GREEN BAY – Coach Mike McCarthy said the Packers' pass offense is "close." Will this be its breakout game?
The answer to that question could decide more than just Thursday's game against the resurgent Detroit Lions. The answer could decide the Packers' fate this season.
"We did some good things. There were a few plays here and there that, had the result been different, the result of the game would've been different," Packers play-caller Tom Clements said of the team's offense in general and its passing game in particular.
Heading into a critical Week 13 game at Ford Field, the 7-4 Packers need a win to avoid falling two games behind the Vikings in the NFC North title race. A win, coupled with a Vikings loss to Seattle on Sunday, could move the Packers back into a tie for the division lead.
The Packers' passing game finds itself in an unaccustomed position: in the bottom 10 of the league's pass rankings. It's the result of a seemingly inexplicable fall from a reputation for being one of the most explosive and consistent passing attacks in the league for the last several years.
"We've had opportunities. We've had guys open. We've had some drops, we've had some missed throws," Clements explained.
As the season turns into December, time for fixing what's wrong is running out. A loss in Detroit could put the Packers in a desperate position just to make it into the postseason.
The good news is the Packers' running game, especially Eddie Lacy, has come to life. Lacy has reached the 100-yard mark in consecutive games and the Packers' rush offense is currently at No. 10.
Dom Capers' defense is also on the rise. It's played three strong games in a row and hopes to duplicate its effort of three weeks ago, when it held the Lions to 18 points in an 18-16 loss.
What is Capers' hope for December?
"I'm always hoping we're ascending. I've seen us do that around here more times than not. You look at our defense last year and it was ascending going into the playoffs," the Packers' defensive coordinator said.
"Thursday night is going to be a big challenge because this team is playing with a lot of confidence," he added.
The Lions are coming off a 45-14, Thanksgiving whipping of the Eagles. All of a sudden, the Lions have come to life with three consecutive wins following a shocking 1-7 start that cost the franchise's president and general manager their jobs.
"I'm hoping we can go in there and play our best defensive game of the year. This is the time of year teams begin to separate," Capers said.
Special Teams Coordinator Ron Zook has discovered a kickoff-return threat in Jeff Janis, who has returns of 64 and 70 yards respectively in the last two games.
"I'm happy for him and proud of him," Zook said. "And our guys are blocking pretty well. When he gets a big return like that, it gets everybody fired up.
Most of all, the Packers want to light a fire under their passing attack.