The end result Sunday makes no sense. After all, the Packers were dead and buried, had they been playing anyone but the horrifically snakebit Lions.
When the chips were down, the Lions couldn't avoid a back-breaking penalty, couldn't buy a call on Charles Woodson when many a player would have drawn one, and couldn't get the ball back.
It's sad in a way for Detroit. This is a franchise full of hard-working people, trying like crazy to erase the franchise's long-standing reputation as a laughingstock. There are many dedicated Lions fans who don't even bother getting their hopes up anymore.
And why should they? They're one road loss away from tying their own franchise record. They haven't won a game in Green Bay since back when people actually liked Bill Clinton. They are 0-4 after going 2-14, and they went 0-16 before that. That's 2-34 over 36 games.
Sunday, the Lions thoroughly outplayed the Packers, something that doesn't happen often, especially in Green Bay. Sunday was the first time since 2006 that they kept their margin of defeat in Green Bay under ten points.
They've made some progress this year, but as coach Jim Schwartz said after the game, they have to find a way to get "over the hump."
Meanwhile, the Packers sit at quite the uneasy 3-1.
It's uneasy because the Packers have yet to play anything remotely resembling a complete game. One-fourth of the season is complete, and the Packers have the following marks on their record:
- No-showed most of the second half at Philadelphia. It was excused in part because of an injury necessitating a quarterback change for the Eagles, and Michael Vick is a bit
betterdifferent compared to Kevin Kolb.
- Got outplayed like crazy in the second quarter of the home opener against Buffalo, leaving the paying customers nervous at halftime. Stomped on the Bills in the second half, winning the game easily in the end.
- Something about 18 penalties and a slew of dumb mistakes in that loss to the Bears. The second-half performance was one for the ages, and not in a good way.
- The pass defense took the game off against Detroit, allowing something called Shaun Hill to throw for 331 yards, run for 53 more, and nearly engineer what has to be called a huge upset. When the Packers blitzed, they got burned in man coverage. When the Packers didn't blitz, they didn't get enough pressure to rattle Hill, and their zones were useless against Detroit.
Frankly, the Packers look out of synch right now. They can't seem to get in a rhythm on either side of the ball for more than a quarter at a time. This team is good enough to win games like this, but it does leave them with a lot of work to do in the last three-fourths of the season.
It's far from lost at this point. There's a lot of football to be played, and this isn't 2006, when McCarthy was somehow able to coerce eight wins out of a pretty average football team. There's talent, and help is coming when Al Harris and Atari Bigby come off the PUP list in a few weeks (we hope/think). That adds much-needed depth to the secondary, perhaps allowing guys like Morgan Burnett, Derrick Martin, and Jarrett Bush to play a lot less, even when Dom Capers wants to use his nickel defense.
They're on the road to Washington next week. The Redskins aren't overwhelming anyone with their passing game these days, but they might try to get that part of their offense well next week against a struggling Packer secondary. Of course, Capers has to cringe at the thought of Donovan McNabb running against the Packers, given what Jay Cutler and Hill have done with scrambles the last two weeks.
At some point in the next month, expect the Packers to hit their stride. The fans hope so, because while everyone and their mother had the Packers in the Super Bowl before the season started, they've yet to show anything remotely resembling that form. The NFC North race is far from over, because no one in the division is good enough to run roughshod, but the Packers can ill afford to continue playing like they have. The schedule is just beginning to get tough.