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Lions Have a Tough Follow-Up to Last Sunday's Win

Posted Nov 26, 2009

Ford Field was electric with the announcement of wide receiver Calvin Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford into the starting line-up on Thursday afternoon.

Both players were assumed to be out due to injury for the 70th Annual Thanksgiving Day Classic against Green Bay, but were ruled able to play during pre-game warm-ups.

Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out the way they did just four days ago in the same venue. A come-from-behind victory against Cleveland would not be replicated against Green Bay as Detroit fell 34-12 at home.

“We lost a lot of individual matchups in this game,” said Head Coach Jim Schwartz. “Offensively we weren’t able to run the ball against Cover 2 and that’s been a problem for us. We had a hard time getting open and anytime you’re in that situation when they’re playing for the pass and we’re not able to consistently run the ball you’re setting yourself up for plays that we had turnovers on.”

The game started out on a positive note when the Lions forced a fumble on the opening kickoff and recovered it on the Packers’ 20-yard line.

Detroit scored in six plays on a 1-yard touchdown to Johnson and – just like that – the Lions were ahead 7-0.

“We came out, got a turnover, we scored,” said running back Kevin Smith. “Whenever you can do that, the momentum is good, but that alone doesn’t get you wins. After that it’s about execution. The Packers’ (defense) was not (on the field) when they got a turnover.”

Though the Lions were quickly up by seven, the lead was bittersweet.

Rookie tight end Brandon Pettigrew suffered a knee injury on the fourth play of the drive and would not return to the game. This was a tough blow for both the offense and Pettigrew, who turned in his best performance of the season against Cleveland.

Against Green Bay, he had already caught a 12-yard pass to get the Lions to the six-yard line.

“We’ll probably know more tomorrow,” said Schwartz. “He wasn’t able to finish the game and that’s something that will need some serious looking at.”

As a big possession receiver, key blocker and pass protector, Pettigrew’s absence made a difference with what the Lions could do offensively for the rest of the game.

That side of the ball would struggle for the remainder of the contest, not able to find a rhythm. The Lions threw four interceptions and managed just 272 yards of total offense compared to Green Bay’s 422.

“The first (interception) was really trying to throw the ball away, kind of falling away and I threw it where our guy catches it or nobody does,” said Stafford. “That guy (Nick Collins) made a great pick and kept his toes in bounds.

“The second one, we’re getting in 3rd-and-long and I’m trying to hold the ball and I thought Dennis (Northcutt) was going to come out and he hooked it up. I threw it to where I thought he was going. It’s just one of those things.”

Even though the Detroit gave the ball up on interceptions twice in the first half, the defense was able to hold the Packers to one touchdown and two field goals on three trips to the red zone.

Because they only surrendered one touchdown, the Lions entered the locker room at halftime down just six points and they received the ball to begin the second half. Unfortunately, they threw an interception on the second play of the second half.

“We can’t turn the ball over and expect to win,” said Schwartz. “I think that’s the big part: fumbles, interceptions – a lot of that due to not being able to consistently run the football. We had some good boxes, which means good numbers for us to run the ball. We got beat up front and weren’t able to capitalize.”

The Lions were only able to rush for 73 yards on 23 carries, nearly breaking for big yardage on multiple occasions only to get tripped up.

It didn’t help Detroit’s cause that Pettigrew was out of the game and Calvin Johnson wasn’t at top speed with a knee injury. Last week against Cleveland, he was able to use his speed to open things up in the box. This week, it wasn’t so easy.

“We threw it a bunch last week,” said Schwartz. “We threw it a bunch against Minnesota. It’s not like we’re running it 50 times a game. We have been coming out and throwing it but you have a hard time winning in this league if you’re one-dimensional. You still have to run the ball.

“I don’t want to take a cop-out and say that, ‘We can’t do it so we (should) quit trying.’ That’s not our philosophy. We need to find a way for it to work and not abandon it.”

The Lions will get a weekend to rest before heading to Cincinnati next Sunday and they will need it, banged up on both sides of the ball.

The team is reporting to the practice facility tomorrow for treatment and film study before taking a three-day break.

“I think the loss still hurts,” said center Dominic Raiola. “I can’t really think about days off. We just lost a game, so I think we’re going to come in tomorrow and watch the film then take the weekend off and move on.”