GREEN BAY – The Packers’ offense got healthy on Sunday. Now the rest of the team needs to get healthy over the bye week.
The Packers’ 34-27 victory over the Lions at Lambeau Field showcased an explosive offense in the first half that everyone had been waiting for.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes by halftime as Green Bay built a 31-3 lead at one point and then had to hang on. Receiver Jordy Nelson and running back Eddie Lacy both went over 100 yards, and the Packers didn’t punt until midway through the fourth quarter.
Green Bay heads into its bye banged up but with a 2-1 record, one game behind 3-0 Minnesota in the NFC North.
“I thought they were dialed in,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said of his offense. “It was important for us to have a healthy run-and-pass mix. I thought our guys executed at a high level. We had a lot of explosive plays.”
A 33-yard connection with Randall Cobb on the game-opening TD drive. A 49-yarder to Nelson to set up another score. A 66-yard pass interference penalty leading to yet another. A 25-yard run by Lacy. You get the picture.
For all the criticism of the team’s fits and starts on offense through two weeks, the Packers didn’t do anything special but keep working at it. McCarthy saw it coming after Thursday’s full-pads practice when some fundamentals “popped out” at him.
“We had the balance,” said Rodgers, who finished 15-of-24 for 205 yards with the four scores and a 129.3 passer rating. “The line blocked really well. Jordy and I were connecting, and whenever we’re doing that, it kind of opens other things up on offense.”
Lacy’s 103 yards on 17 carries put him over the century mark for the first time since Week 14 of last season. After the Lions had closed within 31-17 in the third quarter, Lacy carried four straight times for 30 yards to help set up a field goal that restored the Packers’ three-score lead.
“That’s his game – run downhill, shoulders square, give him clean looks,” McCarthy said.
Detroit’s comeback started in the final minute of the first half, as receiver Marvin Jones (six catches, 205 yards, two TDs) slipped by undrafted rookie cornerback Josh Hawkins for a 73-yard catch-and-run TD.
Hawkins was in for Damarious Randall, who had an interception and long return early but left the game for a stretch. After returning, Randall fell down on a fourth-quarter deep ball to Jones that he hauled in for a 35-yard TD, pulling the Lions within seven points.
Needing to kill the final 3:34 to preserve the win, the Packers pulled it off. On third-and-8, Rodgers scrambled to his left and weaved his way for 11 yards for the first of two clinching first downs.
“I saw the backs of the defenders,” Rodgers said, explaining that it would have been a risky throw to Nelson, who had six catches for 101 yards and two scores, all in the first half. “Thankful to get the first down there.”
One final Lacy power run just prior to the two-minute warning finished the deal, and the Lions never got a chance to tie it up.
Injuries to tight end Jared Cook (ankle) and fullback Aaron Ripkowski (back) combined with Detroit’s time of possession slowed Green Bay’s offense in the second half.
On defense, the temporary departures of Randall (unspecified) and linebacker Blake Martinez (stitches) combined with the absence of five key players (Clay Matthews, Morgan Burnett, Letroy Guion, Datone Jones and Sam Shields) forced the Packers to nearly exhaust the depth chart but they survived.
“We needed our veteran players to step up and we needed our younger players to step up. We had a combination of that today,” McCarthy said. “From that, we’re a much better team right now than we were when we woke up this morning.”
McCarthy never expected to feel this way, but he actually believes the upcoming bye will be good for his team, even though it’s so early. For all the benefits to the experience young players got in this game, a 28-point margin got much closer than it should have.
Rodgers is “not a big fan” of such an early respite with 13 straight games to follow, especially with the team’s mini-bye after a Thursday night game also coming before the end of October. But it’s the hand the Packers have been dealt.
“Health is at a premium. We’ve seen it every year,” Rodgers said. “It’s the teams that are hottest but also healthy that go on a run at the end of the year.
“I think our team at full strength is going to be really good. We have to get to full strength.”
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