GREEN BAY – The Packers need to prevent the Lions from turning back the clock in serious fashion Monday night.
Detroit has won four straight games against Green Bay, sweeping the last two season series. The last time the Lions swept the Packers in back-to-back years was 1982-83. That's bad enough.
But to find the last time the Lions won five straight in this rivalry? You have to go all the way back to the pre-Lombardi era of the 1950s, when the Lions won a series-best 11 straight games against the Packers, a streak that spanned three Green Bay coaches (Curly Lambeau in '49, Gene Ronzani from '50-'53, and Lisle Blackbourn in '54).
The Packers don't need this longstanding series to harken back to that time. On top of that, a Detroit team that didn't win a game on Wisconsin soil for nearly a quarter-century (1992-2014, a streak of 24 contests, including playoffs) is suddenly looking for its third straight win at Lambeau Field and fourth over the past five years.
Yeah, it's time to put a stop to this. Sure, the Packers haven't had quarterback Aaron Rodgers for three of the four games in the Lions' current run, but they didn't have Rodgers or Brett Favre in the '70s or '80s, either, and they never lost five straight to these guys.
If there's one thing that jumps out as the biggest key, it's getting Detroit QB Matthew Stafford off his game. Stafford has been in a comfort zone over the past two years against Green Bay, posting a cumulative 122.0 passer rating in the four-game streak. He has completed two-thirds of his passes (80-of-120) for 1,133 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions.
In Stafford's first 13 career games against the Packers, Green Bay intercepted him 19 times. Now the Packers haven't picked off one his passes since the 2016 regular-season finale.
The Green Bay Packers held practice outside on Clarke Hinkle Field on Saturday in preparation for their Monday night matchup with the Detroit Lions.
So, Green Bay's revamped, takeaway-centric defense needs to bring its best. The unit already looks starkly different compared to last year in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's second season, let alone 2017 before Pettine arrived and Detroit started this streak on, ahem, a Monday night at Lambeau.
The implications in the here and now are significant, too. With the Packers at 4-1, the Lions 2-1-1, the Vikings 4-2 and the Bears 3-2, the winner will be the only team in the NFC North with just one loss.
Furthermore, for the Packers, following up the Weeks 1-2 wins over Chicago and Minnesota and getting to 3-0 against division opponents would be invaluable.
After Monday, Green Bay doesn't play another NFC North game until facing all three foes over the final three weeks of the regular season, including road trips to Minnesota and Detroit to finish the slate. The Packers have a gap of seven games, plus the bye week, without a division game before the concluding gauntlet.
In contrast, this is the Lions' first division game of 2019, and it begins a stretch of five NFC North clashes over their next nine contests. This starts the meat of Detroit's schedule, and the Lions have enjoyed their bye week to get ready for it.
"Obviously, these are important ones when it comes down to tiebreakers and putting yourself in a position to have a chance to make the playoffs," Rodgers said. "This should be a big leg up early in the season for us to go to 3-0 in the division."
Meanwhile, the Lions are out to prove they're in this NFC North race for the long haul. After blowing a big, fourth-quarter lead in Week 1 at Arizona and settling for an overtime tie, the refrain "same ol' Lions" was commonly heard.
Not so. Their road win at Philadelphia stands out, and they took AFC powerhouse Kansas City to the wire in a close loss.
This Lions team is feeling good about how it's playing in 2019, and about how it has handled the Packers the last two years. It's up to the Packers to change that.
"They're a couple plays away from being undefeated," cornerback Chandon Sullivan said. "We know how dangerous they are. We can't take them lightly. They're just coming off a bye week. It's going to take everybody."