- Rob Demovsky, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
Rodgers returns to form: One of quarterback Aaron Rodgers' best attribute is bouncing back after a rare poor performance, so it was little surprise that he played near mistake-free football on Sunday in his first game since the Week 3 loss at Cincinnati, where Rodgers threw two interceptions and ended a streak of 41 games without multiple interceptions. Against the Lions, Rodgers showed again that he won’t force throws and will take what the defense gives. As the game wore on, the Lions came out of their deep zone coverage, and Rodgers took advantage. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Rodgers completed 5 of 7 passes and gained 200 of his 274 passing yards on balls thrown at least 20 yards downfield. The five completions and 200 yards on balls 20 yards or more in the air both were career highs. “The opportunities outside first started with the late safety rolling down into the box and them playing soft on the outside,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “As the coverages got tight, we were able to attack deeper. We wish we probably would have been able to hit a couple more of those.”
Offensive line credit: When three different running backs put up big numbers, that says something about the offensive line. Eddie Lacy came up 1 yard short of giving the Packers three straight 100-yard games by three different backs. (James Starks rushed for 132 in Week 2 against Washington, and Johnathan Franklin for 103 in Week 3 against the Bengals.) In rushing for 180 yards, the Packers hit that mark in consecutive games (they had 182 against Cincinnati) for the first time since 2003. Interior linemen Evan Dietrich-Smith, T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton controlled defensive tackles Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh, while tackles David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay have made major strides in their run-blocking. “Those guys are rolling right now,” Rodgers said of the line.
Pass-rush prowess: Anything the Packers accomplished on defense must be prefaced by reminding everyone that the Lions did not have their best player, receiver Calvin Johnson, who sat out because of a knee injury. Nevertheless, coordinator Dom Capers’ unit cranked up its pass rush and rendered quarterback Matthew Stafford ineffective. Stafford was sacked or put under duress on 22 percent of his dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Coming into the game, he was pressured on a league-low 12 percent of his dropbacks. The Packers sacked him five times -- all by linebackers. In the Lions’ first four games, Stafford was sacked just three times combined.
Return-game options: In their first game since cutting kick returner Jeremy Ross, the Packers used a platoon system but did not get enough opportunities to see whether it will work. Franklin was assigned to kickoff returns, but all of them were touchbacks. Receiver Randall Cobb and cornerback Micah Hyde split punt-return duties, with Cobb handling anything that would be fielded inside the Packers’ 20-yard line. Each had two returns and both averaged 3.5 yards per return.