In a Thanksgiving tradition about as steadfast as eating turkey and pie with family and loved ones, the Detroit Lions will once again be hosting an NFL regular season game on Thanksgiving Day. While the poor state of the franchise in recent years has called into question whether or not Ford Field should be the recurring home for a game broadcast nationally on the Thursday holiday, this year’s Detroit Lions have a winning record and an important NFC North divisional showdown against the Green Bay Packers this holiday.
Although the Packers’ run so far this year appears to be presenting an insurmountable challenge for both the Lions’ and the Bears’ hopes of winning the divisional title this season, Detroit finally has a level of talent on both sides of the ball which allows them to be very competitive, even against elite teams. Just last November, I was in attendance at Ford Field on Thanksgiving when a Lions team quarterbacked by Shaun Hill took an early lead over the Patriots and forced New England to stage a furious second-half rally to come away with a victory. In this Madden NFL 12 entry for STAT BOX STORIES, I took control of a Lions team with a healthy Matthew Stafford under center in an attempt to spoil the Packers’ fortunes in the division.
With the Packers losing the toss, I elected to kick the ball off to begin the game so that I could have the opening possession of the second half on offense. This decision proved a good one when the first offensive play for Green Bay was a medium-length pass which was user-picked by my Lions cornerback and returned into Packers territory. Although my offense stalled out a few plays later and was unable to get into the end zone, the early field goal gave me a 3-0 lead and some confidence facing Aaron Rodgers.
After kicking the ball back to the Packers, their second offensive drive also ended in an interception. Unfortunately, Matthew Stafford was bit by the turnover bug and threw an interception on the very next play to return the favor to the visiting team. With the ball in Lions territory, the Packers attempted a 49 yard field goal which clanked off the left upright and fell back down into the end zone to keep the score at 3-0 Detroit. Two plays after that special teams miscue, Matthew Stafford found Megatron—Calvin Johnson—deep for a 62-yard touchdown pass and a 10-0 lead to round out the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, disaster was narrowly averted when Matthew Stafford was shaken up on a play and had to leave the game temporarily. With his injury history, I was understandably concerned; even with an early 10-0 lead. Thankfully, Stafford returned to the field after sitting out only a single play and was able to find the end zone again with 3:07 left in the first half on a 3-yard touchdown pass to rookie Titus Young. After the Packers offense stalled out again, another Lions drive led to a 4-yard touchdown rush by Maurice Morris and a 24-0 lead with 34 seconds left before the break. Although Aaron Rodgers found Greg Jennings for a 45-yard touchdown pass with just 9 seconds left in the half, the 24-7 halftime lead gave me considerable comfort heading into the break.
After those 31 points of combined offensive production in the first half, the second half began with each team trading punts. As the clock continued to tick down on the third quarter, I put together a drive which was finished off with Maurice Morris’ second touchdown run of the day; this time a 3-yard rush. With a 31-7 lead going into the fourth and final quarter, the result seemed very much in hand in favor of the home team.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, DeAndre Levy got in front of a pass to the flats as Aaron Rodgers tried to escape pressure and returned the ball 47 yards for a return touchdown and a quick 38-7 advantage. With possession returned to them, it only took the Packers 46 seconds to get their second touchdown on the board via a 65-yard rush by Ryan Grant, slimming the lead to 38-14. The long run would prove to be the last points scored by Green Bay, however, and another long pass—this one coming in at 67 yards—from Stafford to Johnson finalized the scoring at 45-14 in favor of the underdog Lions.
In looking at the Team Stats for the game, the Lions accumulated over 100 more yards on offense than the Packers. Even though Green Bay out-rushed Detroit—due in large part to the single long touchdown run by Ryan Grant—the Lions had 142 more passing yards for the game. One of the more unbelievable statistics for the teams is that the Packers did not manage to convert a single third down attempt in five tries, while the Lions converted seven of their ten attempts to extend drives and chew the clock. Indeed, at the end of the game Detroit had held possession for more than double the time that the Packers had the ball on offense, which was key to the one-sided nature of the final score.
In terms of Player Stats, Aaron Rodgers was far from his usual self in throwing just under 60% completion along with three interceptions. Matthew Stafford threw two interceptions—though one was on a Hail Mary attempt to end the first half—but also passed for 329 yards and three touchdowns to end up with a 114.6 quarterback rating. Neither running back ran for 100 yards—and Maurice Morris’ 2.7 yards per carry average was disappointing—but each lead halfback managed to score and contribute points to their team’s effort. Greg Jennings of the Packers had a game-high 7 catches for 108 yards and a touchdown, but Calvin Johnson showed him up with 234 yards on 6 catches for two scores.
With that, only one more STAT BOX STORIES entry remains for this Week 4: the fan vote winner for NHL 12, pitting the Philadelphia Flyers against the New York Rangers. Check back tomorrow—Thanksgiving—for this entry and be sure to check back on Black Friday for the usual wrap-up!