Lions stick fork in Packers
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
DETROIT--Mark Murphy declined to comment Thursday after the Green Bay Packers got run out of Ford Field by the Detroit Lions.
Murphy, the Packers president, played the game and can be forthright.
Heaven knows what he was thinking after this 40-10 pasting heaped upon Mike McCarthy, his eighth-year head coach; and Dom Capers and Shawn Slocum, his fifth-year coordinators of defense and special teams.
Everything and everybody became fair game after this travesty. They should fumigate the building to eliminate the stench left behind by the visiting team.
Players and coaches talked all week about “digging deep” and “answering the call of duty” after their long and arduous overtime tie just four days earlier against Minnesota.
Instead, the Packers folded up shop along both lines of scrimmage, finishing a cool minus-217 in rushing differential, minus-435 in total yards, minus-23 in first downs and minus-20:52 in time of possession.
Everything the McCarthy Packers hold near and dear deserted them in their hour of truth, when the division lead was at stake.
Detroit’s Jim Schwartz noted that “there could have been a lot more points on the board” if Green Bay hadn’t gone plus-1 in turnover differential.
Not only did Schwartz and his staff badly outcoach McCarthy and his people, he was dead on with his assessment. The Lions lost a fumble at the 9, had a pass dropped in the end zone and another inside the Green Bay 35 and missed a chip-shot field goal.
As it was, the 30-point spread was the second-worst of the McCarthy administration dating to the first year (New England, 35-0).
The Lions (7-5) hadn’t beaten the Packers (5-6-1) this bad since 1973 when Jim Del Gaizo was the starting quarterback in a 34-0 blanking at Tiger Stadium.
Other mortifying moments against Detroit were the 1970 opener at Lambeau Field when Greg Landry surged 76 yards on a quarterback sneak in a 40-0 rout, or the 1975 opener when the Packers’ Steve Broussard had three punts blocked by the Lions, who won, 30-16.
Nose tackle Ryan Pickett has seen all of McCarthy’s 134-game, 64% winning, Super Bowl triumph tenure, which included 14 victories in 15 tries against the Lions.
However, he swore he had never seen anything quite like this.
“It’s the worst feeling I’ve had being a Packer,” Pickett said softly. “None as low as this.
“We didn’t lay down; we just got beat. Basic stuff like missing tackles, being out of our gaps. We missed a million tackles. Just bad football.”
With Sam Shields, Nick Perry and Johnny Jolly back from injury, Capers’ defense had all 11 preferred starters and most of the key reserves playing. Excuses? Hardly.
Don Barclay returned at right tackle for weak link Marshall Newhouse, giving the Packers hope of running Eddie Lacy down the Lions’ throats and taking the game off Matt Flynn’s shoulders.
Instead, Green Bay’s fifth-ranked rushing attack was devoured (24 yards, 1.6-yard average) by a defense it had chewed up for 180 rushing yards in Game 4.
And the defense, other than Nick Perry’s strip-sack that resulted in a touchdown and three other takeaways, was pathetic against run and pass, from beginning to end.
“The Detroit Lions got after us in a big way,” said McCarthy. “We got drilled today. Congratulations once again to the Lions.”
The pressure was on the Lions, coming off a pair of upset losses and with Schwartz under increasing fire in his fifth season for his history of second-half collapses.
They also carried the burden of nine consecutive defeats on Thanksgiving Day, including the 0-6 mark of quarterback Matthew Stafford against Capers.
Capers got what he most wanted, including two interceptions from a unit that had only four all year and a defensive touchdown that figure filberts cite as a heavy indicator of victory.
But nothing could prevent Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and his players from moving “forward down the field,” the first line of the Lions fight song that dates to about when Detroit inaugurated Turkey Day football in 1934.
Right away, Calvin Johnson schooled his shadow, Sam Shields, proving that he could beat him on slants whenever he wanted.
Left tackle Riley Reiff had no trouble keeping Clay Matthews away from the passer, and rookie right tackle LaAdrian Waddle was solid against Mike Neal. Other than Perry’s sack, the Packers were credited with just one measly quarterback hit.
McCarthy kept going back to tackling, and after watching A.J. Hawk flailing away at Jeremy Ross on a 24-yard reverse and Neal doing the same against Reggie Bush late, you can understand his frustration.
Yet, the failures were deeper than just that.
Brad Jones and Hawk, the inside linebackers, keep getting exposed in coverage. Linehan matched speedy tight end Dorin Dickerson on Jones for 26 yards, and then Bush deep against Hawk for 32.
In all, the Lions amassed eight gains of 20 yards or more, giving opponents 31 in five games since Cleveland and Minnesota didn’t have a single one in Games 6-7.
Bush sliced and diced the Packers for 117 yards in 20 carries, and then Joique Bell bludgeoned them for 94 in 19 when just about everyone in the place knew he was coming.
Time after time, the Lions’ ball carriers fell forward and finished runs. That’s the sign of a defense not getting enough people to the ball and simply not being physical.
The beefy interior of B.J. Raji, Johnny Jolly and Pickett was like a stone wall in the first meeting, forcing Bush to hunt and peck for specks of daylight as the Lions settled for 64 yards in 19 times. This time? Not so much.
“Our most main focus, we knew to run the ball we’d have to get their (big) guys moving,” said Waddle. “Maybe the Minnesota thing did kind of play into it, but we played Sunday, too.”
McCarthy and others tried to deflect responsibility from Flynn, but in some ways he was just overmatched. He can’t drive the ball, and his deep stuff seemed to hang and hang.
Flynn fumbled away a center exchange, threw an awful sideline interception and had another pass batted.
“He liked to hold the ball,” defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. “We saw that, and I believe we took advantage of it.”
Couple Flynn’s inadequacies with a brutal performance by the offensive line, which allowed most of the seven sacks and didn’t block a run for more than 4 yards, and you have an offense that had 70 yards in 40 plays (1.75) before James Jones lifted away a 56-yard bomb from cornerback Darius Slay at the 2-minute mark.
There were five three-and-outs in 11 possessions, six punts, three giveaways and a safety.
“I am not particularly happy, and it starts with my performance,” McCarthy said. “That’s not the type of football we ever want to play.”
Then there were the special teams. They missed three tackles on Jeremy Ross’ 35-yard punt return and were late getting down on his 60-yard return that was called back by penalty.
“Our defensive unit and our coverage unit, those missed tackles were more than I can ever recall,” said McCarthy.
The impending return of Aaron Rodgers could solve the offensive malaise. However, there’s no one left to bail out the defense and special teams.
“It’d be nice,” Pickett said, referring to having Rodgers under center. “We’ve got to win out…forget winning out. We’ve got to win one game. We haven’t won a game in over a month.”