Lions' report card: Defensive line sets tone in win
Matthew Stafford played much better in the second half than the first Sunday, but still had several off-target passes that could've put the 19-7 win over Green Bay away sooner. Stafford finished 22 of 34 for 246 yards, two interceptions and a lost fumble. Completing 64.7 percent of his passes is good. Losing three turnovers is not.
The Lions ranked 28th in the league in rushing before Sunday's game, but their 115 yards was a strong showing, even if they averaged just 3 yards per carry. Reggie Bush ran well with 61 yards on 12 carries, including a 26-yard touchdown, as well as 38 receiving yards. Joique Bell wasn't impressive with 33 yards on 15 carries, but Theo Riddick added 16 yards on three carries.
The emphasis on the running game meant fewer opportunities for the wide receivers, but Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and even Corey Fuller made some timely plays. Johnson had six catches for 82 yards, Tate had five for 51 and Fuller caught a 52-yarder that gave the Lions an opportunity to score before the end of the first half.
The Lions' trio blocked well and helped take some eyes off the other weapons, but none of the three contributed much to the stat sheet. Brandon Pettigrew and Eric Ebron didn't catch their one target, and Joseph Fauria gained three yards on his only catch.
Stafford faced significant pressure, especially in the first half, but the Lions gave up just two sacks against a solid Green Bay front. Garrett Reynolds and Cornelius Lucas aren't providing much at right tackle, but the rest of the group is playing well.
Aaron Rodgers faced significant pressure, which was a key reason for his struggles. The Packers also ran for just 78 yards. Meanwhile, the Lions defensive line forced a fumble (Nick Fairley) and set the tone for most of the game. Ndamukong Suh also had a sack and was often in the backfield.
The linebacker corps deserves plenty of credit for shutting down the run game, and even though DeAndre Levy gave up some passes to tight ends, he was outstanding everywhere else. The Lions lost their defensive leader in middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch to a knee injury in the second quarter, but Levy and Tahir Whitehead filled his role admirably.
Holding Randall Cobb to 29 yards and Jordy Nelson to 59 yards is impressive for any secondary. Considering the Lions used three different nickel cornerbacks and Don Carey scored on a fumble return before leaving with a hamstring injury, this could be the unit's best performance of the year.
The Lions overcame the absence of some key special teams players — Montell Owens, Travis Lewis and Carey — to play solid in coverage and on returns. Sam Martin had punts of 55 yards and 49 yards. But Nate Freese's missed field goal from 41 yards was another black mark.
The Lions took advantage of an ill-timed timeout by Packers coach Mike McCarthy at the end of the first half by taking the shot to Fuller, and they would've scored if not for Freese's miss. Besides some questionable red zone play-calling — shotgun draw to Bush, reverse to Jeremy Ross and a slow developing play-action pass — the coaches did well.