“You just aren't making the guy miss or not breaking anything. They get paid, too, to tackle, so we've just got to break the tackle and keep moving,” Nelson said.
Randall Cobb leads the Packers in YAC yardage with 264 (5.9 per reception) while tight end Tom Crabtree is third with a whopping 144 of his 183 receiving yards coming after the catch, thanks to his three long TD receptions, including a 72-yarder. He’s averaging 24.0 yards of YAC per reception. For comparison, tight end Jermichael Finley has 102 YAC yards and is averaging 3.5 YAC yards per catch.
“Everyone has their own way,” Nelson said of racking up YAC. “I'm not one who's going to sit there and juke someone. I usually stiff arm a little bit but I need to change it up. Guys are getting used to it they start going lower on your legs and underneath the arms so you've got to adjust because they're adjusting. … If a guy always throws out a stiff arm, they're going to go low at your ankles instead of trying to hit you high. Whatever it is, you just have to try and avoid as much as possible.”
Line dancing : No offense to Bryan Bulaga, the team’s 2010 first-round draft pick and right tackle who was having a Pro Bowl-caliber season (save for a poor showing at Seattle in Week 3) before suffering a season-ending dislocated hip and landing on injured reserve. But if it feels as though his injury has received less attention than one might expect for a key player, you’re probably right.
That’s a testament to the team’s confidence in T.J. Lang, who shifted from left guard to right tackle when Bulaga went down against Arizona on Nov. 4, and sixth man Evan Dietrich-Smith, who came into the game at left guard. That’s where those two will line up again Sunday and for the rest of the season, barring any further offensive line injuries.
And while it’s perfectly reasonable to worry about what the Packers would do if one of their five remaining starters went down, there doesn’t seem to be the least bit of worry about a drop-off following Bulaga’s injury.
“I don’t believe it is (a significant drop-off),” offensive line coach James Campen replied when asked about that very thing during the week. “My whole thing is, the reason why I’m saying that is, and I truly believe this and I’ve said it to you guys 100 times, whoever’s starting, they’re expected to start and play as a starter. The backups should be ready to go and, if they have to go in, they’re expected to play at a starting caliber. There is no compromise with that. There really isn’t. There really is no compromise. They’re expected to win.”
Lang has played right tackle before, starting one game there as a rookie in 2009 and seeing extended action there late last season. McCarthy made a point of saying during the week that the game plan didn’t change one iota after Bulaga went down.
Coach Mike McCarthy didn’t change the game plan or his play-calling with Lang at right tackle last year and he’s not going to change a thing for Sunday and beyond.
“When the head coach says that he doesn’t have to change how he’s calling things or we don’t have to change a scheme, particularly because maybe he’s not in-tune with or can’t do something, I think that’s a big plus, obviously,” Campen said. “That’s a high compliment from the head coach to the player, no question.”
Said Lang: “I (was) definitely happy to get the chance this week to have a lot of snaps at practice to get better with the technique. Assignment-wise, I feel fine. It’s my fourth year in the system now, so I feel sharp. It’s just a matter of continuing to work on the technique and get better in that aspect.”
Dietrich-Smith, meanwhile, has gotten more serious about football after making the team as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2009, then getting cut at the end of training camp in 2010. He was out of football when the Packers brought him back just in time for the team’s run to the Super Bowl XLV title, and he’s grown up immensely since..
“I had a daughter, I have a family, I'm married now. It wasn't like that beforehand,” Dietrich-Smith said. “I was kind of going wild and just enjoying being in the NFL and stuff like that. You realize this is a job. This isn't something fun, like it used to be. People support their families by doing this job, and there's guys out there that are willing to take your job if you're willing to give it up so you've got to make sure you're doing something to earn it every day.”
The Packers accomplished their goal of a four-game winning streak and 6-3 record entering the bye, but now they have their work cut out for them. Of their final seven post-bye games, five will be against NFC North foes, starting with this one. While the Lions’ record is unimpressive, this is a dangerous team with its back against the wall and guys who aren’t afraid to mix it up. The Packers, even with their injuries, are the better team. Will the better team win? I’m not so sure. Lions 37, Packers 34. (Record: 5-4)
– Jason Wilde