Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Packers

Detroit Lions interim head coach Darrell Bevell

The Detroit Lions in their first game under interim head coach Darrell Bevell pulled off a huge win last Sunday. Bevell brought a change of attitude and it worked against the Bears.

It just gets tougher when the Lions (5-7) face the division rival Green Bay Packers (9-3) at 4:25 p.m. on Sunday at Ford Field.

Bevell has to keep the team focused despite the changes and uncertainty of the future.

“I always worry about us over-trying and trying to get outside of what we’re doing to make a play. That’s why the focus is really on – it’s always about us. It’s about how we play,’’ Bevell said. “The football field has not changed dimensions. The football hasn’t changed dimensions. The game that they’ve been playing since they were 8 years old hasn’t changed at all. It’s just go out there and play, play fast, play free. I think that can be a really freeing experience where you get out of your own head, you just go play a game that you love to play, and you play it at a high level and not worry about those types of things.”

In Week 2 at Lambeau Field, the Packers beat the Lions, 42-21.

Five things to watch:

  1. The Lions’ defense had trouble stopping the Bears in the first half last week. They were able to tighten up in the second half and made a key play (Romeo Okwara’s strip sack) in the waning minutes. The difference?
    When we came out at halftime, there was no panic. Went in there and had a great conversation, showed the things we didn’t do well, didn’t tackle very well in the first half, didn’t really schematically get beat, just guys out of position,’’ defensive coordinator Cory Undlin said. “So came out of the tunnel at halftime, didn’t blink, and I think that obviously showed up in the second half. Moved some things around, some pieces, made some adjustments, again nothing major, but I think the credit goes to the players coming out of halftime, nobody’s head was down.’’

2. Stopping Aaron Rodgers will present much more of a challenge. Rodgers has thrown 36 touchdown passes against just four interceptions this season. The Packers’ offense scores more points per game (31.6) than any other NFL team and ranks second in yards per game (396.6). “Well just playing Aaron Rodgers makes you adjust to everything. He’s just playing at such a high level right now. He does an outstanding job of understanding, diagnosing what you’re presenting him, and then he gets the ball out as quick as anybody,’’ Bevell said. “So he’s a hard guy to get to, so you have to change things up, you have to try to mix it up for him, to make it as hard as you can on him. But like I said, he’s about as good as they come at diagnosing all that.”

3. Matthew Stafford threw for 402 yards against the Bears including three touchdown passes. Five of his receivers caught passes of at least 20 yards. “As I said, we have those (big plays) built in, we’re trying to look for them. But we did talk about just aggressively, how much we wanted to take them. I think it was a perfect storm that we were finally able to get as many as we got,’’ Bevell said. “Matthew (Stafford), I thought he was – like I said earlier – I thought he was really settled in. I thought he did a great job inside the pocket with some tough rushes at times, but his eyes continued to stay downfield. And then, he just took them and gave his guys opportunities to make plays. I think that a couple of them, particularly the one to (Quintez) Cephus on the right side for the touchdown, I mean he gave him an opportunity, and he took the shot. We’re continuing to work on that and hopefully it stays in that direction.”

4. With D’Andre Swift out last week, Adrian Peterson rushed for 57 of the Lions total 60 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Swift is officially questionable to return, recovering from an “illness.” He really could provide a boost. Wide receive Kenny Golladay is out for the sixth straight game with a hip injury. 

5. Bevell has preached that the players keep playing hard no matter what the scoreboard reads. It worked in his first game. “That’s the thing that we’re trying to instill, is to do exactly that, is to make sure that you don’t measure the game,’’ Bevell said. “You can come out and the team can have – you’ve seen it before — you get great momentum with an opening kickoff for a touchdown, and you lose 35-7. Or you get up 21-0 at half, and you lose 28-21. It doesn’t really matter how you start, although you want to start well. But it does matter how you finish, whether that you can break it down to a play, you can break it down to a quarter, to a half, and all the way until the end of the game. So that’s what I’m trying to instill in these guys, ‘Don’t measure it.’ It helps you from avoiding the emotions that you can get caught up in in the game.’’

Prediction: Packers 38, Lions 30

Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on Amazon.com. She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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