TOM SIL­VER­STEIN

Packer Plus - - Analysis - TOM SIL­VER­STEIN

Af­ter ex­tra week to pre­pare, Pack­ers’ D has no an­swers

Green Bay — It’s noth­ing short of an em­bar­rass­ment to have two weeks to pre­pare for a divi­sion op­po­nent and then per­form as though the other team had two years to pre­pare for you.

If you were watch­ing the Green Bay Pack­ers’ pu­trid de­fen­sive per­for­mance in a 30-17 de­feat to the De­troit Lions on Mon­day night at Lam­beau Field, you would have thought that the home team had just re­turned from play­ing in Lon­don on Sun­day and had drawn up its game plan on a bunch of cock­tail nap­kins.

The Lions carved up a Pack­ers de­fense as close to full strength as it had been all year, an­tic­i­pat­ing ev­ery step their op­po­nent was go­ing to take de­spite only hav­ing the 24 hours or so teams spend in a nor­mal week to de­vise an ini­tial game plan for de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dom Ca­pers’ unit.

The Pack­ers, who were com­ing off a bye week and spent the first leg of their two-week in­ter­lude self-scout­ing, played like their game plan was posted on the video boards dur­ing pregame warm-ups.

Ca­pers, to his credit, tried to put pres­sure on Lions quar­ter­back Matthew Stafford with an ar­ray of blitzes, but it was as though Lions coach Jim Cald­well and co­or­di­na­tor Jim Bob Cooter had pro­vided the of­fense with a Pow­erPoint pre­sen­ta­tion that de­tailed ev­ery­thing they would see from the Pack­ers.

Stafford posted a sea­son-high passer rat­ing of 132.4 by com­plet­ing 26 of 33 passes for 361 yards and two touch­downs in a nearly flaw­less per­for­mance. Re­ceivers Golden Tate and Marvin Jones each caught seven passes and broke the 100-yard mark, com­bin­ing for 220 yards and two touch­downs.

The Lions con­verted 8 of 13 third downs (62 per­cent), but that didn’t tell the en­tire story. Five of those oc­curred with seven or more yards to go, in­clud­ing three of 10 or more yards.

“Third down, they owned it,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “You can’t have that much vari­ance and pro­duc­tion on both sides on third down and think you’re go­ing to win foot­ball games. They made big plays.

“Stafford threw it. I thought he threw the heck out of the ball tonight, and they caught it.”

Ca­pers hadn’t pres­sured as much against New Or­leans as he did against Min­nesota, but he brought more than a dozen blitzes against the Lions and man­aged just one sack, which came on an ill-timed flea flicker that Stafford ate rather than risk an in­ter­cep­tion.

Ev­ery time he came to the line of scrim­mage, Stafford eyed the de­fense and seemed to be check­ing in and out of plays. Cooter used an ar­ray of mo­tion to help Stafford fig­ure out the cov­er­ages and a slew of mis­di­rec­tion and play-ac­tion to shut down the Pack­ers’ pass rush.

“They line up, mo­tion, check, check,” cor­ner­back Davon House said. “When we were in man or zero, they’d see what we were do­ing.

“They did a good job of self-scout­ing us. They did their home­work, too.”

The Pack­ers may have done their home­work, but they ob­vi­ously got all the an­swers wrong be­cause they looked com­pletely over­matched.

The amount of man cov­er­age they played blew up in their face as Jones and Tate broke off cross­ing routes that left de­fend­ers in the dust. When the Pack­ers played zone, the two found holes and Stafford put the ball ex­actly where it needed to go.

Asked about the man cov­er­age, House con­sid­ered an­swer­ing, but then thought the bet­ter of it.

“It would be smart if I don’t an­swer that ques­tion,” he said. “I wish I could give you (some­thing), but that’s prob­a­bly a bet­ter ques­tion for the coaches.”

It wasn’t un­rea­son­able for Ca­pers to think man-to-man would work, but it was clear that the Lions sniffed it out in al­most ev­ery pass­ing si­t­u­a­tion. They suc­cess­fully picked up blitzes with their run­ning backs, se­cured the mid­dle — they need to send gen­eral man­ager Ted Thomp­son a thank-you note for T.J. Lang — and got rid of the ball quickly.

“It wasn’t so much them,” Jones said. “It was just us ex­e­cut­ing what our plan was. We had a great plan on all cylin­ders and we got it done. It wasn’t any­thing where I could say, ‘This is what they’re do­ing so let’s pick on them this way.’

“It was a great scheme and we ex­e­cuted.”

The Pack­ers played on their heels the en­tire game de­spite start­ing with their sec­ondary in the best shape it had been in since maybe Week 1, the front seven miss­ing just out­side line­backer Ah­mad Brooks and de­fen­sive tackle Quin­ton Dial, and rook­ies Vince Biegel and Mon­trav­ius Adams ac­tive and ready to con­trib­ute.

The bye week had al­lowed safety Mor­gan Bur­nett to get healthy, line­backer Nick Perry to rid him­self of bulky hand pro­tec­tion and ev­ery­one else to rest their weary bones. But none of it meant a hill of beans.

De­fen­sive tackle Mike Daniels, nose tackle Kenny Clark and Perry were barely no­tice­able other than Daniels’ knuckle-headed, un­nec­es­sary rough­ness penalty that turned a thir­dand-14 stop into a mo­men­tum­chang­ing first down.

The three com­bined for nine tack­les and a half sack by Perry that de­fen­sive line­man Dean Lowry should have got­ten. The only rea­son Clay Matthews isn’t men­tioned is be­cause he had the only quar­ter­back hit of the night.

“We have to play much bet­ter than we did tonight,” Daniels said. “And we can’t give them an inch be­cause they’ll take it a mile.”

Three plays summed up the Lions’ dom­i­nance over the Pack­ers.

Run­ning back Ameer Ab­dul­lah’s 4-yard touch­down run, Tate’s 21-yard catch-and-run on sec­ond and 18 early in the third quar­ter and run­ning back Theo Rid­dick’s 63-yard gain on a screen pass.

The Lions set up Ab­dul­lah’s run with mo­tion that alerted them on the cov­er­age and al­lowed them to set up two key blocks that made it a cake­walk into the end zone. They forced in­side line­backer Blake Martinez and cor­ner­back Da­mar­i­ous Ran­dall into some in­de­ci­sion be­fore Martinez fi­nally went af­ter Tate on his long com­ple­tion.

And they caught the Pack­ers in a full-out blitz that some­one on de­fense didn’t play right, al­low­ing Rid­dick to wipe out any mo­men­tum the Pack­ers had gained with their first touch­down of the night.

All told, De­troit rolled up 417 yards and would have scored more if they hadn’t been sloppy with the ball. They prob­a­bly won’t dom­i­nate a team the way they did Mon­day night the rest of the sea­son.

It was all in a week’s work.

DAN POW­ERS / USA TO­DAY NET­WORK-WIS­CON­SIN

Lions run­ning back Theo Rid­dick takes ad­van­tage of a blitz by the Pack­ers’ de­fense and takes a screen pass 63 yards on Mon­day night.

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