Katzenstein's Four Downs: Lions make it tough on Rodgers
Even after beating him at Lambeau Field for the first time in his career, the Lions' praise of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was unending.
Yet, the Lions somehow found a way to make Rodgers inefficient, a word that rarely suits his play especially against Detroit. In a 18-16 Lions' win, Rodgers was 35-of-61 — both career highs — for 333 yards with two touchdowns, and he had a pedestrian 83.6 passer rating.
"It's football," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of what went wrong for his offense. "Football is a tough game. This isn't easy. Frankly, if we spoiled you in the past, that's great. We're looking forward to spoiling you again in the future.
But as Rodgers has spoiled Packers fans over the years, he's also spoiled several games for the Lions. Instead, the Lions saw an inaccurate Rodgers and made timely defensive plays to keep him out of rhythm.
"That guy can score 50 on you in a heartbeat," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "Fortunately, our guys were able to keep him bottled up."
One possible reason Rodgers struggled was that wide receiver James Jones, who led the team in receiving yards, was a complete non-factor in the game.
For that, Lions cornerback Darius Slay deserves a ton of credit.
Rodgers targeted Jones twice and didn't complete either pass. Rodgers looked at Slay so rarely that the Lions' top cornerback didn't even had a statistic.
Instead, Rodgers chose to pick on the Lions other cornerbacks — mostly Nevin Lawson, Josh Wilson and Quandre Diggs — and their matchups with Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, but that wasn't too effective either.
Wilson had a unique experience during the win.
The Lions' top nickel cornerback suffered a right leg injury with 40 seconds left and immediately went to the locker room for further testing. He didn't know it was the Green Bay locker room.
"I had to watch the end on TV, but me and the doc were yelling in the Packers locker room," he said. "They weren't too happy about that."
Wilson managed to see fellow cornerback Crezdon Butler make a key pass break-up on a late 2-point try and Green Bay's Mason Crosby miss a 52-yard field goal with the clock expiring. And even though he wasn't on the sideline at the end, Wilson and his fellow cornerbacks played well enough to keep the Lions in the game.
"We just put it all on the line, did whatever it took to win," Wilson said.
Even though the Lions made enough plays to win, they knew not to celebrate until the time expired.
When Packers kicker Mason Crosby set up for the 52-yard field goal to potentially win the game, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford turned around and chose to listen to the crowd's reaction.
Wide receiver Calvin Johnson was worried, too, especially since Crosby had made 11 of 12 field goals this season. Plus, Johnson dropped the onside kick that could've sealed the win before Crosby's kick fell well short.
"It's Crosby, man. He's money," Johnson said. "So I'm just like, 'Oh boy.'
"I was hurting on the inside. He didn't make it, so that's all that matters."