Packers' fate in the hands of its defense


GREEN BAY—The game and possibly the season is in the hands of the Packers defense. Whether you like the sound of that or not, it's a fact.

A defense that was in sharp ascent not too long ago was gashed for 237 yards rushing on Sunday. A defense whose ranking had climbed to No. 11 overall heading into that fateful Monday night game against the Bears just four awful weeks ago, is now at No. 20 and falling, and the fall has to stop. It has to stop right now.

That's what it'll take for the Packers to win in Detroit on Thursday, with or without Aaron Rodgers. The Packers defense has to take this one personally. It has to stop Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson and the league's No. 3 passing attack, or the Packers' season will likely end on Dec. 29 in Chicago.

Clay Matthews has to sack Stafford. Tramon Williams, and hopefully Sam Shields, too, have to stop Johnson. A.J. Hawk and B.J. Raji and the Packers front seven have to stop Reggie Bush. There can be no excuses. We are past that point. This is crunch time. This is do-it time.

Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Lions.

1. Finish—The coach said it. This defense was in position to make plays on Sunday but didn't finish. It needs to make those plays on Thursday.

2. Run the ball—Eddie Lacy is this team's greatest weapon. He rushed for 99 yards against the Lions on Oct. 6 in what was his breakout game. The Packers need him to set a tone for the game and dominate time of possession.

3. Convert third down—A marriage of third-down conversions and Lacy combining for long scoring drives will assist the defense in its charge.

4. Deny big plays—Yes, it's easier said than done, but it's no less a fact that it's how you beat the Lions. The Steelers allowed an avalanche of big plays in the second quarter and saw the Lions score 27 points. The Steelers denied big plays in the second half and Stafford threw for just 35 yards and the Lions went scoreless.

5. Find Ziggy Ansah—The Lions are creative in how they use the rookie. He's a playmaker that must be blocked.

6. Do it again—The interior of the Packers offensive line had the game of their lives against Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley in the first meeting between the two teams.

7. Take the ball away—Stafford is coming off a four-interception game. That's how the Bucs beat the Lions in Ford Field last Sunday. Stafford is in a two-week swoon. Make it three weeks.

8. Make one big play on special teams—Recover an onside kick, recover a fumble, make a long return, execute a fake field goal or fake punt, something, anything that can help the Packers win a big game with its quarterback on the sideline.

9. Use the crowd—Half of it will be cheering for the Packers, the other half can be persuaded to turn on the Lions if things start going badly for the home team. The coach and quarterback are on the verge of being embattled.

10. Play with desperation—This is it. This is crunch time. Additional coverage - Nov. 26

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