DETROIT—Forget the yards. That was the whole idea: Give the yards, not the points. It was a strategy the Packers executed to perfection in a 27-15 win over the Lions that, no doubt, made Dom Capers' Thanksgiving Day turkey taste very, very good.
Yeah, Capers gave the Lions an old-fashioned pencil-whippin' at Ford Field on Thursday. Capers employed a two-down linemen, two-deep safeties scheme designed to take big-play wide receiver Calvin Johnson "out" of the game, and that's exactly what it did.
Johnson caught only one pass in the first half and didn't get his next catch until the Packers had already put the game out of reach. Yeah, Capers drew up a beauty, which also resulted in quarterback Matt Stafford, who had thrown five touchdown passes the previous week, throwing three interceptions against the Packers.
"I thought it was great," cornerback Charles Woodson said when asked to give his opinion of Capers' game plan. "We had a good game plan against Calvin today. I think Dom called a terrific game."
The 407 yards the Lions gained won't help the Packers in the rankings, but the frustration with which the Lions met series after series helped deliver a win that has the Packers on the verge of clinching a playoff berth and the NFC North title.
Yards? Please, that's for stat boys. The win is what counts and Capers' game plan was a winner. Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan will no doubt agree with that assessment as they review the tape. It'll be interesting to see what strategy adjustments Schwartz and Linehan will make for the next meeting between the two teams.
"That was the main thing, denying the big play down the field," safety Morgan Burnett said. "Take 81 out of the game.
"Our goal was to stick to the scheme. By playing the defense, it would allow you to come away with turnovers."
Everything about the scheme was successful. It screamed at the Lions to run the ball, and they dabbled at it and with success, rushing for 136 yards and a 6.5 yards-per-carry average, but they never had the patience to commit to it. It was as though Capers knew they wouldn't.
Capers' scheme reduced Stafford, who lives on the bomb to Johnson, to dink and dunk and throw swing passes, screens and checkdowns. Eight of his 15 first-half completions were to running backs and four were to tight ends. Only three completions went to wide receivers for a harmless 35 yards.
What we saw against the Lions, ladies and gentlemen, is likely the identity of this year's Packers defense, a unit about which Packers fans have fussed and fumed and fretted for the better part of three months. Worry no more, folks. This is who they are and this is what they do. They give yards, not points, and Head Coach Mike McCarthy can live with that because the Packers have an offense that scores points as few teams in the league do.
On the other side of Lake Michigan this Thanksgiving Day, the Packers not only won a big game, the biggest game of the season to date, they found the defense that had been missing through most of this season. Now, we can dream.
With 11 wins in the bank and only five regular-season games remaining, an undefeated season is not out of the question. Yeah, there's a tough one coming up against the Giants in New York, which seems to be a rite-of-passage game for undefeated teams, but the only remaining road game after that one is in Kansas City, unless you count the Super Bowl.
"We're 11-0. Once you get to 11 wins, 10 wins, you can see that division championship in sight. After that, it's homefield advantage. After that, it's Super Bowl. Let's win the division and then we'll concentrate on goal No. 2," McCarthy said.
The goals will start coming quickly now, and now the Packers have a defense to help them achieve their goals. Additional coverage - Nov. 24