For the first time this season, the Detroit Lions took on an NFC North opponent and it was the Green Bay Packers. Last season, the Lions swept the Packers, sending former quarterback Aaron Rodgers out of Green Bay a loser as the Lions eliminated the Packers from appearing in the playoffs after beating them in Week 18. This year things are different as Rodgers is on the Jets and the new quarterback in town is Jordan Love, who has been behind Rodgers for a few seasons now and is ready to take over as the starter.
Both teams are in similar boats to start the year so far, both dealing with injuries and coming into the matchup 2-1, ready to take control over the division. The Packers were still without two of their starting offensive lineman as left tackle David Bakhtiari and left guard Elgton Jenkins missed the game, along with starting cornerback Jaire Alexander, but running back Aaron Jones and wide receiver Christian Watson returned to the field as Watson hasn’t played yet this season while Jones missed the previous two games. Detroit saw left tackle Taylor Decker and running back David Montgomery return from injury, but were still without right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and safety Kerby Joseph.
In what started as a blowout early on with Detroit up 27-3 at halftime, the Packers were able to make it a closer game in the end. Detroit still came out on top though 34-20 to improve to 3-1 on the year.
Check out my winners and losers from the game against the Packers
The defensive line has stacked another excellent game on top of another on Thursday night. After getting seven sacks against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3, the Lions’ defensive line got five against the Packers’ offensive line. Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson was attacking not just the tackles on the offensive line, but was able to swim inside and go up against former Michigan Wolverines teammate Jon Runyan Jr. and get past him for a sack. Hutchinson finished the game with two tackles, and one and a half sacks, but he was constantly putting pressure on Love for most of the game.
Hutchinson wasn’t alone on the defensive line as defensive tackle Alim McNeill had another good game, finishing with two tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack. McNeill has had a slow start to the season but in the last two games, he has come alive and started to become a better pass rusher. McNeill made it a mission to lose weight in the offseason to become a better pass rusher and so far it is starting to show.
Defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs was a healthy scratch in the first two games of the season but made his debut against the Falcons last week and was quiet in the game. He wasn’t quiet this week as he joined the sack party as well. To end the first half, defensive end Charles Harris also got himself half a sack, and late in the fourth quarter defensive linemen John Cominsky got a sack to go with five tackles and a key two-point conversion stop. This defensive line has been solid for most of the season, as the Seattle Seahawks game was the only outlier for a poor performance by them.
My favorite rookie out of this class is continuing to make Lions fans forget about a former Iowa tight end who was drafted by the Lions in the first round a few years ago. LaPorta had a great game against the Falcons in Week 3 and like the defense, he stacked the good performance on top of another as he finished the game with four catches for 56 yards.
LaPorta is becoming Goff’s go-to option in short-yardage situations and could jump over St. Brown as that option. I predicted that LaPorta would become the best tight end Goff has ever played with back in August and so far that is looking likely. LaPorta isn’t just doing his job as a receiver but as a blocker as well. He is a well-rounded player who can do it all and something the Lions haven’t had at tight end in a long time. They either have a blocker or a receiver, not someone who can do both and do both well.
Amon-Ra St. Brown
While LaPorta is gaining the attention of opposing defenses and getting some love from Lions fans, wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is still reminding everyone that he is the number one option in Detroit. He had five catches for 56 yards and a touchdown that put his man in the spin cycle.
St. Brown wasn’t jumping off the page with Alexander being on the sideline as he was expected to do, but he was still a factor on the field. He continues to be a playmaker in the NFL and that spin move for the touchdown is just a taste of what he can do.
The Lions entered the game as the 19th-ranked pass defense, allowing an average of 225 yards per game so far this season. The Lions secondary stepped up once again this week in slowing down the opposing passing game. They held Love to 246 passing yards, allowed one touchdown, and got two interceptions. The secondary wasn’t perfect, but overall they played well. They got some help in the turnover game though as linebacker Alex Anzalone tipped a pass from Love that would get snagged by cornerback Jerry Jacobs. Jacobs would later get another interception in the fourth quarter to seal the victory and he had a nice game with five tackles, and four pass deflections to go along with the interceptions.
Rookie defensive back Brian Branch had another solid game, getting seven tackles and a pass deflection as he was making himself known in the secondary with the Packers wide receivers. Branch would leave the game with an ankle injury but would return thankfully. While the team did well in coverage overall, they also avoided the biggest issue for defensive backs going up against the Packers this season, defensive pass interference penalties.
Looked up a stat after our chat with @DustyEvely:— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) September 27, 2023
The Packers offense has already gained 154 yards on pass interference penalties.
The next closest team is Dallas... with 73.
Next closest is the Jaguars with 46.
There was only one flag called on the Lions for pass interference and it was on Jacobs in a 50/50 call that didn’t look bad, and it only gave Green Bay 9 yards so it wasn’t anything big. Still, avoiding this was a big help for the defense and seemed to slow down the Packers’ passing game.
After missing the game last week, Montgomery returned this week and made his presence known. Montgomery finished the game with 32 carries for 121 yards and three touchdowns. He was a major player when the Lions offense was inside the 10-yard line as all three touchdowns were from there.
Montgomery was also a tackle-breaking machine on Thursday night. He averaged 3.8 yards per carry on Thursday night so despite it being almost an average night for a running back, he was able to find the end zone and score when it mattered most.
Going on the road for the second time this season, the Detroit Lions fans have been traveling well. There were a lot of fans in Arrowhead Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1, and Ford Field is sold out this season, but in Lambeau Field on Thursday the Lions fans showed out once again.
There were multiple chants by the fans saying “Let’s Go Lions“ throughout the game that could be heard on the broadcast. If Lions fans can continue to show up at home games and travel well on the road, they can make opponents’ home team advantage not as strong as it should be.
While one player returning had a good return in Montgomery, Decker didn’t have his best game. Decker was playing injured and he knew he wouldn't be 100 percent heading into Thursday night.
“It’s going to hurt, but as long as I can be functional, I can deal with the pain,” Decker said. “I’ve done it plenty of times before. I’m confident I can go out there and help us win, so it’ll be fun being back out there with everybody. Big thing is just, the days leading up to the game, just make sure it’s feeling as best as it can, and just go out there. You’re going to have the adrenaline pumping and I’m sure it’ll feel even better than it did today.”
Decker struggled and allowed some pressure, but he didn’t have his worst game ever. He can bounce back next week with extra rest and heal up.
The Lions got eight penalties in the game for 70 yards and while some of the calls were correct, some weren’t. Let’s start with the correct ones. The offensive line was called for holding twice, and both calls were legit.
The penalties that were called incorrectly were big, and it wasn’t just the poor flags by the officials that were an issue, they let the Packers get away with a play with zero seconds left in the third quarter that helped them greatly.
"The clock clearly hits zero before the ball is snapped... once the game clock hits zero, it's over, it should be shut down on the field by the officials."- #TNF rules analyst Terry McAulay on the Packers' 44-yard play to end the 3rd quarter. pic.twitter.com/XikapJ9YEP— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) September 29, 2023
The officials made some egregious calls in the third quarter that helped the Packers go down the field and score a touchdown and it started with a Lions fan favorite: hands to the face on Hutchinson. After that, linebacker Alex Anzalone was called for unnecessary roughness after hitting Packers running back Aaron Jones in bounds and without forcible contact to the head.
We also can’t forget the missed holding penalty on Hutchinson that would have been turned into a safety if called. The officials didn’t have a huge impact on this game, but they certainly made it closer than it was on the field.