GREEN BAY – Forget about the unscouted looks. There’ll be no surprises. It’s December. Teams are what they are, and the challenge for most teams, the Packers included, is fundamental: Win or else.
“At this point in the season, it’s rare to see something entirely new. It’s probably on film somewhere,” Packers play-caller Tom Clements said.
The Packers didn’t have to dig deep into their film vault this week to get a sense of what the Lions might do defensively in this game. All the Packers had to do was go back three weeks, to a game between the two teams in Lambeau Field, which the Lions won, 18-16.
Detroit pressed the Packers receivers. The Lions challenged them to get off the jam and get open. It’s a tactic the Lions are likely to attempt this Thursday in Ford Field, in a rematch between the two teams that will go a long way toward deciding the Packers’ fate in this season.
“You’ve got to get his hands off you by being violent with your hands,” Clements said of the receiver’s role in defeating the jam. “Get him off his grass. Make him flip his hips,” Clements added.
At the test in Detroit will be a Packers receiving corps that’s come under close scrutiny during a November stretch of schedule that has seen the team go from 6-0 to 7-4. When the Packers headed into their bye week in late October, they were the No. 11 offense in the league. Now, they’re No. 24.
It’s been an especially tough stretch of schedule for a passing game that’s been the proverbial gold standard leaguewide for the past several years. All of a sudden, moving the ball through the air has become problematic.
“We prefer being the gold standard,” Clements said. “We’ve had some guys injured throughout the year. It’s been tough developing consistency. You have to keep fighting through it and it’ll turn.”
It’s December. It needs to turn now.
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Lions.
1. Run the ball – It’s working. It’s what the Packers do best. Use it to buy time for the passing game.
2. Be stout on defense – The Packers defense is on the rise. It’s the other half of the run-the-ball formula.
3. Convert third-and-1 – It’s become a problem for the Packers, again, and the failure to convert third-and-1 with the run is putting undue pressure on the passing game to do it.
4. Throw it, catch it – It’s the most basic execution of the passing game. Let’s start with that.
5. Turn the heat up – The Packers went sack crazy in Minnesota and won; not so much in the loss to the Bears.
6. Make plays on defense – As well as the defense is playing, it’s only middle of the league in takeaways and a lowly No. 29 in forcing lost fumbles.
7. Deny big plays – Golden Tate’s 43-yard, catch-and-run play, and Ameer Abdullah’s 104-yard kickoff return were the big plays in the Lions’ win at Lambeau Field.
8. Win on the perimeter – That wasn’t the case against the Bears.
9. Play with confidence – Remember who you are. Your opponents fear you. Don’t fear yourself.
10. Reward your fans – They’ll be the dominant voice in Ford Field. Hear them, thank them.
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