GREEN BAY—The week after the Packers struggled to run the ball against the Lions back in September, the Jets rushed for 132 yards against Detroit.
It turns out the Lions’ run defense against the Packers was the rule, while their performance against the Jets was the exception.
No one has come close to New York’s 132 rushing yards against Detroit all season. It’s the high-water mark against the Lions in 2014, with New England’s 90 yards in Week 12 the next best.
Detroit is giving up just 63.8 yards per game on the ground, No. 1 in the NFL, and finding more success than the Lions’ average foe could prove valuable for the Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
“It’s a stout run defense,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who confirmed that he’ll be fine to play in Sunday’s game despite a calf injury. “Teams have been trying to pass on them, but that hasn’t worked too well either.”
The Lions rank second in the league in total yards allowed, and it all starts with containing the run and unleashing their front four after the quarterback.
The Packers’ ground game has evolved considerably since the first meeting. Eddie Lacy was held to just 36 yards on 11 carries, with an early fumble that was returned for a touchdown, while James Starks had 38 yards on eight attempts as the Packers scored a season-low seven points at Ford Field in Week 3.
Since then, the Packers have topped 100 yards rushing as a team in 10 of their last 11 games, and they’ve gone over 150 yards four times. Last week’s 121 yards on the ground against Tampa Bay was actually the team’s lowest output in five weeks.
“I feel like we’ve been on a roll here running the ball,” said Lacy, who went over 1,000 yards on the season last Sunday with a 99-yard day. “Week after week, we’ve been picking up momentum.
“It just clicked, and you don’t question it. You just continue to roll with it.”
Rodgers, Lacy and Head Coach Mike McCarthy all point to the play of the offensive line for that success. Back in Detroit three months ago, right tackle Bryan Bulaga was returning from a knee injury that sidelined him the previous week, while rookie center Corey Linsley was playing in just his third pro game.
Since Bulaga’s return to the lineup, the starting five up front has remained intact for 12 straight games and developed a chemistry offenses covet. Rodgers said on Tuesday he was hoping a couple of them would get Pro Bowl nods later in the day.
Even when the offense had its lone bad day since the first Detroit game, at Buffalo two weeks ago, the line did its part. Rodgers was sacked just once and the ground game produced 158 yards.
“The line has been blocking great,” Rodgers said. “The protection has been excellent, especially the last six to eight weeks. A lot of time, limited amount of sacks, and those guys have been playing really, really well.”
They face their biggest challenge in the biggest game of the season to date on Sunday, when Week 3 needs to be made the Packers’ exception to their current rule.
“We didn’t play Packers football that game,” Lacy said. “It was a rough start for us at the beginning, but that’s in the past. We know this game isn’t going to be anything like last game.”
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