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Holes were there, the ball wasn't

Posted Nov 19, 2012

Green Bay Packers running back James Starks

GREEN BAY—The Packers offensive line created running lanes, but too often the ball was carried in other directions.

“He ran hard. He pushed the pile,” Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements said of running back James Starks, “but we did leave some yards out there. The line blocked pretty well. We missed some holes.”

The Packers attempted 29 runs vs. 27 pass attempts, a rare pro-run play-call mix. Starks rushed 25 times for 74 yards, with a long run of 11 yards. The rushing attempts helped the Packers in their effort to protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers against a fierce Lions pass rush, but a lack of production in the running game contributed to a day of stalled offense for the Packers.

“They were in a defend mode and they were able to get pressure with their front four,” Clements said of a Lions defensive scheme that crowded the passing lanes and invited the run.

“When we needed him to play well at an important time, he did,” Clements said of Rodgers, who led the Packers on a game-winning, 82-yard drive that culminated in a 22-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb with 1:55 left to play.

It’s a win that will send the Packers into a tie with the Bears for the NFC North lead, provided the Bears lose in San Francisco tonight.

The Packers defense was the star of Sunday’s win. The same Lions team that threw for 502 yards in last season’s finale totaled only 266 yards passing on Sunday. It was an especially impressive performance by the Packers, considering they were playing without star linebacker Clay Matthews.

“There were times when we had six rookies on the field,” Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said.

Second-year safety M.D. Jennings’ 72-yard return of a third-quarter interception staked the Packers to a 14-10 lead. McCarthy referred to it on Monday as one of the most exciting plays he’s ever witnessed.

Kicker Mason Crosby’s mysterious slump was the main topic in Monday’s media sessions. Crosby missed two of three kicks on Sunday, not including a miss when he was being iced. He’s missed seven of his last 13 field goal attempts.

Support for Crosby hasn’t wavered, but the words are edged with a greater sense of urgency.

“We need to have a good week of practice and he needs to start making field goals. That’s it,” Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum said of Crosby. “He just needs to line up and kick the ball down the target line.”

Slocum said the Packers would’ve followed through with what would’ve been a 58-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter, had the play not been halted by a penalty against Tom Crabtree for illegal procedure. Crabtree lurched into motion, an obvious attempt to draw the Lions offside on a fourth-and-5 play. His movement was interpreted to be an attempt to simulate a play.

“If there had been no penalty, it would’ve been kicked,” Slocum said.

The Packers trailed, 17-14, at the time. A missed field goal attempt would’ve given the Lions the ball near midfield.

“He needs to move forward for us to be as good as we can be as a football team. This is a time that’s really going to show what he’s made of. Changing players is the easy thing to do,” Slocum said.

Additional coverage - Nov. 19
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