GREEN BAY – Lions at Packers Final Thoughts: Reflections on the long-ago extinction (honest) of the Lambeau Curse; Kerryon Johnson not entering the duel; a coaching matchup; Random Thoughts on stats, expected appearance of the Lions' run defense, sticking with my pick and more:
"Do you believe in the Lambeau Curse?"
That was my throwaway question at the end of a recent interview with Lions GM Bob Quinn.
"Never heard of it," Quinn replied quickly. And I believe him. After all, he worked in the Patriots' personnel department for most of the period from 1992-2014 when the Lions lost 24 straight road games to the Packers.
I asked a couple of young Lions the same question.
"That doesn't mean anything to me," said third-year linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin.
Second-year cornerback Mike Ford simply shook his head and shrugged when I explained how the term Lambeau Curse had been attached to the Lions.
There's no reason for Ford and Reeves-Maybin to know about the Lambeau Curse. They've never lost to the Packers – anywhere. The Lions have won the last four games – two at Ford Field, and two at Lambeau.
In fact, more than 40 of the 53 players on the active roster either have never lost to the Packers as members of the Lions, or they have a winning record against them.
These are the recent stats: The Lions have swept the Packers the last two years and have won three of the last four games at Lambeau (2015, and 2017-18). The Lions are 7-4 in the last 11.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford was on target, as usual, with his response to a question about the Lambeau Curse.
"The toughest part about playing at Lambeau – I say it all the time – is playing the Packers," he said this week. "It's not the environment. You have to go play the Packers."
Runner vs. runner: Kerryon Johnson didn't add any fuel to what was barely a spark, let alone a fire, when asked about Packers running back Aaron Jones' comments about going into every game expecting to be the best back on the field. Jones also said he "out-dueled" Cowboys' running back Ezekiel Elliott in last week's win.
"He had a good game last week, so good for him," Johnson said. "Every game is different. It'll be a new test this week."
No running back duel?
"I never really tried to do that," Johnson said. "Maybe either I'm dumb, or I'm missing out on something."
Coach vs. coach: I always wonder how much coaches look forward to matching wits with their counterpart on the opposite sideline.
First-year Packers head coach Matt LaFleur knows from experience to be ready for the multiple defensive looks he'll face from Lions head coach Matt Patricia. That's part of the intriguing chess match that's played out when game plans are put into action.
"The thing they do such a great job of is they present so many different looks, and it really, truly is a challenge not knowing what you're going to get on each and every play," LaFleur said in his conference-call interview this week.
"I've always had a lot of respect for Matt Patricia, and I went against him when we were in Atlanta in 2016. Just all the looks out of the same personnel groupings, out of multiple personnel groups.
"They do a lot."
LaFleur was Atlanta's quarterbacks coach in 2016-17. The 2016 team beat the Patriots, with Patricia as defensive coordinator, in the regular season but lost in overtime in the Super Bowl. They had a 28-3 lead at halftime and never scored again.
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019.
Run stoppers: The Lions' run defense hasn't picked up where it left off last year, when it was one of the league's best over the second half of the season. Defensive tackle Damon Harrison Sr. was responsible for a lot of that improvement with his play in the last 10 games after being traded to Detroit by the Giants.
The run defense gave up 91.5 yards per game in the last 10 games. It's given up 124.8 a game in the first four this year.
Stretching it: Wide receivers Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay make impact with their catches. Golladay has gained first downs on 16 of his 19 receptions (84.2 percent). Jones is 13 for 18 (72.2 percent) in gaining first downs.
Unpacked: Except for the second half of last week's win over the Cowboys, when they scored two third-quarter TDs and a field goal in the fourth quarter, the Packers haven't scored much in the second half. In the first four games they scored two third-quarter touchdowns and a field goal in the fourth quarter.
They have not scored a TD in the fourth quarter in all five games.
On the run: Aaron Jones' big game last week against the Packers was eye-catching, but the Packers are averaging only 93 rushing yards per game and 3.7 per carry. The Lions are averaging 120.6 yards per game and 3.9 per carry. The big advantage is in rushing TDs – 8-1 for the Packers.
Sticking with my pick: Getting T.J. Hockenson back for a full game is an advantage for the Lions. More important is how Stafford seems to be dialed in with Darrell Bevell's offense. This is the time for the defense to pick it up for a full game. I'm sticking with my pick, despite the temptation to make it a wider margin.
Prediction: Lions 31, Packers 30.