Lions Look To End Longstanding Lambeau Streak
By Scott McMahon
The Pittsburgh Pirates won a playoff game for the first time since 1992 when they beat the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday. On Sunday, the Detroit Lions will look to end a streak one year older, when they attempt to beat the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field for the first time since 1991.
Yes, 1991. Detroit finished 12-4 that season, won the NFC North, and went to the NFC Championship Game before losing to the Washington Redskins. Barry Sanders carried the Lions offense with 1,548 yards on the ground and 16 touchdowns, and Erik Kramer led the passing attack at quarterback. Green Bay stumbled to a 4-12 record with Mike Tomczak at quarterback. To give you an idea of the Packers’ futility that season, fullback Darrell Thompson led the way on the ground with just 471 rushing yards, and only Sterling Sharpe (961) had more than 583 receiving yards all season.
What has changed since then? Not too much. The Lions continued to ride Sanders through the 1998 season, making the playoffs four more times before his abrupt retirement. Following Sanders’ exit from the game, the Lions preceded to have one of the worst 10-12 year spans in history, including the infamous 0-16 season in 2008, and have only seen the playoffs twice since 1998.
The Packers have changed a bit too since December 1991. Some guy named Favre took over at quarterback the next season, and stayed there for 297 straight games. In that time, Green Bay reached two Super Bowls — winning one — and made the playoffs 11 times before Favre left after 2007. Aaron Rodgers took over afterwards and promptly won his own Super Bowl just three years later in 2010.
But other than the Super Bowls, playoff appearances and constant leadership over the past 20-plus seasons, the two teams have been basically equals (I’m lying).
Enter 2013’s matchup at Lambeau set for this Sunday. Detroit comes into the game with a record of 3-1, and one of the best teams they have fielded in years. Although the Packers sit at 1-2, the threat of Rodgers — widely considered one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL — is far too great to overlook.
Rodgers is the best quarterback that the Lions will see all season, and lucky enough for them, they get to see him twice. But he is beatable, this year especially thus far.
Green Bay’s offense has allowed 10 sacks in just three games, and has turned the ball over seven times already. On defense, the Packers are allowing more than 400 yards per game, nearly 30 points per game and a Matthew Stafford-friendly 311 passing yards per game.
Personally, I don’t think formulating offense against the Packers will be much of a problem for the Lions. As long as Reggie Bush can find a rhythm against a defense allowing 93.3 yards per game on the ground, Stafford and the rest of the offense should be able to work their way down the field. Weather also won’t be an issue — October in Green Bay is not exactly the same as the -6°F that greeted Detroit in December 1991.
The defensive side of the ball will be a little bit more challenging. In case you’ve been living under a rock since 2008, this Rodgers guy is pretty good and has no problem shredding a vulnerable secondary. Containing Rodgers will be all about pressure — get Ndamukong Suh and the rest of the defensive line into the backfield and force Rodgers to hurry his throws. It worked against Jay Cutler and the Bears last week.
New to the Packers this season is a running game. Rookie Eddie Lacy, James Starks, and Johnathan Franklin have combined to give the Packers the ninth best rushing attack in the league at 128 yards per game. Some good news for Detroit: Starks will be out this game, and Lacy will be playing for the first time since his Week 2 concussion.
Should the Lions break their 22-game losing streak at Lambeau, one would have to think the Lions would be in control of the NFC North for the time being. With wins at home against Minnesota and Chicago, and at Green Bay, the Lions will sit at 3-0 in the division and 4-1 overall with tiebreakers over all three teams in the division.
Streaks are falling all over sports this fall. Let’s see if the Lions can break another in Green Bay.