Lions visit Packers den Sunday

Packers

Aaron Rodgers’ had the best opening-day performance of his career last Sunday as the Packers rolled up 523 yards and 43 points against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium, sans fans in the stands.

Rodgers displayed stellar accuracy and efficiency in completing 32 of 44 passes for 364 yards (127.5 QBR) and four touchdowns.  And those impressive totals could have been even higher if not for several dropped catchable passes.

The 36-year-old quarterback came out firing in his 16th NFL season and proved he’s still among the NFL’s elite signal-callers. 

“Aaron Rodgers is one of the best in the game,” said former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka.  “If there were any questions, they were answered last Sunday.

“He could very well have the same type of performance against Detroit. Don’t care how old he is, he can make all the throws and he’s more comfortable in the offense. I think he’s going to have a hell of a season.”

Sunday at Lambeau Field, sans fans in the stands, Rodgers and Green Bay (1-0) face the Detroit Lions (0-1) in their season debut at Lambeau Field. Against Minnesota, two key items were in Rodgers’ favor:  no crowd noise and inexperienced cornerbacks.

Against Detroit, there will be no fan noise and the Lions starting cornerbacks are beset with hamstring issues. The Lions ranked last in the NFL last season against the pass.

“Rodgers can cut up a secondary real fast, and he has Aaron Jones and a good running game too,” Ditka said. “Detroit will have their hands full. They lost a tough one to the Bears. They have to regroup and go into Lambeau and try to get a win. There are no easy ones in that division.  You have to earn every win.”

Detroit gave one away at home against Chicago, collapsing in the fourth quarter as the Bears erased a 17-point deficit and pulled out a 27-23 victory. To add insult to injury: a Lions receiver dropped an easy potential game-winning pass from Matthew Stafford on the final drive of the game.

There is no doubt head coach Matt Patricia and his staff are on the hot seat this season, after the Lions lost seven of 12 games last season blowing fourth-quarter leads.

The Detroit defense will be on the hot seat Sunday, with a major task of limiting the output of Rodgers and favorite target Davante Adams.

Adams exploited outmatched Vikings corners last week, tying a franchise record held by Don Hutson with 14 receptions and two touchdowns passes. His first scoring catch was perfect from start to finish, with Rodgers delivering on the run a pinpoint strike in the end zone as Adams deftly got his feet down before falling out of bounds.

But it was the cumulative effect of the duo’s short- and medium-routes throughout the game that allowed the Green Bay offense to sustain drives and amass a 41:16-18:44 time of possession advantage. “It was just locking in and tapping into getting ready to play here in front of zero thousand fans,” Adams said.

Said Rodgers: “Any time you punt one time, you know it’s going to be a good day, especially when you don’t turn the ball over.”

Minimizing turnovers and keeping the Green Bay offense off the field with a ball-control offense will be keys for the Lions’ success.

The seemingly ageless Adrian Peterson accounted for 138 rushing yards against Chicago, and will no doubt test a Green Bay defense that is without injured nose tackle Kenny Clark. The veteran Stafford threw for 297 yards (24 of 42) with one touchdown and one interception, but has had success against the Packers secondary the past two seasons.

Green Bay struggled mightily in two games against Detroit last season, never leading either contest until Mason Crosby booted game-winning field goals as the game clock expired.

“It was pretty much a miracle that we were able to win both those games,” head coach Matt LaFleur said.

“They should have won last week. There’s no doubt about it.  And they definitely could have beaten us twice last year.  So you know we’ve got a big task in front of us.”

Those 2019 NFC North contests exemplified a major difference between the two teams:  one finds a way to win the close games; the other new ways to lose them.

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Green Bay doesn’t waste opportunity to take division lead at home.  Protecting Rodgers, pressuring Stafford, and establishing run against feisty Detroit—who gifted Chicago a win Sunday—are the keys to victory.

Packers 30, Lions 20  

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