O'HARA'S BURNING QUESTIONS: It was a big day for the Lions' defense in 40-10 Thanksgiving win

Posted Nov 28, 2013

Mike O'Hara on the Lions' dominating defense, offensive play, rookie cornerback Darius Slay and other factors in the Lions' 40-10 win over Green Bay

Burning questions – a big day for the Lions’ defense, dominating the Packers’ quarterback, a look back at Lions-Packers history, Darius Slay’s day and kicking problems in the Lions’ 40-10 victory over the Packers at Ford Field  on Thanksgiving Day at Ford Field:

Q. Except for turnovers – Lions beating the Lions in those cases – the offense moved the ball almost at will. Was that the difference?

A. It was part of the difference, and you can’t win a game without points, but the defense was the dominating factor.

It cannot be overlooked or understated how handicapped the Packers were with Matt Flynn at quarterback with Aaron Rodgers still out and recovering from a broken collarbone.

But the defense did more than could have been asked of it in treating Matt Flynn like he was a subpar quarterback. It was an overpowering display by the defense.

Q. Was there a key play, and who stood out?

A. Answer the second part first. Everybody stood out. There wasn’t a weak link.

For example: Before the Lions got to the third quarter, rookie defensive ends Devin Taylor and Ziggy Ansah both had two sacks. Louis Delmas had a sack on a safety blitz. Linebacker DeAndre Levy had an interception, and linebacker Stephen Tulloch had a sack.

Those are big plays from all three levels – front four, linebacker, secondary.

Q. But was there a key play?

A. Not a key play, but a signature play. It was the sack and safety by Ndamukong Suh that made the lead 26-10. Suh had both arms wrapped around Flynn as he drove him backward in the end zone. He might as well have carried him into the Packers’ locker room and into the shower.

Ndamukong SuhDT Ndamukong Suh (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

It was game over – as if it already hadn’t been clinched by Calvin Johnson’s TD catch earlier in the third quarter that made the lead 24-10.

Q. What else was special about the safety?

A. It had a symbolic element to it. The Lions and Packers have a long rivalry, and it was at its best and most intense when they played every year on Thanksgiving Day. There was a revenge game when they met on Thanksgiving Day in 1962.

The Packers won the first game, 9-7, at Lambeau Field. The Lions won the rematch, 26-24. They sacked Bart Starr 11 times and got him once for a safety.

After the safety Thursday, the Fox network showed a replay of the Lions mauling Starr in 1962. It was black and white, and it was grainy – and it was a great memory for those who remember 1962. It was the only loss of the year for the Packers, who went 13-1 and won the NFL championship with a team that many considered the best in NFL history.

Q. Any unsung hero on the defense?

A. Not really unsung, but rookie Darius Slay started for the first time since Game 2. He’s had some tough times learning to play cornerback in the NFL, but he had good coverage on every pass in his area - with the exception of the 56-yard pass from Matt Flynn to receiver James Jones in the fourth quarter. It’s not a performance to rest on, but it is one to build on.

Slay started because of an injury to Chris Houston. If Darius has to play more, he should have some confidence.

Q. Matthew Stafford had an early interception and lost a fumble on a sack that was returned for a TD as the Packers took a 10-3 lead. Any cause for worry there?

A. None on my part. He has guts and confidence, and he’ll never get rattled by throwing an interception here and there. The fumble wasn’t his fault. Riley Reiff was beaten by Nick Perry, and Perry knocked the ball out of Stafford’s hand as he rushed from the blind side.

Stafford did what good quarterbacks are supposed to do. He kept throwing. He has a golden arm. He might have a bad game, or a bad series, but if the Lions are going anywhere they’re going to do it on his arm.

Q. Promise keeper: Reggie Bush said two weeks ago that he wouldn’t fumble again this year. He fumbled inside the 10 in the first quarter. What does that mean?

A. Well, they weren’t going to send him to bed without Thanksgiving dinner because he broke his promise. Things happen in games, and he made up for it by going over the 100-yard rushing mark.

Q. Does the fact that Matt Flynn played quarterback instead of Aaron Rodgers take anything away from beating the Packers?

A. Not a thing. It doesn’t count any more or any less in the standings, and that’s what is at stake now. The Lions stayed in first place, and they put the Packers a game and a half back.

Q. What about Flynn? He threw six TD passes against the Lions in the last game of the 2011 season and got a big contract from Seattle as a free agent in 2012. He got a signing bonus of $9 million. Does he owe the Lions anything?

A. I think he should pay city and state income tax on the signing bonus – or at least make a donation to the charity of MY choice – the Mike O’Hara/Tim Twentyman Fund.

We’d so something good – or fun – with the money.

Q. 12th man: There was a long delay on the Lions’ possession in the last minute of the first half. Referee Gene Steratore finally explained that the play was under review. What happened?

A. The Packers had 12 men on the field. That helped the Lions. It gave them a first down, although they really didn’t need it with 24 seconds left on the clock. But it also gave the offense a chance to regroup and set up the next play – a pass to Kris Durham for a first down at the 13.

Q. Shank: David Akers blew the scoring opportunity by pulling a 31-yard attempt on a field goal wide right. He was inconsistent early, and it’s happening again. Should there be a reason for concern?

A. It’s more than a concern. Akers hasn’t been reliable, and the lopsided score shouldn’t obscure that.

Q. Does that mean the Lions should call back Havard Rugland – better known as “Kickalicious” – the kicker from Norway who was with the Lions through the end of the exhibition season?

A. No. I would not call back a player who has never kicked in the regular season.

Q. So it’s a dead issue?

A. Yes, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t go through my mind that the Lions would think about putting in a call to see if Jason Hanson was ready and willing to come out of retirement and kick field goals.

He retired in March, and he probably isn’t in shape to kick, but when a player isn’t performing anything seems possible that would remedy the situation.

Q. Levy’s hit: Linebacker DeAndre Levy got a personal foul in the third quarter for a hit on Packers tight end Ryan Taylor, who was down and had to be helped off the field.  Good call by the officials?

A. Good call. Levy made helmet-to-helmet contact with Taylor. That gets called every time – and sometimes when it shouldn’t. It’s all about player safety. Levy can expect a fine from the league. That’s automatic, too.

For a victory that important, it’ll be worth it.