Monday, October 4, 2010

Packers Side-Step Charging Lions

If your name was John Kuhn, and you were in uniform at Lambeau Field on Sunday, you were a very big man. For not only did John Kuhn carry most of the Detriot Lions defense on his back, as they tried to prevent him from getting big yards and first downs very late in the fourth quarter, but he also carried the Green Bay Packers on his shoulders into the W column.

Though the Packers handed off the Monkey, er, Gorilla of Penalties to the Lions, they still struggled in the second half against an unfamiliar animal; namely a ferocious, uncharacteristic Lions offense and defense, and were fortunate to sidestep a loss.

The Detroit Lions are no joke this year. The have played well all season and will win some football games this year. Surprisingly, they are talented enough to compete, and even defeat any of the strong NFC North teams and will surely get some kills on weaker non-conference teams.

Had not Aaron Rodgers engineered three incredible scoring strikes in the first half, this one might have gone to the visitors, who dominated the game in yardage and possession time. Green Bay barely had the ball in the second half and often did not do much with the opportunities with Rodgers throwing some rare picks. And though Brandon Jackson and the running game was not bad, it was not dominant until coach McCarthy put Kuhn in to carry the load on the Packers final drive, which ended up running out the clock to survive a 28-26 nail-biter.

Kuhn repeatedly pushed his way through the defensive line, picked up some linebackers on his back, and dragged a few safeties and defensive backs with his legs as he pounded out big gains in a crucial time in true power-football fashion.

His final, super-human contribution, saw him busting through Lion after Lion, getting near the critical first down marker and hurling himself over it for a fresh set of downs as the clock ticked below a minute left. (See photo above, by AP's Mike Roemer.)

Had he not got that first down, a battered Green Bay defense would have had to try to stop the charging Lions offense, which it was having trouble doing in the second half due to the Lions ingenious use of tight-end screens and running back screens which seemed to counter the relentless Packer linebacker-heavy pass rush. It seems like vaunted Packer defensive coordinator, Dom Capers met his match with the screens and wide-open running room for Detroit's quarterback who was the Lions leading rusher.

Give credit to the Lions game plan, and to a rebuilding effort that seems to be having some results. They are not to be taken lightly because they have a powerful defense and a very good offense.

And when Rodgers is not connecting with his receivers in Green Bay's deadly passing threat, but throwing interceptions, it keeps points off the scoreboard and puts all the pressure on the defense, which the Lions were easily countering.

Yes, this was the most competitive Packers-Lions game since Brett Favre was a new Packer, and Capers will have to craft a few more tricks and slide them up up his sleeve for the next meeting between the two teams.

And though guys like Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley and James Jones, and Donald Lee too, were all sure-handed, effective receivers who made critical plays on fantastic passes from Rodgers, mostly in the first half, Rodgers missed a few passes in the second half which fell into Detroit Lions arms instead of the intended receivers. Perhaps Rodgers was simply out of rhythm from spending so much time watching from the sidelines as the Lions put together 13 + play drives the entire second half.

Had not Kuhn carried the teams on his shoulders late in the fourth quarter to seal the game, there are few who would have placed a lot of money against the Lions being able to get down the field to kick a game-winning field goal, and the Packers would have suffered a crushing loss.

But instead, Kuhn solidified that Packer power football is here and is for real, adding an additional and critical dynamic to the Packers deadly offensive arsenal. Kudos to coach McCarthy for recognizing what tool needed to be wielded, and kudos to the offensive line which responded when the game was on the line and gave Kuhn some holes to run through.

And though we don't often dwell on Packer mistakes when the team wins, kick-returner Jordy Nelson, by all rights, should probably be forced to carry a football around with him 24/7 this week to cure him from his extremely devastating case of fumble-itis which alone nearly lost the game for us.

And the special teams in general is on life-support and continues to need immediate improvement for this good, but not great football team to expect to contend or even make the playoffs.

No question, we dodged a bullet. But we won.

Game ball: John Kuhn

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