(Near) Death of a Kicker - Packers: 24 Lions: 20
It's good that FOX put noted psychotherapist Joe Buck in the booth for this one, otherwise the viewing audience may never have known about Mason Crosby's inner turmoil. Whether it was pontificating on Crosby's mental struggles ("he's just really lacking confidence right now") or trivializing the profession of literally dozens of kickers worldwide by comparing their work to a casual golf game, you just knew golden-throated Joe Buck would be there, explaining everything to the ignorant masses.
In all seriousness, Mason Crosby really was all over the place on Sunday. Officially, he missed two out of his three field goal tries, but as both Buck and Troy Aikman repeatedly pointed out, Crosby also shanked an attempt that was called back due to a Detroit timeout. His final kick of the fourth quarter barely squeaked inside the right upright, too. The PAT after Randall Cobb's touchdown in the fourth quarter was Crosby's only solid kick of the game.
Kicking woes aside, the Packers had holes in other areas too. The offensive line was shaky, the run defense was questionable at best, and Calvin Johnson did just about whatever he pleased. (Side note: Johnson's Dee Brown-style dunk to celebrate his touchdown was awesome.) However, pointing out the flaws detracts from one very important thing: the Packers are 7-3.
It seems like forever ago, but after a collapse in Indianapolis six weeks ago, the Packers were 2-3 and looking up at the rest of the NFC North. Things have obviously changed quite a bit since then, but one thing is certain: the Packers took a big step toward securing a playoff spot today.
Aaron Rodgers (19/27, 236 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) - Solid numbers, but nothing spectacular from Rodger, with a notable caveat: Rodgers was lights out when it mattered most. After misfiring on his first pass of the game winning drive, Rodgers completed three consecutive passes for 68 yards, including a beautiful 22 yard toss to Randall Cobb to put the Packers ahead for good.
Randall Cobb (9 catches, 74 yards, 1 TD; 2 carries, 19 yards) - Speaking of Cobb, the second year receiver had another spectacular game, tying his career high in catches and scoring his seventh receiving touchdown of the year. The coaching staff keeps giving him more responsibility and he continues to improve his connection to Aaron Rodgers. The game winning touchdown pass is a perfect example. It's almost inconceivable to imagine Rodgers throwing that pass to a receiver he doesn't trust completely.
M.D. Jennings (1 tackle, 1 assist, 1 INT, 1 TD) - There was no simultaneous possession this week! Jennings made the most of his first* (because really, Seattle was his first) career interception, taking it 72 yards for a touchdown that no official could take away.
93 - Total offensive yards produced by Randall Cobb, who lined up as both a receiver and a running back this week. Cobb started the game Sunday lined up in the backfield with Aaron Rodgers and made an immediate impact, opening the game with a five yard reception. You know the story from there. 10 more touches, 88 more yards, and one spectacular touchdown catch.
25 - Rushing attempts by James Starks, who has without a doubt taken over as the Packers' starting running back. Alex Green was healthy and in uniform, but didn't see a single carry. Starks, on the other hand, was productive if not overwhelming, totaling 74 yards on his 25 carries. He appears to be a much stronger, more resilient runner than Green, although Starks may not be quite as good as a receiver. Whatever the case, Starks seems to have entrenched himself as the Packers' lead back.
5 - Sacks by the Packers on Sunday, even without Clay Matthews in the lineup. Erik Walden collected two, while Morgan Burnett, Davon House, and Dezman Moses each notched one apiece. Moses also forced a fumble on his sack, which was recovered by fellow rookie Mike Daniels.
Finley Sighting - It wasn't the volume, it was the timeliness of Jermichael Finley's catches this week. His first grab of the day went for 20 yards and a score on a brilliant read by Aaron Rodgers. The play appeared to have been drawn up as a screen, but Rodgers saw Finley open down the middle and took advantage. Finley's second catch was a beautiful catch and run on the Packers' winning drive. If he wants to be more involved in the offense, Finley would be well served to continue making plays like he did this week. Again, it was only three catches, but he didn't drop any balls and he was on the spot when the Packers needed him.
Rookies - Just about every rookie on defense made a play this week. Casey Hayward got his fifth interception, Davon House picked up a sack, Dezman Moses forced a fumble and Mike Daniels recovered it, and Jerron McMillian broke up a pass on fourth down late in the fourth quarter. For the sake of including everyone, let's imagine that Jerel Worthy handed Aaron Rodgers a cup of Gatorade just before the Packers took the field for their final drive. Good? Good.
.700 - That's seven wins in ten games, if you're scoring at home. Style points count for nothing when you're trying to make the playoffs. Just win, baby.
Mason Crosby - It's not too much of a stretch to think we may have seen the last of Mason Crosby in a Packer uniform. He's been horrific recently, missing seven of his last thirteen attempts, including those two bad misses today. Guys have been cut for less, and both Neil Rackers and Ryan Longwell are available.
Line Woes - Nick Fairley was in the Packer backfield just about as much as Aaron Rodgers, thanks in part to a lackluster day from Evan Dietrich-Smith. While Ndamukong Suh didn't post big numbers, Fairley and running mate Cliff Avril both made their way to Mr. Rodgers with alarming regularity. Unfortunately, there may not be an easy fix to this problem. The Packers made the decision long ago to go with fewer offensive linemen on their final roster, and now any solution to their protection problems might involve a dip into free agency.
Joe Buck - This may seem like a petty complaint, but Joe Buck is just horrible. At nearly all times he seems to be only barely concealing his disdain for the audience, and to make things worse, he's just plain inaccurate some times. At the start of the game, he said Calvin Johnson lit up Tramon Williams in a 45-41 Lions win on January 1. Of course, it's only a minor detail that the Packers, in fact, won that game. One would expect a guy with an entire week to prepare for a game to know that.
Next Up - The Packers are on the road once again next week, heading to New York to meet with the New York Giants.