One play away: The Lions were 4-5 the last time these teams met at Ford Field, with the Lions kicking off a three-game homestand that included a Thanksgiving date with the Houston Texans and last week’s game against Indianapolis. A three-game winning streak would have put them in the thick of the NFC playoff conversation. Instead, they lost all three games, despite leading in the fourth quarter in all three.
“We’re one play away from winning each of those games,” Schwartz said in a conference call with Wisconsin reporters. “We’ve just got to find a way to make that play during a critical time of the game.”
That’s the well-known “Loser’s Lament” in the NFL, as the Packers’ last two least successful coaches – Lindy Infante and Ray Rhodes – found out when they tried to use that argument shortly before being canned. It will be interesting to see how much fight the Lions have in them Sunday night given the death spiral their season is in. Perhaps they see this as a way to ruin a rival’s playoff contention and will rise up. Or, if the Packers get up on them early, perhaps they mail it in.
“Obviously our record is not where we want it to be, and in the NFL you are what your record says you are. And we understand that,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said in his conference call with Wisconsin reporters. “We've been in a lot of close games and haven't been able to come out on top for one reason or another. Got to try to play good enough this week to get a win.
“(Last year), we were winning some of those close games. The ball was bouncing our way a little bit in some of those games; that's what it takes some time. At the same time, we were making some plays that we may or may not be making this year.”
‘The Don’: The Packers did not make a roster move on Saturday, so they must feel that Lang can at least serve as an emergency backup on the offensive line. In a best-case scenario, they’d have to make a decision on whether to start Lang at his customary left guard spot and rookie Don Barclay at right tackle, or put Lang back at right tackle – where he was when he suffered his sprained ankle last Sunday against Minnesota – and continue to play Evan Dietrich-Smith at left guard. Given the way they practiced all week, though, the smart money would be on Barclay getting the nod.
While Barclay committed two penalties (one was nullified) and allowed three quarterback pressures against the Vikings after Lang went down, he’s had an entire week to prepare and should fare better than he did when he was thrust into the lineup – and it’s not as though he was bad in that stressful scenario.
“He went through the first couple series (and made some mistakes), like anyone probably would,” offensive line coach James Campen said. “You’ve got to get into a rhythm with the guy next to you, and I think he did that. He came out in the second half and made the corrections on the fly, which is a good trait to have, and adjusted well on the sideline. He did a good job.
“He was confident when he went in. It will continue to build if he’s asked to play. With each situation and every snap, it’s human nature for any of us to get more confident and I would expect him to do that.”
The Packers particularly like Barclay’s run-blocking work, as they ran behind him frequently against the Vikings. While he may not have the offense down perfectly yet, he can give a boost in other ways, Campen said.
“Donny, even when you don’t have pads on, he’s a physical presence. He’s displayed that from Day 1,” Campen said. ‘He goes 100 mph in one direction and that’s how he is. It’s a nice thing to see. He doesn’t get fooled too much by scheme or overwhelmed by situations, overwhelmed by a playbook. He’s the kind of guy who embraces his opportunity and goes get it.”
Cornering the market: Out since suffering a high ankle sprain on Oct. 14 at Houston, Shields is set to return. As he does, he’ll do so without the starting job he held at the time. But if there’s any validity to the age-old coachspeak cliché of something being “a good problem to have,” it’s the Packers’ cornerback situation.
While Shields was sidelined, rookie second-round pick Casey Hayward took over as the starter, and against the New York Giants on Nov. 25, second-year man Davon House got the nod over Hayward, who worked as third cornerback in the nickel instead. Hayward was back to starting against the Vikings, but now the Packers have three young corners all ready to play. Capers said Shields would get re-acclimated slowly and made no promises about who’ll start down the road.