Yeah, they're only 2-2 on the year, but the Packers took an important step in dispatching the Detroit Lions on Sunday. They're still technically third in the division, but racking up those division wins, especially early in the schedule, can pay off big down the road.
As far as the actual game goes, it's hard to point to one specific highlight (although James Jones' big catch and run would be a strong contender). No single part of the performance was spectacular, but the team was solid all around. Aaron Rodgers was a workmanlike 20 of 30 for 274 yards and a score. Eddie Lacy did have 99 yards, but it took him 23 carries to get there. Yet despite not lighting up the scoreboard, the Packers came away with a 13 point win. That's the sign of a good team.
The defense wasn't impenetrable, and they didn't have to deal with the otherwordly threat of Calvin Johnson, but they were stout where it mattered. All-in-all, this was a good win with plenty of building blocks that could lead to bigger success down the road.
Eddie Lacy (23 carries, 99 yards) - Though it would have been great for Lacy to get to 100 yards, the numbers are secondary in this case. I'm more impressed with the way he was able to get them. Lacy was a battering ram between the tackles, shedding linebackers and defensive backs as he slammed his way to the second level. This is exactly what the Packers hoped they were getting when they took Lacy in the second round of this year's draft.
Mason Crosby (5/5 field goals) - Remember when we all hated Mason Crosby? Those days are long gone now. He's back (for now at least) to the lights out kicker he was during the 2011 season, absolutely drilling every kick Mike McCarthy asks him to make, including a 52-yarder he crushed with what looked like complete confidence. It's so nice to have a kicker the team can trust!
Nick Perry (5 tackles, 2 sacks) - Just when I was starting to wonder if Mike Neal had completely overtaken Mr. Perry, he unleashed raw physical gifts like we've never seen before. He overpowered the Lions' tackles en route to his two sacks, and had the presence of mind to strip Matthew Stafford on his second sack. While the strip didn't result in a turnover, it put the Lions in a serious hole in terms of down and distance late in the game, basically ending their chances at converting a late third down.
3.38 - Yards per carry by Reggie Bush this week, down almost two full yards from his season average of 5.3. Bush only gained 44 yards on 13 carries, and 20 of those yards came on one gimmicky end around play. By and large, the Packers kept Bush in check, and that was a game changing effort.
13 - Years since the Packers last had a kicker make five field goals in one game. The last player to do it was Ryan Longwell on September 24, 2000, and unlike Longwell, Mason Crosby had to convert one of his kicks from beyond 50 yards during his 5-for-5 effort. Crosby became just the third player in Packers history to make at least five field goals, joining Longwell and Chris Jacke in the team record book.
0 - Turnovers by either team. Though it was low scoring, this was a remarkably clean game. Neither team gave it away, and there were never really any passes that were even terribly close to being intercepted. After the Packers' last game, which featured eight turnovers, this was a refreshing change.
Division Win - It's always good to pick up a win in the NFC North, and as we've already discussed, this can only bolster the Packers' playoff position down the stretch.
Run to Win - The numbers are enough to make a typical Packers fan scratch their head. 180 yards? 33 rushing plays? A 5.5 yards per carry average? Have we really reverted to the Black and Blue Division? Probably not, but the Packers truly seem to have found something in their run game, and they've been using it well recently.
Linebacker Sack Attack - I pointed out in this week's preview that defensive backs have had an alarming number of the Packers' sacks this year, but that certainly wasn't the case this week. Of the Packers' five sacks, exactly zero of them came from the secondary. All of them, rather, came from the linebacker position, with two from Nick Perry and one each from Clay Matthews, Brad Jones, and Mike Neal. That kind of production makes the 3-4 defense truly dangerous, and it adds some major punch when defensive coordinator Dom Capers does decide to bring a defensive back on the blitz.
Fumbles - Neither of them were costly, but the Packers put the ball on the ground twice this Sunday. Johnathan Franklin was swallowed up and lost the ball on one of his three carries. On the other, Rodgers and Lacy seemed to have their wires crossed on a handoff and the ball ended up on the ground. Again, neither of them were costly, but they easily could have been, and this needs to get cleaned up.
Thumbs, Tendons, and Hammies - This was a good win, but it came at a price. Clay Matthews fractured his thumb, and it's unclear right now how long he'll be out, but if he needs surgery it could be a long time. Meanwhile, we know how long Robert Francois will be out: the rest of the season, and maybe longer. He tore his Achilles' tendon late in the game after subbing for Brad Jones, who had left the game with a hamstring injury. This all leaves the Packers pretty thin at inside linebacker, which was a pretty deep position going into this weekend.
Yeah, But... - This was a good win, don't get me wrong. But the Lions were without their best player, and the Packers left plenty of points out on the field with their poor red zone performance. While it was a satisfying and significant win, it's not the kind of performance that's going to get it done in the playoffs. There's still work to do.
Up Next - The Packers head to Baltimore for a noon game with the 3-2 defending Super Bowl champion Ravens.