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Scouting the Opposition, Part Two: Running Game Key for Packers the Second Time Around

December 4th, 2012 at 1:38 PM
By Max DeMara

A few weeks ago, the Green Bay Packers handed the Detroit Lions what would be the first of three heartbreaking, similar losses by rallying late and escaping Ford Field. The Lions, it could be argued, coughed that game up, but the inconsistent Packers still had to take advantage of Detroit's mistakes to win.

This time, the Lions are the visitors to a very unkind place. What will help the Packers be even more successful the second time around? What do the Lions need to watch for to finally win at Lambeau Field? We analyze the first match up in depth today from the Green Bay perspective.

Packers' Important Offensive Player: James Starks. In the first match up, Starks ran well, grabbing 74 yards on the ground in 25 carries. Though those numbers won't wow anybody, the threat of a running game was enough to keep the Lions off balance in the passing game. At Lambeau Field, the Lions cannot afford to let Starks get going at all, or they run the risk of getting caught in a complete areal blitzkrieg. Shutting Green Bay's running game out completely should be job number one for the Lions' defense Sunday.

Packers' Important Defensive Player: Morgan Burnett. Facing the Lions' high powered offense on the road wasn't an easy task for the Packers in November minus Clay Matthews, but the defense did enough to keep their team in the game thanks to Burnett's inspired effort. He grabbed 10 total tackles, had one sack and one quarterback hit. That was an impressive line of work for the safety. The Lions need to be careful of Burnett, as the safety's impact on the game can be immense. If he's allowed to have this type of game again, the Lions offense will be in trouble.

Packers' Major Problem In Game One: Kicking. Mason Crosby looked like a broken man in Ford Field, as he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with any kicks, long or short. In recent weeks, his confidence seems to have returned just a tiny bit. That's good news for the Packers, who need Crosby to be much better against the Lions this time. If it comes down to a kicking competition late, it might be wise to still put your money on Jason Hanson instead of Crosby. The Packers' shaky kicking game might well decide another close game between these two teams, and this time, it might not turn out as well if Crosby kicks as poorly as he did last time.

Packers' Major Strength In Game One: Pass defense. Green Bay only allowed 252 yards passing to Detroit in November, which isn't a ton given how the Lions have racked up the yardage recently. Moreover, outside of Calvin Johnson, few Lions' receivers were able to get going at all, and none had above 35 receiving yards. That must happen again in Lambeau Field, as Detroit will most certainly need to pass in order to win, especially to Johnson.

Intangibles: Lambeau Field. Yes, there are multiple ghosts in this place for the Lions, who haven't won in Green Bay since the days of Wayne Fontes, Glyn Milburn, Barry Sanders and Herman Moore. That's a long time. There seems to be a major pall cast over Detroit efforts in Green Bay since 1991, and the mindset of the Lions will be something to watch. Do they look defeated by the environment and their recent close losses, or will they wear blinders to it this time around?

Max DeMara is the managing editor of Lions 101. You can find him on his personal Twitter account @SportsGuyTheMax or on this site's Twitter @detroitlions101

Tags: Barry Sanders, Calvin Johnson, Clay Matthews, Detroit, Detroit Lions, Football, James Starks, Jason Hanson, Mason Crosby, Morgan Burnett, NFL

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