Joined: August 6th, 2004, 8:33 pm
Insider Preview: Lions at Packers
Insider Preview: Lions at Packers
Why To Watch
Green Bay sits atop the NFC North, but it's coming off a horrific loss to Philadelphia and still plays three division games starting with Detroit. As a result, the Packers must start eliminating the costly mistakes that continue to hurt them on defense and establish better balance on offense now.
A Lions team that just snapped a five-game losing streak won't make it easy, however. Detroit's running game is finally coming to life and RB Kevin Jones could see 20-plus carries as the Lions will try to dictate the tempo of the game with their ground attack. Will the Packers' finally start playing with a sense of urgency, or will Detroit surprisingly win its third road game this year?
When the Lions have the ball
Green Bay's pass defense has been atrocious the past two weeks and Detroit will take its fair share of chances downfield, but expect the Lions to come out running the ball for two reasons. The first is Jones, who is coming off a career-high 26 carries, has run well over the past three weeks and will be working against a Green Bay run defense that is giving up an average of over four yards a carry.
Handing him the ball on first and second should create shorter third-down conversion attempts for QB Joey Harrington and help keep some drives alive. This is important because the Packers jumped out to a 21-point third quarter lead when these two teams met earlier this year. Sustaining longer drives should help Detroit's offense get into a rhythm while limiting Green Bay's chances to put points on the board.
The second reason the Lions should focus on establishing their ground attack is it will put pressure on Packers defensive coordinator Bob Slowik to move SS Mark Roman into the box. Forcing Roman to play closer to the line of scrimmage will set up the play-action package. It will also cause Slowik to leave his corners on islands at times, making the Green Bay's pass defense that much more vulnerable to the big play.
Several breakdowns in technique and alignment have been responsible for the Packers' defense surrendering 912 yards and seven touchdowns over the past two weeks. They will have to eliminate these mistakes and play with sound discipline working against an inconsistent but potentially explosive Lions passing game.
Detroit WR Roy Williams' ankle injury, which has hindered him most of the season, hasn't bothered him as much recently and he appears to be catching his second wind after hitting the "rookie wall." Williams, who didn't play when these two teams met earlier this year, is fast enough to get behind CB Al Harris and has the size to win any jump balls downfield. The problem is Green Bay won't want to regularly roll FS Darren Sharper to Williams' side of the field because that will leave rookie CB Ahmad Carroll on an island working against veteran WR Tai Streets. Streets runs sharp routes, rarely drops passes he should catch and should be able to create separation working against Carroll.
It's also important to note that the Packers don't have great depth or experience at corner and they will use Roman to cover the slot receiver depending on the situation. Roman doesn't have the man-to-man cover skills to stay with Lions No. 3 WR Az-Zahir Hakim and Hakim is extremely dangerous after the catch. As a result, Green Bay's pass rush must protect the struggling secondary by forcing Harrington to get rid of the ball quickly.
When the Packers have the ball
Earl Holmes is Detroit's most experienced starting linebacker, but he has clearly lost a step with age and is a liability in coverage. As a result, the Lions replace him with CB Keith Smith when they go to their nickel package. Although Smith possesses good quickness and athletic ability, he isn't a physical run stuffer and rarely makes the play once he's been reached by a blocker.
In addition to replacing Holmes with Smith, Detroit will also replace WLB James Davis with Alex Lewis, which leaves it with rookies lining up at both linebacker spots and at nickel back. That inexperience could lead to some breakdowns and the Packers can take advantage by frequently running out of their multiple-receiver sets.
RB Ahman Green has the burst to turn the corner quickly and is powerful enough to run defensive backs over in the open field. He also has the vision to cut back when the Lions' linebackers overrun the hole and is fast enough to outrun most defenses when he gets a seam. If Detroit decides to stay in its base package when Green Bay spreads the field the Packers will find ways to isolate Holmes in coverage.
Green Bay will also test Lions rookie OLBs Teddy Lehman and Lewis by running some counters out of their multiple-receiver sets. If Lehman and Lewis react to the initial motion of the play, the Packers' offensive line should be able to get into position at the second level.
Grey Ruegamer left last week's game with an ankle injury and he had been starting in place of Mike Flanagan, who was placed on injured reserve earlier this year. Rookie Scott Wells stepped in and would likely start should Ruegamer's injury prevent him from playing. This is significant because the Lions will blitz depending on the situation and the center is generally responsible for keeping the offensive line on the same page.
Green Bay struggled to pick up the blitz in a game in which it surrendered five sacks last week, so inexperience at center could cost them dearly. In addition, DTs Shaun Rogers and Dan Wilkinson get great push up the middle. They are both powerful bull rushers capable of collapsing the pocket and forcing Favre to roll toward one of the defensive ends.
The problem is the Packers will have to leave their tackles on islands should they decide to commit the three interior offensive linemen to Rogers and Wilkinson. As a result, expect Green Bay run plenty of max-protect schemes that keep a tight end and/or back into help out. However, it's important to note that QB Brett Favre, who has thrown seven picks over his last five games, needs to do a better job of protecting the ball regardless of how much time gets to go through his reads. He can't afford to give Detroit any momentum by turning the ball over.
Detroit will keep this game close with a strong commitment to the running game and an occasional big play in the vertical passing game, but Favre will lead Green Bay to victory. While he has the tools to eventually excel in the Lions' West Coast scheme, Harrington has been extremely inconsistent and he will miss the open man at times.
Favre can be too overaggressive and will admittedly force some throws into coverage. However, he also has extensive experience in pressure situations and his teammates are confident that he will step when they need it the most. Look for Favre to make enough big plays to overcome a few costly mistakes and another disappointing defensive performance.
Joined: August 11th, 2004, 1:38 pm
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Re: Insider Preview: Lions at Packers
Streets runs sharp routes, rarely drops passes he should catch and should be able to create separation working against Carroll.
what games has he been watching? imo, streets has been a total bust this season. he did probably have his best game last week but i've seen him drop a number of passes and rarely get separation from the db.