The real reason Detroit Lions never had a chance to upset the Packers

Detroit Free Press

Shawn Windsor
 
| Detroit Free Press

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The Green Bay Packers beat the Detroit Lions on Sunday afternoon at Ford Field. Because the Green Bay Packers always beat the Detroit Lions … at Ford Field, at Lambeau Field, at whatever field the Lions choose. 

It doesn’t matter. It always ends the same, often painfully. 

And did again, a 31-24 loss all but ending the Lions’ playoff chances, giving interim head coach Darrell Bevell his first defeat and reminding anyone who watches this team that while the Lions played with more spirit and life for the second week in a row, the talent gap between the top of the division and the bottom is too great. 

But then you knew that.  

Still, you hoped. 

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Maybe, there was a run of wins to finish the season. Maybe, the coaching change might produce a miracle. Maybe … well, come, on. These are the Lions. And the Packers. And they have Aaron Rodgers. And he had all the time he wanted — or needed. Not that he needs much. 

In fact, the difference between the teams — other than seven points — was in how each protected its quarterback. As Rodgers dropped back and scanned the field and pitched a lounge chair and peered the horizon for whales, Matthew Stafford dropped back and ducked. 

Or threw out of bounds. Or scrambled, head down, plowing into a front seven that harassed him all day, until finally he couldn’t get back up without pain. Lots of pain. Enough pain to keep him from the game on the Lions’ final possession, when they had a chance to cut the lead to three. 

Not that his absence mattered at that point. The Lions still had to give the ball back to Rodgers. And they couldn’t stop him.  

They had no hope of stopping him, 5 yards followed by 7 yards followed by 12 yards, again and again, an inevitable, grinding sludge. It might have been better if Rodgers and his Packers whipped the ball down the field, scoring quickly.  

That certainly would’ve been more merciful. 

As it was, the Packers let the Lions feel like they were in the game. And they were, technically. They were emotionally, too. A credit to Bevell, who prepped the team in his own image for the second week in a row. 

It showed.  

Yet no amount of positive change in meetings and film sessions and practice can make up for sheer force and talent up front. You might point to the Lions’ wobbly secondary, and that’s true, it’s not stocked with playmakers, though Darryl Roberts made a diving pass breakup near the sideline late in the second quarter to force a punt. 

Yes, an actual punt — the Packers punted twice. 

It was gorgeous, Roberts laying out, and jarring because such plays are so infrequent for the Lions on that side of the ball. Again, not that the defense didn’t try.  

The Packers are good. They lead the league in scoring per game. There is little shame in giving up 31 points to them, which happens to be how many the score every week. 

To have hope of a few more stops, though, to force a coach to send out his punter more often means the attack up front, where the Lions struggle to get push in the middle, has to change. Of all the challenges the next general manager faces, this is the toughest.  

Stafford will be fine for another year or few if that’s the rebuild they want. The offense should get better.  But as gifted as Rodgers is, even he can’t lead a 30-point effort if he’s got defenders in his face.  

So, yes, the playoffs are more or less out of reach. The Lions must win out to reach .500. And, yes, the Bevell bounce came up a little short. 

But don’t dismiss what he has done to the tenor of the team and the difference he has made in how it carries itself on the field and on the sideline.  

The Lions fought Sunday. They stayed in the game despite deflating, demoralizing, dispiriting drives by the Packers, drives that lasted nearly 9 and 8 minutes in the third and fourth quarters.  

[ Opinion: Loss to Packers puts an end to Darrell Bevell’s candidacy for Detroit Lions coach ]

They hung around and didn’t beat themselves and mostly avoided penalties and made a few slick plays of their own.  

True, it’s still a loss. And in the end, I suppose that’s what matters. But if you’re looking at the roster and the culture Bevell is trying to shape and the way this team has looked the last two Sundays, it’s not that hard to see something that looks a little different. 

The Packers are just more talented where it matters. That’s all. And they needed a 58-yard field goal in the end to prove it.

Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or swindsor@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.

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