Friday, November 29, 2013

The 53 - Packers pummeled on the road by Lions on Thanksgiving

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford came into their Thanksgiving 2013 match up 0-6 for his career against the Green Bay Packers and the Lions lost 15 of their last 16 games against the Packers.  The Lions lost nine straight on Thanksgiving but were 11-8-1 all-time against the Packers on Thanksgiving heading into their game on Thanksgiving 2013.  The Lions lost to the Packers for the 23rd consecutive times in Wisconsin earlier this season so they were looking for payback on Thanksgiving.

The inactives for the Packers against the Lions were: Brandon Bostick (TE, concussion), Chris Harper (WR, healthy scratch), Jamari Lattimore (LB, quad), Nate Palmer (LB, healthy scratch), Aaron Rodgers (QB, broken collarbone), Jerel Worthy (DL, healthy scratch), and C.J. Wilson (DL, ankle).  I was shocked that the quintet of right tackle Don Barclay, defensive lineman Johnny Jolly, outside linebacker Nick Perry, and cornerback Sam Shields returned for the Packers.  I almost wonder if those guys could have played against the Vikings just four days ago when the Packers tied the Vikings at home but Packers head coach Mike McCarthy didn't play them because he thought he could beat the Vikings without their services.  Well the Packers had all of their services but it didn't seem to help much.

In the first half the Packers offense got just three first downs, which is the same amount of turnovers that the defense created.  Luckily the defense returned one of those for a touchdown because the Packers scored just three points on offense on a drive that started at their own 40-yard line thanks to Lions punter Sam Martin hitting the kickoff out of bounds.

Besides the turnovers, the Lions were stellar on offense en route to gaining 17 first downs thanks in part to converting 4 of 5 third downs into first downs while the Packers converted merely 1 of 6 third downs into first downs.  The Lions held the ball for 20:34 minutes while the Packers only held the ball for 9:26 in the first half. The Lions gained 340 yards while the Packers gained just 43 yards.  The Lions should have been up huge at halftime but thanks to three turnovers and a missed 31-yard field goal at the end of the half by Lions kicker David Akers, the Lions only lead 17-10.

The Packers received the ball to start the second half but unfortunately it was just more of the same sans turnovers. Ultimately the Packers lost 40-10 to the Lions.  You can read more in-depth recaps of the second half elsewhere, I am more interested in where we go from here.

The Lions scored 37 unanswered points and out-gained the Packers 561 yards to 124 yards.  The offensive yardage numbers for the Packers would have been even more lopsided without the garbage 56 yard reception by wide receiver James Jones in the waning minutes of the game with the game already out of hand.  Let that sink in for a minute, the Packers gained almost half of their total yards on offense on one play, in garbage time.

There are tons of people calling for Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers to be fired.  If the Packers make that move, I assume they would name assistant head coach/inside linebackers coach Winston Moss the interim defensive coordinator.  Given that the Packers are most likely out of playoff contention, I am not sure what they accomplish other than putting a head on a spike.  Here are my updated rankings following the Packers/Lions game:

The 53
1. Aaron Rodgers (QB, LR 1)
2. Clay Matthews (OLB, LR 2) 
3. Jordy Nelson (WR, LR 3)
4. T.J. Lang (G, LR 5)
5. Morgan Burnett (S, LR 9)
6. Josh Sitton (G, LR 4)
7. Eddie Lacy (RB, LR 6)
8. B.J. Raji (DL, LR 8)
9. James Jones (WR, LR 7)
10. David Bakhtiari (T, LR 11)
11. Evan Dietrich-Smith (C, LR 10)
12. Mike Daniels (DL, LR 13)
13. Sam Shields (CB, LR 12)
14. Tramon Williams (CB, LR 14)
15. Brad Jones (MLB, LR 15)
16. Don Barclay (T, LR 20)
17. Nick Perry (OLB, LR 21)
18. A.J. Hawk (MLB, LR 16)
19. Davon House (CB, LR 17)
20. Datone Jones (DL, LR 18)
21. Micah Hyde (CB, LR 19)
22. Jarrett Boykin (WR, LR 22)
23. Tim Masthay (P, LR 24)
24. Mike Neal (DL/OLB, LR 26)
25. Johnny Jolly (DL, LR 27)
26. Ryan Pickett (DL, LR 28)
27. Mason Crosby (K, LR 33)
28. Jerel Worthy (DE, LR 25)
29. Jamari Lattimore (LB, LR 23)
30. Matt Flynn (QB, LR 29)
31. Jarrett Bush (CB, LR 32)
32. Scott Tolzien (QB, LR 31)
33. M.D. Jennings (S, LR 38)
34. James Starks (RB, LR 34)
35. Brett Goode (LS, LR 35)
36. John Kuhn (FB, LR 36)
37. Derek Sherrod (T, LR 37)
38. Andrew Quarless (TE, LR 30)
39. Chris Banjo (S, LR 44)
40. Brandon Bostick (TE, LR 40)
41. C.J. Wilson (DL, LR 41)
42. Ryan Taylor (TE, LR 42)
43. Sean Richardson (S, LR 43)
44. Andy Mulamba (LB, LR 46)
45. Jerron McMillian (S, LR 47) 
46. Myles White (WR, LR 48)
47. Lane Taylor (G, LR 49)
48. Jake Stoneburner (TE, LR 50)
49. Josh Boyd (DL, LR 51)
50. Marshall Newhouse (T, LR 45)
51. Victor Aiyewa (LB, LR N/A)
52. Nate Palmer (LB, LR 52)
53. Chris Harper (WR, LR 53)
Physically Unable to Perform
1. JC Tretter (T)
IR, Designated for Return
1. Randall Cobb (WR)
Injured Reserve
1. Jermichael Finley (TE)
2. Bryan Bulaga (T)
3. Casey Hayward (CB, LR 16)
4. DuJuan Harris (RB)
5. Jonathan Franklin (RB)
6. Robert Francois (MLB)
7. Greg Van Roten (C/G)
8. Sam Barrington (LB)
9. Seneca Wallace (QB)
10. James Nixon (CB, LR 53)
11. Kevin Dorsey (WR)
12. Sederrik Cunningham (WR)
1. Jeremy Ross (WR, Lions)
2. Michael Hill (RB, Buccaneers)
1. Aaron Rodgers (QB, LR 1): With Rodgers healthy, the Packers were 5-2 after beating the Minnesota Vikings in their last visit to The Humpty and looked like a strong candidate for a first round playoff bye.  Since Rodgers went down in the first offensive series of Monday Night Football against the Bears, the Packers have gone 0-4-1.  Has a player ever been named MVP without playing?

5) Morgan Burnett (S, LR 9): After having zero big plays so far in 2013, Burnett lucked into two fumble recoveries.  The first fumble was created by outside linebacker Clay Matthews stripping Lions running back Reggie Bush.  The second fumble was created by outside linebacker Nick Perry's strip sack of Stafford that Burnett returned to a touchdown.  Burnett showed that fumble recoveries are sometimes the definition of empty calories given that Burnett was quiet otherwise against the Lions.  I was totally against cutting Charles Woodson, clearly Woodson's play for the Oakland Raiders shows that he is not worth paying him $10 million this season, but worth have on The 53 for the Packers since he would be the starter at safety opposite Burnett.  I could be wrong but if the Packers could get even decent play next to Burnett, I could see the safety position turn from a liability to a position of strength given Burnett's potential upside.

13) Sam Shields (CB, LR 12): The Packers had two interceptions and two fumbles against the Lions.  Shields accounted for one of those interceptions on the only quality defense the secondary played on Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson all game.  Shields ran stride for stride with Johnson, maintained proper defensive position, and high-pointed the ball perfectly to intercepts Stafford's pass to prevent a touchdown.  Unfortunately those plays have been few and far between for Shields this season.  I reserve the option to chance my thoughts but as of right now I would force cornerback Tramon Williams to take a significant pay cut or send him packing, pay Shields, and move cornerback Micah Hyde to safety.  Assuming Williams takes the pay cut, the depth chart at cornerback next season would be Williams, Shields, Casey Hayward, Davon House, and Jarrett Bush.  That would leave the depth chart at safety as Burnett, Hyde, Jennings, Richardson, Banjo, and McMillan.

27) Mason Crosby (K, LR 33): My two main beefs with Crosby is consistency and inability to convert kicks from length once it gets cold. Crosby has been 25 of 29 this season including makes from 57 yards against the the Giants and 54 yards against the Lions.  Unfortunately I think we are in for a stinker or two from Crosby over the next four games.  Given that Crosby is due $3.4 million in 2014 and the Packers have a ton of guys to take care of, the Packers need to consider whether it is worth biting the bullet to carry $1.2 million in dead money split over their 2014 and 2015 salary cap to go in a new direction at kicker next season because we know there is very little correlation in kicking percentage season-to-season.

30) Matt Flynn (QB, LR 29): Last week I praised Flynn for potentially saving the Packers season.  For how well Flynn was last week, he was equally horrible this week against the Lions.  In three career games against the Lions, Flynn has either been boom or bust.  On December 12, 2010 he went 15 for 26 throwing for 177 yards, and 1 interception for a 62.5 passer rating in a 7-3 loss in Detroit.  On January 1, 2012 he went 31 for 44 throwing for 480 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 1 interception for a 136.4 passer rating in a 45-41 win in Green Bay.  On November 28, 2013 he went 10 for 20 throwing for 139 yards, and 1 interception for a 51.9 passer rating in a 40-10 loss in Detroit.  In what is hopefully Flynn's last snap for the Packers at quarterback he fumbled a clean snap to ensure the offense only scored 3 points.

42) Ryan Taylor (TE, LR 42): I am shocked that Taylor returned to the game after suffering what looked like a gruesome concussion when he was tackled by two players.  It looked like the hit was legal.  Given how much an emphasis the NFL has put on head injuries twenty years too late, apparently it did not result in a concussion for Taylor.

50) Marshall Newhouse (T, LR 45): When starting center Evan Dietrich-Smith went down with a knee injury, the Packers had an interesting decision to make.  If I were in charge I would have slide starting right guard T.J. Lang to center, starting right tackle Don Barclay to right guard, and put Derek Sherrod at right tackle.  Instead McCarthy moved Lang to center and inserted Newhouse at right guard while leaving Don Barclay at right tackle.  Newhouse gave up a safety and provided about as much protection as a defective condom before getting benched for undrafted guard Lane Taylor. For the final series the Packers gave Sherrod a chance at right tackle.

51) Victor Aiyewa (LB, LR N/A): Added to The 53 in place of rookie running back Johnathan Franklin.  After a promising preseason, Franklin played sparingly in the regular season amassing 107 yards on 19 carries and 1 touchdown mostly against the Cincinnati Bengals.  It was Franklin's crucial fumble against the Bengals that will be remember as opposed to his 13 carries for 103 yards and 1 touchdown effort.  Franklin played against the Bengals because fellow rookie running back Eddie Lacy suffered a concussion against the Washington Redskins that precluded him from playing against the Bengals.  Franklin suffered a concussion last week returning the opening kickoff return against the Vikings.  It was curious that Franklin was returning kickoffs because rookie cornerback Micah Hyde claimed that spot due to Franklin's ineffectiveness.  Franklin became the 12th player that the Packers placed on injured reserve.  As you can tell, I wanted to recap Franklin's rookie contributions for the Packers.  Given that Aiyewa is the first addition to The 53 by the Packers of a guy that I know very little about, here is a quick rundown on Aiyewa: he went to the University of Washington, his height (6'1"), and weight (237 pounds).

Stafford broke his winless streak against the Packers and now the Lions are now 12-8-1 all-time on Thanksgiving against the Packers.  The Packers need to win out and get some help, Lions need to lose 2 of their next 4 and Bears need to lose 1 of their next 5, to have any chance of winning the NFC North.  With ten days off before the Packers host the Atlanta Falcons at Lambeau Field the focus will be on whether Rodgers plays. Something tells me I could be writing a fairly length obituary on the Dom Capers-era.  If the Packers make any changes to the coaching staff or The 53 between, make sure to check back for full coverage.

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