December 03, 2015

DETROIT (AP) Aaron Rodgers has accomplished a lot, winning a Super Bowl and two MVP awards with the Green Bay Packers.

Lately, though, he has been off the mark.

Rodgers failed to complete half of his passes in the two games prior to Thursday night's matchup in Detroit. That dropped his completion percentage to 60.5 after connecting on at least 63.6 percent of his attempts in his first seven seasons as a starter. Rodgers' 97.4 passer rating is his lowest since 2008, his first year as an NFL starter.

''We're not even being effective enough anywhere near our potential,'' Rodgers said.

Lions safety James Ihedigbo said the key to keeping Rodgers quiet is to hit him early and often.

''You have to have him under duress,'' Ihedigbo said. ''He makes that team go. You chop off the head, the rest of the body will follow. That's our mindset.''

Matthew Stafford, meanwhile, hasn't been able to do enough to help the Detroit Lions win a playoff game in two postseason appearances.

While Stafford has had some success statistically, throwing for 5,000-plus yards and 41 touchdowns in 2011, he has failed to help the Lions beat good teams very often.

Stafford is 4-36 in his career against teams that ended the season with a winning record and 2015 opponents that have a winning record, including a victory at Green Bay last month, according to STATS.

Recently, though, he has been on a roll and the Lions have been, too.

Detroit took a three-game winning streak into its prime-time game against the Packers in large part because Stafford is making plays with his arm, occasionally with his feet, and is avoiding mistakes.

The Lions fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and promoted Jim Bob Cooter earlier this season and the move has appeared to work wonders for Stafford.

''I think he's comfortable with how we're doing things,'' Cooter said. ''I think he kind of likes some of the formations we're using, some of the alignments we're using and just the way we're going about business. So trying to make sure our quarterback is comfortable is really, really important to me and to our offensive staff and I think that shows up in the quarterbacks' play across the league.''

Instead of seeming tentative as Stafford was at least at times under Lombardi, he looks cool and confident when he drops back to pass to superstar Calvin Johnson, No. 2 receiver Golden Tate or shifty running back Theo Riddick.

Stafford completed 66 percent of his passes for 861 yards with seven touchdowns - including a career-high matching five last week - with only one interception when Detroit defeated Green Bay on the road for the first time since 1991 and beat Oakland and Philadelphia at home.

Johnson also equaled a career high in last week's win against the Eagles, who were relatively helpless as he caught three TD passes.

Clearly, the Packers' passing game hasn't been as potent as it was in the past because star receiver Jordy Nelson had a season-ending knee injury just before the season started. Nelson caught 43 TD passes the previous four years and no one has been able to make the most of the opportunity to be a big-play threat.

Randall Cobb, who set career highs with 91 receptions, 1,287 yards receiving and 12 TDs last season, had just two TDs in an eight-game stretch going into the rematch with the Lions. Davante Adams has struggled with the transition of going from a secondary receiver to a primary target, failing to score in his first eight games this season.

Mike McCarthy is not calling plays this season for first time during his tenure as Green Bay's coach. Tom Clements, associate head coach, handles the play-calling duties. McCarthy made the move to take more of a hands-on approach on defense and special teams.

Packers guard T.J. Lang said the team has leaned on Rodgers too much.

''It's hard to keep the ball out of his hands just because of the type of player he is,'' Lang said. ''But last week, I feel like we probably should've taken some pressure off of him in that game.''


AP NFL website: and


Follow Larry Lage at

You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)