GREEN BAY – Burning Questions: What an offensive explosion, trick play and strong defense meant for the Detroit Lions in a 31-0 season-ending victory over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field:
Question: How much credit goes to the Lions for the way they played in a game when both teams relied heavily on backups with nothing at stake in the standings?
Answer: The Lions get credit for what they did Sunday and Sunday alone. It doesn’t erase what they did in the first 15 games – both the good and bad -- and you can’t play the “if only” game and say “if only” they’d done earlier what they did against the Packers it would have made a difference.
What they did Sunday was dominate the Packers from start to finish, and on every unit. They closed out the season with a good, solid win, and with some backup players getting extended playing time.
It was a good way for the Lions to close out the season. Winning is better than losing.
Q. Play to lose: What do you say to people who think the Lions should have lost deliberately to get a better draft position?
A. Stick to fantasy football – and fantasy, period. Teams and players don’t put in all that work over the days and weeks and months and seasons to go out and lose on purpose. It’s completely counter to the spirit of competition, and why athletes play the game.
The Lions played to win Sunday, and it’s the right thing to do – every game, from first game to last game.
Q. Aaron Rodgers factor: Does it take anything away from the victory that he went out of the game in the first half and did not return?
A. No. The Lions had a 14-0 lead when he went out with a concussion, and he wasn’t doing anything when he was in there – 3 of 5 passing for 26 yards. The Packers and Rodgers hexes over the Lions have been broken, no matter where they play.
In the last six years, the Lions have a 7-5 won-loss record against the Packers, and they’re 4-4 in games Rodgers started.
Q. Lions’ offense: They mixed it up, with a good blend of passing and running. What was the key to that, and what does it say about the future of offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter to close out the season with a strong performance?
A. It helps that the Packers are one of the poorest defensive teams the Lions have faced in the second half of the season, and the Lions took advantage of their issues. They ran the ball well, and passed it well. Matthew Stafford didn’t have a high percentage because of some drops, but the passing game was effective.
A key stat in that regard: After three quarters, with the Lions holding a 24-0 lead, the Lions had 27 runs for 97 yards and a touchdown, and 27 passes by Stafford for 209 yards and a TD.
As for Cooter’s future, that will be decided soon enough along with numerous other personnel decisions – both players and head coach Matt Patricia’s staff.
One man’s opinion: I understand the criticism of Cooter’s play calling and have agreed with some of it, but I’d be surprised if there was a change. They’ve done a lot of good things together.
Q. Trick play: For the second straight year, the Lions worked a trick play against the Packers. It was a two-point conversion pass to Stafford last year. On Sunday it was a TD pass – kicker Matt Prater to tight end Levine Toilolo – on a fake field goal.
What made it work?
A. The Packers were caught completely off guard. As Prater was lining up, the offense was jogging off the field, with the special teams getting in place. Toilolo jogged to the left sideline and stopped. There was no defender within five yards of him.
As soon as he was set, the ball was snapped to Prater, and he lofted the ball to Toilolo in the end zone. It was an easy catch, for a 14-0 lead.
Q. Taking advantage: Who were some of the players who took advantage of their playing time Sunday?
A. Brandon Powell was the most prominent of the players who haven’t been in the rotation all year. He had only five catches all season. He had six catches for 103 yards and showed some ability to get yards after the catch.
TJ Jones hadn’t done much as a backup receiver, but he had two touchdown catches and a good punt return. And Andy Jones had a couple drops, but he also made some good catches and was solid on special teams.
Q. Carryover: Does the win mean anything for the Lions next year?
A. Winning doesn’t carryover, but the good feeling might.
The bottom line on Sunday: The Lions played like a team with its head in the game. The Packers played like they wanted to be somewhere else.
The boos they heard in their home stadium made it clear that their fans weren’t happy with what they saw.
That’s one more reason to play to win.