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Game Review: Early Production From Offense, Stingy Defense Key Victory

Green Bay’s offense got off to a fast start on Sunday, scoring two touchdowns in the first eight minutes of the game, and the defense posted their first shutout in nearly two years as the Packers defeated the Detroit Lions 26-0. - More Packers-Lions Game Center

Green Bay's offense got off to a fast start on Sunday, scoring two touchdowns in the first eight minutes of the game, and the defense posted their first shutout in nearly two years as the Packers defeated the Detroit Lions 26-0.

The win at Lambeau Field in front of 70,801 improved the Packers to 3-2 on the season and 2-1 in the division. Green Bay trails the NFC North-leading Vikings by 2½ games.

"To win at home 26-0, it's a step to get back," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "It's been 13 days since we've played. I know our football team was excited to get out there today. I thought the crowd was outstanding, playing at home at noon. Once again, home wins and division wins are very important."

Green Bay's offense started fast, posting the first opening-drive touchdown at home since the 2007 season finale, also against the Lions. Wide receiver Greg Jennings made a nice one-handed grab over the middle for 26 yards to convert a third down, and three plays later, quarterback Aaron Rodgers found wide receiver James Jones wide open down the right sideline at the Detroit 15. Jones made a nifty cutback move to elude safety Marquand Manuel at the 10, and took it in for the 47-yard score.

Green Bay's defense put the offense back in scoring position right away. On the Lions' third offensive play, a third-and-15 at their own 25, linebacker Aaron Kampman pressured quarterback Daunte Culpepper, whose screen pass intended for running back Kevin Smith was intercepted by defensive end Cullen Jenkins at the Lions' 21.

After picking up 11 yards on the first two plays, Green Bay was pushed back to the 21 because of an unnecessary roughness penalty on guard Daryn Colledge. Rodgers found tight end Jermichael Finley twice for 8-yard pickups, and then connected with fullback John Kuhn in the flat for a 1-yard score to put Green Bay up 14-0.

Rodgers was sharp in the first half, connecting on 19-of-23 passes, including 12 straight in one stretch, for 221 yards and the two touchdowns. It was his career high for passing yards in the first half of a game, eclipsing his 210 at Detroit last season, and matched his career best for any half (221 in second half vs. Atlanta in 2008).

"I felt personally I was in a good rhythm," Rodgers said. "We were able to hit some short ones early and then hit some big plays in the third quarter to kind of soften them up a bit. We couldn't run the ball that well in the first three quarters so we kind of had to rely on the short and intermediate passing game. When our shots were there down the field, we usually made the most of them."

But as productive as the offense was, it let some opportunities slip away the rest of the game. Green Bay's offense returned to the red zone two more times in the first half and four more times in the game, but was only able to come away with nine points on three field goals from Mason Crosby.

In an all-too familiar theme thus far this season, both of those red-zone trips in the second quarter were affected by sacks, the first one a 9-yard loss on a second-and-3 from Detroit's 9, and the second a 5-yard loss on a second-and-8 at the Lions' 8. The Packers also had a first-and-goal from Detroit's 3 late in the third quarter that ended with a turnover, a sack/fumble by Rodgers forced by linebacker Julian Peterson to thwart another scoring chance.

"It's nice to have a field goal kicker who bangs them home every time, but it's disappointing when - especially you get the ball inside the 10 - and you come away with three (points) or nothing," said Rodgers, who was sacked five times for 30 yards. "Those can be momentum killers.

"Thankfully our defense played great today...but when we're playing a team that maybe has a little more experience on offense, we're going to have to cash in those opportunities for seven and not three because those are big momentum swings for the game."

Rodgers went on to finish 29-of-37 for 358 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for a 113.7 rating. It gave him back-to-back games of 350 yards for the first time in his career, and his 78.4 completion percentage ranks second in team history for a quarterback with 35-plus attempts in a game, trailing only Brett Favre's 79.5 percentage set at Minnesota on Nov. 22, 1998, on 31-of-39 passing. He completed passes to nine different players, a season high.

"We've got to do what's working for us, and when they're going to take away the run earlier in the game, we've got to be efficient in the passing game," Rodgers said. "We were very efficient in the first half, and missed a couple in the second half we'd probably want back; but we're going to stick with what works."

While the offense was having some trouble converting in the red zone, Green Bay's defense was preventing the Lions' offense from even getting there for most of the game.

{sportsad300}Playing without two of their top offensive players, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford, the Lions were only able to muster 149 yards of offense against the Packers, the least amount of yardage allowed by a Green Bay defense since Dec. 21, 2006, when they limited Minnesota to just 104 total yards.

The defense didn't allow a third-down conversion all afternoon, stopping the Lions on each of their 10 opportunities. Backup quarterback Daunte Culpepper completed just 6-of-14 passes for 48 yards before leaving the game in the second quarter with a hamstring injury, and third-stringer Drew Stanton didn't fare much better, connecting on just 5-of-11 attempts for 57 yards. The Packers also sacked the Lions' quarterbacks five times, a season-high. Running back Kevin Smith posted 61 yards on 15 carries, but take out two long runs of 19 and 20 yards, and he managed just 22 yards on the other 13 carries (1.7 avg.).

"I think it was a great team effort by the defense," defensive end Cullen Jenkins said. "Everybody came in and it seemed like we were pretty assignment-sound out there. It's just a matter of everybody being on their spots on every play. Everybody trusted that everybody else would do what they were supposed to do, and nobody tried to make too much happen. I'd say it was just a great effort."

Detroit's offense only threatened twice all afternoon. The first came at the end of the opening quarter when the Lions moved the ball to the 21 before facing a fourth-and-1. Culpepper's pitch to running back Kevin Smith was snuffed out by a pair of rookies, linebacker Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji, for a 1-yard loss.

The Lions finally got inside the Green Bay 20 midway through the fourth quarter, but Stanton's third-down pass from the 10 intended for wide receiver John Standeford was picked off by safety Atari Bigby in the middle of the end zone to preserve the first Green Bay shutout since they blanked Minnesota, 34-0, on Nov. 11, 2007.

"Anytime you get a shutout, it's big time," Kampman said. "It was important for our team; any win is. We've got to continue to fix some things. You can't ever gloss over anything in a win. Obviously we've still got some things we need to correct, but for the most part, we really played well."

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