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Saturday, October 5, 2013
Four keys for Detroit vs. Green Bay

By Michael Rothstein

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Chances are, you might have heard about this already.

The last time Detroit won in Green Bay, Matthew Stafford was not even in kindergarten yet. So yeah, it’s been a long time. Since 1991.

Yet it was the quarterback of the Packers who made this curious statement.

“Well, you know, streaks are meant to be broken. Records are meant to be broken,” Aaron Rodgers said this week. “I was just emphasizing it would be nice to not have that happen when I’m at quarterback.

“But they are a really good football team and it’s tough to win on the road, as we found out this season. But it can be done.”

How can Detroit do it? Here are four keys for the Lions.

Houston
Houston
Stick with the wide receivers: Yes, Green Bay is touting a much-improved run game, and the return of Eddie Lacy should pay dividends for the Packers, but Green Bay will win this game if James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are allowed to find open spaces. Chris Houston returned to practice Friday and appeared to look good enough that he could go against Green Bay. This is a plus for the Lions, but if he isn’t 100 percent, I’d imagine Rodgers is going to test him early no matter who he is matched up against.

Do not think about the streak: Detroit has been good about not making a big deal of having not won in Wisconsin since 1991. But there is something about the ghosts of a place where a team hasn’t won in a long time -- especially when the opponent happens to be good -- that can sometimes creep into a team’s head. Green Bay has been a mess of sorts for Detroit, full of close calls and heartbreaking defeats. That said, if Detroit wins this week, it’ll place itself in legitimate conversation to be a playoff contender the rest of the season.

Use the pass: This seems obvious for Detroit, but Green Bay has struggled defensively when teams choose to throw. Opponents are averaging 311 yards a game against the Packers, completing 68.2 percent of their passes. This fits well in Detroit’s overall scheme of using short passing to Reggie Bush and Joique Bell to try and eventually wriggle Calvin Johnson free for big gains. This is where losing Nate Burleson could hurt. Detroit received nice contributions from tight end Brandon Pettigrew and receiver Kris Durham against Chicago last week, but both need to do this on a consistent basis for Detroit. Perhaps this is another big week for Joseph Fauria, who either scores a touchdown or doesn’t catch a pass, depending on the week in his young career.

Keep getting pressure with four: Four games in and so far, so good for Detroit’s defensive line getting enough pressure into the backfield and on quarterbacks with its rotating batch of defensive linemen. When the Lions could have issues this season is when those four aren’t effective enough to cause havoc. Then Detroit might have to blitz a linebacker and alter things in the back seven. Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley against Josh Sitton, Evan Dietrich-Smith and T.J. Lang could be a fun matchup to watch on the line Sunday. The winner of this group could make the difference Sunday.