In their third NFC North battle of 2019, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Detroit Lions 23-22. It was the closest of margins as the Packers improved to 3-0 within the division and 5-1 overall. The Lions meanwhile fall to 2-2-1. Here is the recap of Packers vs Lions Week 6.
It was all about the explosive Lions areal attack to start the game. On the very first play from scrimmage, Detroit ran a flea-flicker. It worked as Matthew Stafford found Kenny Golladay for a 66-yard passing play. However, the theme of this entire game was the Lions shooting themselves in the foot. Immediate after that 66-yard gain, Stafford fumbled the ensuing snap. While he recovered the football, it put the Lions behind the chains and they were eventually forced to kick a FG to make it 3-0.
After forcing the Packers to go 3-and-out, the Lions got right back to their potent passing plays with a 58-yard strike to Marvin Hall. This time, however, the Lions would fully capitalize by getting the ball into the endzone. It wasn’t easy, as it took a 1-yard Kerryon Johnson run on 4th-and-goal to make it 10-0. Considering how well Kevin King has played this season, it was concerning to seehim get burned early twice in this contest for big gains. Throughout the 2019 season, King has given up some big plays, but also stepped up at key times. The same held true here, as King made some key pass breakups later in this game.
It was the type of opening quarter that the Packers are used to having on offense, especially at home. Instead, Green Bay was held scoreless in the opening frame. Both the Lions offense and defense came out strong right out of the gate.
Giving It Away
Down 10-0, the Packers needed a drive to settle things down. Things were going well, as Aaron Rodgers led the offense into Lions territory with a series of short passes and running plays. However, last week‘s hero Aaron Jones fumbled the football on what could have potentially have been another 1st-down. Instead, Detroit took over and added to their lead with another FG.
Down 13-0, things were not looking great for the Packers. However, it could have been worse. The Lions reached the red zone on each of the first 3 possessions. They only managed to find the end zone once, so kudos to the Packers defense for its’ bend not break mentality.
The Lions continued to do the Packers favors. Next to the red zone miscues, penalties were what caused Detroit the most grief, although they certainly were not the only team committing them. On a drive that ultimately ended in a TD, Green Bay took 2 separate holding calls on the offensive line. Still, the offense managed to string together several first downs. Eventually, however, the Lions held them to an incomplete pass on 3rd down, and a FG attempt seemed imminent. However, Detroit committed a defensive holding penalty and the drive continued.
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The Packers gained another 1st-down on a Jamaal Williams 10-yard run but then the offense stalled on the 13-yard line. The FG unit came on the field and was ready to kick. However, the Lions were called for 12-men on the field. Since it was 4th-and-5, the penalty yardage was enough for a new set of downs. Two plays later Williams took a tap pass on an end-around to the house for an 8-yard TD. Suddenly the Packers had life and were only down 13-7.
The good news was that Williams looked healthy after taking a hit to the helmet early in the Eagles game. After sitting out week 5, Williams had himself a great day with 104 rushing yards to go along with 32 receiving yards and 1 TD. That includes a 45-yard run, the longest of his career. On the flip side, it was not a great day for Jones, who in addition to his fumble, also dropped what would have been a TD reception later in the contest. There will be better days for Jones, but those mistakes cost him serious playing time.
Kickin’ It In Style
After that initial barrage, the Packers defense started to settle in during the 2nd quarter. A 3rd-down sack courtesy of Za’Darius Smith forced the Lions to punt on the drive immediately following the Jamaal Williams TD. Green Bay got the ball back on their own 6-yard line with 4:34 left in the 1st half. Aaron Rodgers used up all but 7 seconds of that clock and put the team in FG range. Mason Crosby nailed 37-yard attempts to make it 13-10 Lions at halftime.
The Packers got the ball to begin the 3rd quarter. Marcedes Lewis got the team FG with a 25-yard reception. Crosby tied the game at 13 with a 48-yard attempt in what turned out to be a kicking clinic.
Green Bay’s defense forced a punt on another 3rd-down sack. However, the turnovers continued to rear their ugly head as Darrius Shepherd could not handle the punt and fumbled his attempt to catch it. This set up the Lions well, but once again, the Packers defense held strong. Matt Prater retook the lead with a FG to make it 16-13.
After a Packers punt, the Lions offense once again stalled, this time further away from the end zone. Still, 51-yards was still within Prater’s range as his attempt succeeded and the score became 19-13.
The kicking excellence was not just limited to the placekickers. Packers punter J.K. Scott managed to flip field position a few times. That includes a 51-yard punt when Scott was almost standing in his own end zone. He also had a 53-yard punt and was able to pin the Lions inside their own 20.
Repeat Repeat Repeat
After Detroit punted, the Packers drove the ball down deep inside Lions territory. However, Green Bay’s biggest problem once again cost them a scoring opportunity. A 46-yard reception by Marquez Valdes-Scantling set up the offense in the red zone. Unfortunately for the home crowd, 3 plays later Darrius Shepherd was at fault for another turnover. Aaron Rodgers perfectly placed the ball as Shepherd was running towards the goal-line. Instead of a TD though, Shepherd slipped and the ball went off of his facemask right into the arms of Justin Coleman who returned it to the Green Bay 43-yard line.
While turnovers were the Packers biggest problem, not capitalizing on them was the Lions’. The Green Bay defense stood tall and forced a 3-and-out. Detroit managed to set up a 54-yard FG attempt by Matt Prater who once again connected from long distance. He finished the game by going 5-for-5 on FGs and converted his only PAT try.
After that 54-yard FG, the Packers got the ball back with 12:12 left in the game and on their own 21-yard line and down 22-13. Marcedes Lewis once again caught a 25-yard pass and managed to get the offense into the Lions side of half. It was a classic Aaron Rodgers scramble play as he bought time for his receivers. Once Lewis recognized that, he broke off his underneath route and went vertical to give Rodgers an open option. It was good to see Rodgers have that connection but the real hero of the game was about to get on the field.
Wide receiver Allen Lazard was a former undrafted free agent from the 2018 class. He was mostly a special teams player last season as he caught only 1 pass. Even though he was active against the Cowboys, Lazard did not see a target. That changed in this contest. Needing a spark, Matt LaFleur put Lazard on the field. While his first target of 2019 went incomplete, Lazard caught the other 4 including a 35-yard TD pass. Rodgers perfectly placed the football for Lazard to get and use his 6’5″ frame to shield it from the defender and fall into the end with the ball fully under his control. While one would prefer and hands catch, instead of bringing it into his body, Lazard nonetheless came down with only his 2nd career NFL reception to make it a 22-20 game.
New Top Target?
After another Lions punt, the Packers had a 2-point deficit with 6:46 left to play. They never gave up the ball as Green Bay milked the clock all the way to 00:00 and kicked the winning FG as time expired. The Packers perfectly executed the game plan with a series of running play a completions. The main man on this drive was Lazrd who demonstrated great timing with Rodgers on several back-shoulder throws. It was an encouraging sign since that type of play was often incomplete during this game. Geronimo Allison had trouble coming down with a couple of those opportunities before leaving the game with a concussion. Jake Kumerow also struggled with the timing of the back-shoulder throw, even though he likely had more time to work on it with Rodgers considering that he was a starter.
Lazard actually led the Packers in week 6 receiving yards with 65. All 4 of his receptions came in in the 4th quarter as he did not factor in during the first 3 quarters.
The controversy in the game was the officiating. On both of the Packers 4th quarter scoring drives, Trey Flowers was flagged for illegal use of hands. Looking at both of those plays, he never really got up into David Bakhtiari‘s facemask or neck. Both of those penalties occurred on 3rd down so in both cases, they kept the drives alive. Whether they were warranted or not, that is still 5 Lions penalties on 3rd or 4th down that kept offensive possessions going for the Packers.
Eventually, Detroit used up all of their time outs and the Packers got so close to the end zone that the defenders were seemingly letting Jamaal Williams score. However, it was a smart move by Williams to go down inside the 5-yard line in order to run out the clock and not allow the Lions to regain the football. Mason Crosby kicked a 23-yard FG as time expired and the Packers defeated the Lions 23-22.
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