Uh-oh, somebody learned a new trick.
The Packers might have just showed something that could make them the favorite in the NFC, something so out of character you want to check IDs.
No, really, the Packers. They did. Honest.
The go-ahead touchdown in their 27-20 win over the Lions came on a possession on which they didn’t pass the ball. Their seven play, 57-yard touchdown drive to take the lead all came on the ground. And it wasn’t just Aaron Rodgers scrambling. They used Alex Green, brought Ryan Grant out of unemployment, gave it to DuJuan Harris, who was cut by the Jaguars earlier this year.
The Packers finished with 140 yards on the ground, after running for 152 last week in a win over the Vikings.
That could be trouble, as it lends some balance to a team which we know can throw it with anyone.
The Packers don’t have the blockers to be an old school, cloud-of-dust team, but being able to show a different aspect is only going to make Rodgers more dangerous.
And that’s not anything anyone else in the NFC really wanted to think about.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh might not be a dirty player.
He is at the very least a selfish player.
His third quarter penalty, for shoving Aaron Rodgers after taking a few steps, wasn’t the kind of shot that will earn Suh another fine. Or at least it shouldn’t. But it was a cheap 15 yards, and the Packers turned it into a touchdown.
It was just a senseless, pointless penalty. He knows refs are looking at him more closely than others because of his reputation. And he still does it.
But as long as it’s tolerated, the Lions are getting exactly what they deserve.
2. That said, the casual attitude about what might be a lack of institutional control with the Lions is amazing.
They were up 14-0 when they were penalized for excessive celebration, the kind of thing smart teams don’t tolerate.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz took shots at Titus Young last week for being a bonehead, but there are a lot of folks on his sideline who seem to be in this for themselves, or aren’t being held accountable for silly mistakes.
3. Packers cornerback Tramon Williams doesn’t get nearly the amount of publicity as other cover men.
But after playing one-armed last year, he’s back to the kind of excellent defense he played before shoulder problems.
No one’s going to take Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson completely out of a game, but Williams came as close as anyone has (Johnson finished with 10 catches for 118 yards, and it seemed like a slow night).
4. They usually can’t/don’t run, their offensive line is a mess, and their defense is too banged up to do all the things they’d like to do.
And the Packers biggest problem in the postseason might be their kicker.
Mason Crosby missed from 52 in the third quarter, extending a bad run for a guy they’ve taken great pains to defend.
Then again, sending him out to try a 52-yarder when he’s been missing, on a night when the conditions are awful for kicking, doesn’t do much to help him build confidence.
A punt is not a bad play. Take the field position. Pin the Lions deep. Try again later, instead of giving the other guys the ball at midfield.
5. Speaking of missing parts for the Packers, Clay Matthews can’t get well fast enough.
They have no pass rush to speak of without him, and they’re pushing all the buttons they have at their disposal. Sometimes scheme can only take you so far, and the lack of physical talent can’t be X’d and O’d away.
That’s where the Packers are now defensively.