The Green Bay Packers improved to 2-0 on the season with a convincing 42-21 victory over the Lions at an empty Lambeau Field on Sunday. Aaron Jones was the catalyst for the Green Bay offense, gaining 236 total yards and scoring three touchdowns.
The win gave the Packers a 2-0 record in the division and sets them up for a big Sunday night showdown in New Orleans in Week 3.
Here are 10 things we learned from the Packers win over the Lions:
1. Aaron Jones Is a Difference Maker
The Packers better sign Jones to a contract extension soon because the way he’s playing, if they wait, they will have to pay him a lot more money.
Jones was dominant against the Lions, rushing for 168 yards including a 75-yard touchdown jaunt to open the second half. He also led the Packers with four catches for 68 more yards including an impressive and acrobatic 30-yard grab that few receivers, let alone running backs, could make.
Jones added a couple of Lambeau Leaps in an eerily empty stadium for good measure.
Last week, it was the passing game that led the way, this week the running game. It is good to see the Packers key offensive weapons getting involved and being successful.
2. The Offensive Line Is Doing Its Job
It’s easy to overlook offensive line play, but the Packers o-line is thriving despite a slew of injuries that keep disrupting their continuity.
The Packers running backs gained 259 yards on the ground in this game and that includes two kneel downs by Tim Boyle for minus-one yards. Jones averaged 9.3-yards per rush and Jamaal Williams averaged “only” 7.9-yards per attempt in his eight carries.
In addition, Rodgers was only sacked once. In two games, the o-line has allowed just the one sack.
All of this is despite the fact Billy Turner hasn’t played yet (although he was active for this game), Lane Taylor is out for the season and starting center Corey Linsley left this game early due to an injury.
The Packers shuffled the lineup again, starting Rick Wagner at right tackle and moving Lucas Patrick to right guard. When Linsley got hurt, Patrick moved to center and rookie Jon Runyan again filled in at right guard.
Despite the injuries, the offense hasn’t missed a beat and that shows the Packers have good depth and good coaching at this position.
3. The Defense Adjusted After a Shaky Start
On their first two drives, the Lions went 75 yards on eight plays for a touchdown, followed by a 13-play, 75-yard drive. Detroit held the ball for 10:05 of the first quarter and led 14-3.
For the rest of the game, the Packers defense held Detroit to one more score and 14:59 of possession time. For the rest of the game, the Lions were unable to move the ball consistently.
The Lions did average 4.2-yards per rush but totaled only 89 yards on the ground in large part because the Packers big lead forced them to try to throw to get back in the game.
For the second straight week, the defense also scored points, getting a pick-six from Chandon Sullivan in the third quarter that essentially put the game out of reach.
4. Jaire Alexander Continues to Play Well
Alexander was a big-play machine in Week 1 and continued to play well against Detroit. Alexander made four tackles in the game and came up with some nice stops as well. The Lions were unable to consistently move the ball in the air after the first quarter.
5. The Packers Are in Good Shape at Nickel Back with Chandon Sullivan
It has been so encouraging to see the development of Chandon Sullivan from undrafted free agent released by the Eagles to a strong nickel corner for the Packers.
Last year, Sullivan took a big step forward as the dime back but this season, he seems to be progressing even further.
Sullivan did a great job of reading Matthew Stafford’s eyes and breaking on the ball to make the back-breaking interception that he returned seven-yards for a touchdown to make the score 31-14.
Sullivan had two passes defensed and the interception and has proven (so far) to be a reliable nickel back after taking over that role from veteran Tramon Williams.
6. Drops Hurt the Offense
It’s tough to pick on an offense when they scored more than 40 points in each of the first two games and gained 488 yards this week after picking up 522 against Minnesota in the season opener.
Still, Rodgers’ receivers dropped roughly six passes which means the offense could have done even better.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling remains feast or famine. He made three catches for 64 yards including a 41-yard catch that was the longest pass of the day. But he also dropped two or three passes and that is certainly a concern.
In addition, Jace Sternberger continues to have trouble hanging on to the ball and went a second straight week without a catch.
The Packers offense is looking great, but when facing tougher opponents like the Saints, they cannot afford to leave quality chances on the table if they hope to win consistently.
7. Rashan Gary Is Making Strides
With Kenny Clark out of the lineup, we knew Mike Pettine would give Rashan Gary more reps and the second-year man out of Michigan showed what he can do.
Gary made four total tackles, was credited with 1.5 sacks, one tackle for loss and two hits on the quarterback. He also was putting pressure on Stafford on Sullivan’s interception which was a big play for the defense.
Gary seems more comfortable in the defense and faster on the field as a result. The Packers can only hope he continues to improve as he gains confidence and has more success.
8. Injuries Are Mounting
The Packers injuries are mounting. Davante Adams left the game early with a sore hamstring. Linsley also left the game early and return specialist Tyler Ervin left in the fourth quarter after getting dinged up with Josh Jackson returning a punt late in the game.
With Clark already out of the lineup, the Packers defense played well but again, the Saints are a whole different kind of opponent than the Lions.
The offense continued to roll without Adams, but he is by far Rodgers’ best and most reliable receiver and the Packers can’t afford to be without him long term.
We will check the status of these players we get closer to next Sunday night’s showdown with the Saints.
9. The Coaching Staff Didn’t Panic
The Packers trailed 14-3 after one quarter and it looked like Detroit could move the ball at will on the Green Bay defense. But to his credit, Matt LaFleur didn’t change his game plan. He continued to mix the run and the pass and that proved extremely effective against the Lions with Jones finishing with a huge day.
The Packers finished the game with 35 rushing attempts and 31 passing attempts (including the one sack) and managed to move the ball effectively especially in the final three quarters. The fact that the Packers had the lead and did not have Davante Adams available for the entire game also contributed to the run-heavy ratio.
For the second consecutive game, the Packers dominated in time of possession, this time finishing with 34:46 to just 25:14 for the Lions.
LaFleur stuck to his game plan and it really paid off.
10. Aaron Rodgers Keeps on Rolling
Aaron Rodgers remains on a roll. The Packers Pro Bowl quarterback was 18-of-30 for 240 yards and two touchdowns. His quarterback rating was a cool 107.6, the second straight week he went over 100. Heck, he even caught a pass that was batted back to him for minus-six yards.
You had the feeling the numbers could have been a lot higher if he needed them to be. Rodgers seemed to be in complete control of the offense and didn’t lose his cool after his receivers dropped his passes.
If A-Rod continues to play at this level, the Packers can beat anybody.
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