuck to his gameplan despite the negative reaction from the fans.
Tonight was no different as McCarthy was virtually right down the middle with his play-calling with 29 pass plays to 25 rushes. Green was the player who stepped up the most tonight with 13 rushes for 69 yards which is an average of 5.3 yards a carry. Harris contributed with seven rushes for 31 yards which included a 14-yard touchdown run.
Perhaps the biggest run of the night came from Grant, who heard a huge reception from the crowd when he entered the game and followed it up with a 13-yard run that electrified the crowd. His run helped set up a 41-yard field goal from Crosby to give the Packers a 10 point lead.
This was a huge win for the Packers as the Chicago Bears lost this weekend which gives a one-game lead in the division while holding the tie-breaker against the Bears who they play next weekend. The Packers already beat the Bears in Week 2 this season and if they win next weekend they will clinch the NFC North.
What is a more promising sign for the Packers is how well the defense adjusted to their slow start and the improvement of the running game. The Packer are not as dominate as they were last season and they can’t rely on Rodgers and the passing game to win them games every week. There has to be balance in order for the Packers to make another Super Bowl run.
What may be even scarier for the rest of the NFC, is that the defense is improving without Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson, both of whom are expected to return next weekend.
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