JEFF: A Wild Ride
By Jeff Falconio
With a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter it looked like the Packers could put it on cruise control for the rest of the day. Aaron Rodgers had put up three touchdowns and was 16-20 in the first half. Detroit couldn't do anything on third down, had virtually no ground game and Jon Kitna was running for his life.
But this is the NFC North and even with Detroit nothing comes easy. Remember how the Lions fought back in the second half when the two teams met in Detroit last Thanksgiving? The Lions did it again. Rodgers went 6-13 from the start of the third quarter to the point in the fourth quarter when Detroit took the lead. Making matters worse, the Packers couldn't run the ball. Indeed, the Packers weren't effective running until the fourth quarter when Brandon Jackson put together some good runs. Ryan Grant ended with only 20 yards on 15 carries. It's pretty clear he is not at 100%.
But there are moments in the NFL that separate good teams from bad teams. A few of those moments took place in the final five minutes of the game. First there was the 60-yard catch-and-run by Greg Jennings. If there's one thing the Packers do well, it's rack up the yards after catch stat and Jennings, as he seems to do often, found a seam in Detroit's defense and took off. Not only did that stem the tide but it also got the Packers out of their end of the field. Throughout the second half Detroit chipped away due mostly to great field position. The Jennings catch set up the go-ahead field goal. Then Charles Woodson stepped up with a big interception. Give Woodson a lot of credit for getting himself ready for this game after missing practice all week. Jackson then put up two big runs, the second for a touchdown and that pretty much put it away. The Packers didn't even need the back-to-back to-the-house picks by Woodson and Nick Collins. So in that stretch the Packers got big plays through the air, on the ground, and created three turnovers.
The Packers now stand at 2-0 with two early division wins and with the losses to Minnesota and Chicago there's already some cushion. Of course, in this NFC North nothing can be taken for granted and the Packers know that more than any other team.