GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers will host the Detroit Lions on Monday night, looking for a strong response after Sunday’s shellacking against the Saints.
The Packers are 11.5-point favorites but there are some reasons for concern.
1. Lions RBs D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams
The New Orleans game was “weird,” to quote receiver Davante Adams. When the Packers took possession for a 2-minute drill at the end of the first half, they were trailing 17-0 and had run only 12 plays from scrimmage. That’s pretty weird, indeed.
A big reason for that was the running of Saints backs Alvin Kamara and Tony Jones. They had 20 carries for 103 yards in the first half alone. That allowed the Saints to control the clock and keep Aaron Rodgers and Co. quarantined on the bench.
Swift and Williams might not be as good as Kamara and Jones, and their offensive line isn’t as good, either, but the explosive Swift and the physical Williams are a quality one-two punch. They piled up 214 yards and two touchdowns from scrimmage in Week 1 against San Francisco. If Detroit can duplicate the Saints’ ball-hogging game plan – and you know Williams’ energy level will be at about 100 against his former team – there will be a lot of nervous energy from the 78,000 fans at Lambeau Field.
2. Edge-Setting Trend-Setters
Immediately after the game, Rodgers talked about the “blueprint” to stop the mighty Packers offense would be the Saints’ formula of using two-deep coverages to limit All-Pro receiver Davante Adams and take away the big-play passing game. Rodgers wasn’t buying it but that will be something other teams attempt.
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The big key, however, was something mentioned by Lions coach Dan Campbell.
“They played very physical up front and, really, even in the second level, too,” Campbell told Lions beat reporters on Thursday. “I felt like they challenged the receivers up front. They were able to set edges on that run game, which coach (Matt) LaFleur and them like to (do). They build a lot of things off of that, that way Rodgers has the boots and everything. They did a good job of identifying Green Bay’s strengths and trying to take those away from him and they got the upper hand and just kind of got them out of sorts early in the game.”
So, it will be up to Green Bay’s blockers – namely the tight ends and offensive tackles – to handle Lions outside linebackers Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara. Getting running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon going will get the rest of the offense going.
“We’re going to have to” run the ball, offensive line coach Adam Stenavich said. “We always talk about taking what the defense gives you and, if they’re going to give us it, we’ve got to take it. So, I thought it’s one thing that was unfortunate, the game plan, we just never got an opportunity to pound the ball or do any of that stuff because we just didn’t execute at the beginning of the game and got down fast. We’re just going to keep working on that stuff and again taking what the defense gives us.”
3. The Hangover
Two things can be true at once. One, what happened to the Saints was just one of 17 games. Considering the Packers are coming off back-to-back 13-3 seasons that reached the NFC Championship Game, it’s hard to believe the Packers are a bad team. They’ll bounce back, starting Monday. Or, what happened against the Saints was a sign of trouble. How could the Packers be so badly outclassed in Week 1?
As unlikely as it might seem, what if what happened in Week 1 lingers into Week 2? It’s up to the team’s leaders to prevent that from happening, but wasn’t it up to the team’s leaders to prevent what happened in the opener?
It’s cliché to say a team needs to start fast. Duh, right? Obviously, you’d always rather start fast than start slow. But after a listless first game, Green Bay needs to seize the momentum, get the crowd revved up and right last week’s wrongs.