Prior to the start of this year's NFL season, I looked down the schedule and thought that week 3 would be a victory for the Lions. Out of all the teams on the schedule, I figured Green Bay would be one of the easiest to beat. Well, I guess my initial predictions were a little off.
The Packers came to town yesterday afternoon in what was a battle of two teams that had yet to win a game. One of those teams would walk off the field with a win and a season that could still go in a positive direction, whereas the other will continue to be without that first "W" and have no hope for the rest of 2006. Unfortunately, the Detroit Lions were that second team.
In a game that seemed to go back and forth throughout much of the play, the Lions just simply couldn't score on a couple of key possessions, and in the end, that was one of the reasons for a 31-24 loss to Green Bay. Things got going quickly as a total of 28 combined points were scored in the first quarter alone. The teams cooled down as the game wore on however, and the Lions had a glimmer of hope left in them. Although they were trailing near the end of regulation, the chances were still there for a win. Detroit just didn't take advantage.
Green Bay was the first to strike big in this game midway through the first quarter to get the scoring started. On an early, yet crucial third down, Brett Favre completed a pass to rookie Greg Jennings in what looked to be a conversion, but nothing else. Somehow, Jennings slipped through the defense and managed to go 75 yards down the field for the touchdown. Jennings broke a few tackles, and that allowed him some open space to run. All that was left to take it to the house was getting past Dre Bly, and a nice cut took care of that. Jennings' touchdown had a few things attached to it. Not only did it set the tempo and gave Green Bay a 7-0 lead, but it also was Brett Favre's 400th career touchdown pass. That truly is remarkable.
The Lions would not be deterred after that big play by the Packers. That certainly was a good sign. Detroit came right back with a lighting-quick touchdown of their own. Shawn Bryson came in as the fullback and ran a route out of the backfield right by the Packers' coverage. Bryson found himself pretty open, and was thrown to. Kitna made a picture perfect pass and Bryson blew past the only defender that could catch him, rumbling 37 yards down the field for a Lions touchdown. That touchdown was only the second TD scored all year by Detroit, and when looking at it, was the first TD produced by something other than a Kitna QB sneak.
With things tied up, I had a good feeling about this game. Notice I said had. The Lions defense did give up a long play, but that's bound to happen. One mistake could lead to that. The offense rebounded and came out to answer and finally showed some promise. Now, things just had to go in Detroit's favor, and the first win could be celebrated.
Things going in Detroit's favor just simply did not happen. The Lions defense came out and held Green Bay to a three and out, which put the ball right back in Jon Kitna's hands. On the very next play following a punt, the game started to go in the wrong direction. It was simply a swing of bad luck that led to a Green Bay touchdown. Kitna threw a pass and had it deflected at a weird angle, and the ball stayed in the air long enough for Marquand Manuel to intercept it. No Detroit players were in position to take Manuel down, so he was able to return it 29 yards for the score. 14-7 Packers with just a few minutes left in the first quarter. If it weren't for a couple of fluke plays, Detroit may have had the lead.
Even with another big play by Green Bay, Detroit's offense came right back throwing to knot the score up again. On the final play of the first quarter, Jon Kitna lobbed a pass deep into the endzone in a spot where only Roy Williams could get to it. Williams did a great job of changing directions in the air and caught the ball for the 42 yard TD reception.
After just one quarter of play at Ford Field, already the Lions had scored more than both of the previous two games. The second quarter would be much different. Neither team could get anything going on offense, and on defense, the teams put a stronghold on. The only points of the entire quarter were from a 24 yard Dave Rayner field goal. The Packers did get it down to the Detroit 7 yard line near the end of the half, but Noah Herron fumbled and Paris Lenon fell on it to close out any chance of a touchdown. At the half, the Packers held a 17-14 advantage, but it was still anyones game.
Going into the second half, it would certainly be a momentum type of thing where scoring first could set the tempo for the final minutes of the game. Green Bay knew that, and they did draw first blood in the final 30 minutes.
The Lions received the ball to start things up, and actually were moving the ball pretty good in the beginning. That didn't last long though. The drive stalled and another punt was coming. Once Green Bay did get the ball back, they moved it down the field pretty easily. The receivers were open, and Brett Favre was hitting his targets. Eventually, Favre got all the way down to the 5 yard line before adding to the lead. Favre scrambled around looking for a target before he finally found Donald Driver in the endzone for the TD. The coverage just left Driver as the play took so long to develop, and because of that, the Packers now had a 24-14 advantage.
The trend of Detroit answering everything Green Bay did continued on the proceeding drive. Just as the Packers got into the endzone, Kevin Jones and the Lions followed suit soon after with a TD of their own. Jon Kitna managed the game very good at this point, and got Detroit down to the Green Bay 5 yard line. Something that Lions fans probably aren't used to seeing is a productive and efficient offense inside the 10 yard line, and today, that was present. On the first play from goal to go, Kevin Jones punched it in from 5 yards out and cut the lead down to 24-21.
When the fourth quarter got underway, Green Bay wasted little time in adding a big score to their lead. Rapidly moving the ball down the field, Brett Favre found Ahman Green for his 3rd touchdown pass of the day. This one was from 10 yards out, and gave the Packers a 31-21 lead. That meant that a comeback would be necessary if Detroit still wanted to win.
Jon Kitna went into 2-minute drill mode early and opened up the offense. Pass after pass was thrown, and quickly Detroit had moved it into Green Bay territory. They just couldn't quite move the chains however, and were forced to settle for a field goal. That wasn't all bad as a comeback did incorporate a field goal, but now the harder of the two scores was still left to do.
The Detroit defense stood tall and got it back into Kitna's hands, giving the Lions a chance to tie things up in the most important stages of this game. Unfortuantely, Detroit's offense collapsed in this pressure situation and turned the ball over on downs when Kitna was sacked on 4th down.
Figuring the game was over, I already had thoughts of 0-3 in my head. Somehow though, Detroit got another chance to pull off the comeback. Ahman Green fumbled the ball on a rush to the outside when Detroit had no timeouts left, and a Lions defender quickly picked it up. That gave Detroit 54 seconds to go 68 yards for the touchdown. The Lions just couldn't advance it enough as time quickly ticked away. The only thing they could do was throw a hail mary and hope for a miracle. That miracle almost did happen. The ball was tipped in the endzone and a diving Az Hakim was just a second too late of having a shot at making the amazing catch. But, that second separated the game from going into overtime, and gave the Packers a 31-24 win.
Now at 0-3, talk of what to do in the draft has already come up. There's no doubt the "Fire Millen" campaign will be back in full swing sooner than later, and also that a change really does have to be made. It should've been done a long time ago, and although the timing may seem weird, it could possibly give this team the kick start they so desperately need. You never know unless you try. Nonetheless, Detroit now heads off to St. Louis for a battle with Mike Martz's former team. The chances of winning this game aren't very good, so at this time next week, talk of 0-4 may be the main story. The suffering continues for Lions fans, and it now may be a while until the team gets their first win. Either way, at least some of the other Detroit teams are helping to ease the pain with great season's of their own. I just wish that some of that could transfer over to Ford Field.