DETROIT—The Packers defense didn’t know exactly what to make of its effort on Sunday at Ford Field.
The unit produced three turnovers and a number of stops through the first three quarters but then couldn’t get off the field in the fourth of a 19-7 loss to the NFC North rival Lions.
“We definitely took a step in the direction of getting pressure on the quarterback and getting turnovers,” defensive lineman Mike Daniels said. “There were a lot of plays we could have done more.”
Given the unit’s struggles in Seattle and in the first half against the Jets last week, the toughest thing to swallow is that the defense gave up just 10 points against a division foe on the road. Detroit scored nine points on a fumble return for a touchdown and a safety.
Holding the Lions to 10 points at Ford Field would normally produce a victory, but the way the game unfolded, the solid effort went for naught.
“It’s kind of hard to call it right now,” said Mike Neal, who had one of two sacks of Detroit QB Matthew Stafford. “I think we played kind of lights out on defense in the first half, but it was just one of those days.”
The Packers got interceptions in the first half from safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix off a tipped ball, and from cornerback Davon House on a deep throw to Calvin Johnson. Unfortunately, House was ruled down on the 1-yard line rather than awarded a touchback, which led to the safety.
But the defense still managed to make the play that kept the Packers in the game in the third quarter, as Julius Peppers strip-sacked Stafford in the red zone and recovered the fumble himself, keeping the score just 12-7.
The offense never got going, however, and then over the final 16 ½ minutes, Detroit put together a 10-play touchdown drive and a clock-killing march that consumed the final 6:54.
The Lions offense didn’t find the end zone until Reggie Bush ran around left end from 26 yards out with 10:40 left in the game, and three straight third-down conversions on the last drive were frustrating, but by then the defense was looking rather worn out.
“We didn’t make the plays when we needed to,” said linebacker Clay Matthews, who left the game late with a groin injury. “Early in the game we did a pretty good job. We did some good things out there, but ultimately at the end of the day we lost.”
Players insisted fatigue wasn’t a factor, but it’s hard to believe it didn’t play a part. House and linebacker Jamari Lattimore left temporarily for cramping during the game, and the time of possession ended up lopsided in Detroit’s favor, 38:13 to 21:47, with the Lions running 74 plays to the Packers’ 51.
“It’s our job. It doesn’t matter what it entails,” Matthews said. “We have to rise to the occasion. We did for most of the game, but we need to finish better.”
Peppers had probably his most impactful game of the young season, but he took no satisfaction in it, much like the rest of his teammates.
Three takeaways and 10 points allowed is perhaps a signal the Packers defense is coming into its own, but by itself that’s nothing to celebrate.
“We’d have been satisfied with a win,” Peppers said.
“We’re improving. Still have to get a little better, still have to tackle a little better, play a little faster, play a little more physical, but we’ll get there.” ADDITIONAL COVERAGE - SEPT. 21