Detroit — With the bye week coming up, it’s the perfect time for the Lions' defensive line and secondary to start planning a honeymoon.
Following a 31-23 win over the Packers Sunday at Ford Field, several members of a Lions defense that strip-sacked Aaron Rodgers twice and stopped Green Bay on third down at a 70 percent clip said the two units were “married” in defending the pass, working in tandem to pitch a scoreless first half.
“The coverage is married to the rush, the rush is married to the coverage,” cornerback Nevin Lawson said.
“If it takes the D-line 88 seconds to get (to the quarterback), we gotta cover for 88 seconds. If the D-line gets there fast, that helps us.”
Defensive linemen Romeo Okwara and Da’Shawn Hand capitalized on that philosophy twice by getting to an on-the-run Rodgers long after his receiver’s routes were finished, and then jarring the ball loose.
“We’re a unit and everybody’s just moving," Hand said. "It’s like a machine."
Okwara’s strip was recovered by linebacker Devon Kennard; Hand recovered his own forced fumble. Both turnovers gave Matthew Stafford and Co. the ball in Green Bay territory and led to points.
“Our guys did a great job with being disciplined in the rush lines, and then when they had their opportunities, they made them count,” Stafford said.
“Getting the ball turned over back to us a couple times was huge.”
While it won’t show up as a turnover on the stat sheet, the pair of units teamed up again late in the second quarter to force another huge swing in momentum.
On third-and-goal from the 4, Rodgers waited nine seconds before being forced into an intentional grounding while taking a hit from Okwara.
“That’s my brother in battle,” Hand said of Okwara. “He played amazing. Up front, we had to step up and he stepped up.”
The loss of yardage put more pressure on a shaky Mason Crosby, who’d already missed two field goals prior, and sent the ensuing attempt wide right.
With former first-round pick Ziggy Ansah sidelined for the fourth consecutive week, Okwara said he has taken it upon himself to step into a bigger role on the defensive line. He had two sacks and hit Rodgers on three times.
“Ziggy’s down, so we got to step up,” Okwara said. “Got to match the intensity, try to get after the quarterback.”
Still, there are some things to clean up in regards to pass coverage. After going 9-for-19 with 141 yards in Green Bay’s scoreless first half, Rodgers put up 301 yards and threw three touchdown passes in the game’s final two frames.
“(The) second half got tough,” said Kennard, who’s averaging a sack per game. “We knew they were going to come back and Aaron Rodgers was going to do what he does.”
Rodgers and Davante Adams, who caught nine passes for 140 yards, were particularly successful underneath the secondary. Adams averaged 20.8 yards-per-catch on five crossing routes, and Rodgers completed 11 passes between 10 and 20 yards.
"Hey man, it's a football game. There are ups and downs," Hand said. "And the only goal is to get the 'W.' That's what we did."
Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.