When facing a vaunted offense like the Green Bay Packers, you cannot waste opportunities to score points. This is especially true at Lambeau Field where the Packers, led by Aaron Rodgers’ insane 23 TD-0 INT ratio, entered the game 7-0 while scoring 41 points per contest.
I tweeted late in the first half after the Lions were stopped on fourth down in Green Bay territory that they could not squander scoring opportunities on offense.
You knew it would come back to haunt the Lions–and it did in a frustrating 30-20 loss that gave the Packers the NFC North title for the fourth straight season. The Lions will now head to Dallas as the sixth seed to face the third-seeded Cowboys Sunday afternoon (4:40 p.m., Fox).
Let’s examine two first half possessions where the Lions drove to the Green Bay 36 and 31 respectively, yet came up empty.
Trailing 7-0, the Lions finally went on the move on their third drive, marching to the Packers 36 after a 22-yard pass play to Eric Ebron.
On first down, Matthew Stafford threw deep to Ebron on a wheel route against safety Morgan Burnett. The rookie tight end had the ball momentarily, but Burnett ripped Ebron’s hand away as they hit the ground and the ball popped loose. Great play by Burnett, who continues to play quality football in the back-end for the Packers.
On second-and-10, Joique Bell was stuffed for a one-yard loss after Letroy Guion (No. 98) jumped the snap count and sped past an unsuspecting Travis Swanson. Mike Daniels (No. 76) bullied Cornelius Lucas and combined with Guion to blow up the play.
On third-and-11, Stafford was pressured by Daniels on a twist and threw dangerously to a covered Calvin Johnson near the sideline. Jim Caldwell balked at a 54-yard field goal attempt and sent out the punt team.
Sure they flipped the field position, but a promising drive was suddenly stalled and the Lions were left with nothing–not a winning formula.
On the second drive into Packer territory, the Lions made mistakes on multiple plays, which cost them a chance to get on the board.
Before they drove into enemy territory, Stafford overthrew a streaking Johnson. The receiver had split a double-team on a post route and was in the clear. In order to beat great teams on the road, you have to make these plays. This should have been a 61-yard touchdown.
As you can see by his reaction, Stafford knew he had missed a rare chance to hit on a big play.
The Lions converted on third-and-short on the next play and a few plays later, had moved the ball to the Green Bay 31.
On first-and-10, Stafford misfired wildly on a quick throw to Golden Tate. It was unlikely that this play was going anywhere, seeing as Sam Shields and Clay Matthews were in position, but we’ve seen Tate make people miss all season. A completion would have at least given him a chance to gain a few yards and slide into field goal range.
On second down, Stafford put a good ball on Ebron just shy of the sticks. However, the rookie made an ugly attempt at catching it. This was a costly drop in an important spot. Ebron’s hands have been very shaky all year; he should be working with the JUGS machine every day this offseason.
On third-and-10, Stafford threw low and wide to Reggie Bush, who had run a nice option route towards the sideline. A completion would have picked up at least five yards and put them in field goal range or given them the option to go for it on fourth-and-short.
On this cold day, a 48-yard field goal was apparently pushing Matt Praters’ range. So the Lions went for it on fourth-and-10. Stafford was flushed from the pocket but had Tate open on a comeback route. He again overthrew Tate badly.
If the Lions could have just mustered field goals on these possessions, they would have put more pressure on a gimpy Rodgers. Instead, the Lions came away with -1 yards on these seven plays, and 0 points. They were resigned to fight an uphill battle the rest of the game. The offense again came up small and though the defense didn’t play great, they did enough to give the offense a chance to make it a game.
Credit to NFL Game Rewind for the game film. All Illustrations and GIFs were created by Marlowe Alter for the purpose of reporting, commenting and critiquing.