GREEN BAY, Wis. -- How much longer can Aaron Rodgers keep doing this with smoke and mirrors -- if that’s what you can call the collection of receivers the Green Bay Packers had by the end of things on Monday night against the Detroit Lions?
A week after the Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys with four completions -- four -- to receivers (the first time they’ve won a game with so few catches by wideouts in 18 years), they did it to the Lions, beating them 23-22 on Mason Crosby’s 23-yard field goal as time expired. Green Bay did it without Davante Adams (missed his second straight game, turf toe) and without Geronimo Allison (left the game in third quarter, head injury).
That’s two of their three starting receivers.
They did it with Marquez Valdes-Scantling and a couple of receivers you probably had never heard of.
One of them, Darrius Shepherd, nearly cost them the game with a fourth-quarter drop at the Lions’ 1-yard line that turned into an interception.
The other, Allen Lazard, helped them win the game.
Lazard, who came in with one career NFL catch for 7 yards (Week 17 of last season), had all four of his catches in the fourth quarter. Among them, a 35-yard touchdown catch and three catches on the drive that set up the game-winning field goal.
"With Davante out and Geronimo goes down, we finally get Allen in the game, and that’s what he does," Rodgers told ESPN's Lisa Salters after the game. "He’s been doing it in practice a bunch. Good to see him finally get an opportunity to make some big plays."
Yes, the Packers are going to need Adams back sooner rather than later, but at 5-1 and with a winnable home game against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at Lambeau Field, perhaps they can get by like this for another week.
Promising trend: For the third straight week, the Packers had a player go for 100 yards of total offense in the first half. And it has been three different players. Running back Jamaal Williams (107 yards -- 79 rushing and 28 receiving) did it against the Lions after Aaron Jones (114) did it in Week 5 against the Cowboys and Adams (158) in Week 4 against the Eagles.
Promising trend II: The Packers signed Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith to disrupt quarterbacks, and there’s no more important time to do that than on third down. They came through again on football’s most important down. Preston had 1.5 sacks on third down against the Lions and Za’Darius added one. For the season, Preston has 3.5 sacks on third down, and Za'Darius has three -- meaning half of their 13 combined sacks this season have come on third down.
Troubling trend: Fumbles were not a major issue for the Packers coming into the game. They had four (and lost three) through the first five weeks of the season. Only three teams had fewer fumbles or lost fumbles. But Jones coughed it up on a first-quarter run and Shepherd on a third-quarter punt return. Jones’ fumble was just the third of his career -- and second lost -- in his two-plus NFL seasons. The Packers' defense held the Lions to field goals after both fumbles.
Eye-popping NextGen Stats: On Jones’ dropped touchdown pass in the second quarter, he had 4.6 yards of separation from the closest defender. Meanwhile, Matthew Stafford completed two deep balls to open the Lions’ first two drives of the game. They were his two longest completions, in terms of air distance, this season -- 43.6 air yards on the flea-flicker to Kenny Golladay and 55.2 air yards on a deep ball to Marvin Hall. Both came against Packers cornerback Kevin King.