By Tom Pollin (@tjpollin)
Cold, Hard Football Facts' Black & Blues Brother
The three NFC North teams in action in Week Six, for better or worse brought back memories of their 2011 identities.
The Green Bay Packers toyed with the previously undefeated Houston Texans from the opening drive of their game to the final play on Sunday night in a never in doubt 42-24 win.
The Detroit Lions had lost five straight games to the Philadelphia Eagles dating back to 1986 before coming back from a 10 point fourth quarter deficit for a 26-23 overtime win that will have the Eagles and their fans questioning whether they’re capable of being playoff contenders this year.
The Minnesota Vikings’ defense couldn’t contain rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III in the air or on the ground. Griffin dominated the Vikings in a 38-26 victory that vaults the Redskins into a tie for second place in the NFC East.
The Bears ended the day all alone at the top of the division after their bye but from first to last place, the race for the division championship has tightened considerably. With the Week Six action complete here are five things we learned.
1. The Packers dominated the Texans from start to finish on Sunday night.
The Packers have struggled to a 2-3 record through the opening part of their schedule this season but never lifted their foot off the gas against the Texans. Aaron Rodgers had a game reminiscent of 2011, finishing with 24 completions in 37 attempts for 328-yards, an 8.9 Real Passing Yards per Attempt average and a 133.8 Offensive Passer Rating.
Rodgers’ six touchdown passes tied the franchise record set by Matt Flynn in 2011 in a Week Seventeen throwaway game against the Lions. Before that, the feat hadn’t been accomplished since Tom Brady threw for six touchdowns in a 59-0 win against Tennessee in Week Six of 2009.
What makes the Packers’ win more impressive is the offensive dominance they displayed came against the team that was solidly in either the No. 2 or No. 3 spot in nearly all Quality Stats defensive rankings.
On defense the Packers held Texans’ quarterback Matt Schaub to a 56.6 Offensive Passer Rating and their normally generous Defensive Hogs unit held Arian Foster to 29 yards rushing on 17 carries. Foster’s longest run on Sunday night was for 5-yards.
Considering the Packers’ struggles during the first third of the season it’s a bit early to say that they’re completely back to their 2011 form but they showed, for one game anyway, that they still know how it’s done.
2. The Lions reached back to 2011 for a little of that fourth quarter magic.
The Lions were losing 13-6 heading into the fourth quarter and the Eagles made the score 16-6 a little over a minute in. Despite that deficit, the Lions kept fighting and finished with a much needed win that keeps them from falling completely out of the playoff race.
Matthew Stafford was on the way to his worst passing performance as a pro quarterback, 25 Attempts, 9 Completions, 126 YDS, 1 INT, a 5.04 Real Passing Yards per Attempt average and a 38.1 Offensive Passer Rating. Those are the types of numbers that had droppe
d the Lions into a 1-3 hole as they headed into their bye week.
Once Stafford took the field with 13:39 to play in the fourth quarter he transformed into the quarterback that led the Lions to the playoffs last season. In that quarter Stafford attempted 20 passes, completed 13 for 185-yards, 1 passing and 1 rushing touchdown, a 9.3 Real Passing Yards per Attempt and a 111.5 Offensive Passer Rating.
Even when Michael Vick hit a wide open Jeremy Maclin for a 70-yard touchdown pass to extend the Eagles’ lead back to 10 points at 23-13 with 5:18 left in the game the Lions didn’t let it shake them.
Calvin Johnson made the key catch on the drive to the game tying field goal drive when he kept his toes barely inbounds while snaring the ball for a 16-yard completion to
3. The Vikings got RGIII’d.
The Eagles’ 25-yard line with just over one minute to play in the game. The Lions finished that drive at the Philadelphia 1-yard line before running out of time and settling for the game tying field goal.
The Vikings led the Redskins 9-0 after the first quarter and it was all downhill for them from there. Griffin completed 17 passes in 22 attempts for 182-yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, an 8.1 Real Passing Yards per Attempt average and a 97.2 Offensive Passer Rating.
On the ground Griffin rushed 13 times for 138-yards and 2 touchdowns, including his 76-yard touchdown run to plunge the dagger into the Vikings after they had closed the score to 31-26 with just under four minutes left in the game.
Up to the point where Griffin ran the game out of reach, the Vikings had done a great job of coming back against a 19 point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter when they trailed 31-12. No team had come back from that far behind to win a game since the Titans did it against the Giants in November of 2006 but, if they could have contained Griffin in the pocket on a third and six blitz, the Vikings would have had an excellent shot to do it.
What ultimately doomed the Vikings in the game was how efficient the Redskins were in turning their yards into points.
Going into the game the Vikings were ranked No. 5 in Bendability, the number of yards an opponent needs to gain against them per point. The Vikings were forcing teams to gain 19.25-yards for each point scored, or the equivalent of 134.75 yards gained to score a touchdown plus extra point.
The Redskins averaged 9.5-yards gained per point scored against the Vikings, or the equivalent of 66.5-yards for every touchdown plus extra point. No one is going to win a football game when they allow their opponent to cut the field by a third for each score.
4. The Lions and Vikings can take a lesson from the Packers.
The Lions had missed opportunities and could only manage a 6-0 lead going into the second quarter against the Eagles. The Vikings drove inside the Redskins’ 10-yard line on their first three possessions and came away with three field goals for a 9-0 lead, which held up until the Redskins scored 24 unanswered points in the second and third quarters.
The Packers found the end zone on two of their three first quarter possessions to take a 14-0 lead that gave them control of their game that was relinquished.
The Lions were also able to overcome an NFL season high 16 penalties for 132-yards in their game, a ridiculous number for coming out of a bye week. They surrendered over a football field of penalty yardage and still managed to complete their comeback and defeat the Eagles.
The Vikings still need to learn how to finish drives and games to take their next step as a playoff contender. The Lions still haven’t figured out how to stop beating themselves. They overcame their mistakes against the Eagles but won’t be able to do the same against the Bears a week from Monday night and get away with it.
5. Week Six NFC North Game Balls.
Aaron Rodgers – Six touchdown passes against a defense that hadn’t allowed a touchdown in their five games before Sunday night. His first, a 41-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson set the tone for the entire game.
Calvin Johnson, Lions – Caught four passes for 90-yards in the fourth quarter against the Eagles including one at full extension with his toes dragging barely inbounds in the fourth quarter to keep the game tying field goal drive alive. He added a 17-yard catch in overtime to put the Lions in position for the game winning field goal.
Jason Hanson, Lions – The oldest player in the NFL kicked three field goals in regulation to keep the Lions within striking distance of the Eagles then closed with a 47-yard kick that gave the Lions a 26-23 win.
Defensive Line, Lions – As a group they sacked Vick three times, hit him 11 times and kept him under pressure the rest of the time that forced Vick into two interceptions and keep the Eagles from breaking open the game when the Lions’ offense was going nowhere.