Detroit Lions on the rise ahead of Green Bay clash

Jay Asser 04:48 03/12/2015
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Touchdown master: Calvin Johnson.

Despite their records being flipped, the Detroit Lions are the ones playing better football while the Green Bay Packers are spiralling downward.

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Detroit are at the bottom of the NFC North at 4-7 but have reeled off three straight wins, beginning with the 18-16 victory over the 7-4 Green Bay at Lambeau Field in Week 10.

Now, the Lions can sweep the season series between the two teams for the first time in 24 years when they host their division rivals on Thursday night.

Following a 1-7 start to the year, Detroit have been resurgent with their defence leading the way, surrendering just 14.3 points in the past three games after allowing 30.6 through the first eight weeks.

On the other side of the ball, the Lions have benefitted with Jim Bob Cooter taking over as offensive co-ordinator. Since the move was made before Detroit’s Week 8 game, star wide receiver Calvin Johnson has had at least nine targets and 81 yards in each of the four contests.

The connection between Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford was at its best in the 45-14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving, with the duo combining for three touchdowns.

Taking more shots downfield to Johnson has been just one of the ways Cooter has refreshed what was previously a stale offence. “I mean, you can’t do the same thing over and over in this league,” Johnson said.

“People catch on to it and it’s a copycat league, you know. If something works coverage-wise or something the defence is doing and it’s working effectively against us, then the other teams are going to do it. We’re just playing complete football and we’re attacking the defence and not playing defence on offence.”

The Packers’ passing game, meanwhile, has struggled to get back on track as Aaron Rodgers completed just 53.8 per cent of his passes in November – the lowest of any quarterback with at least 90 attempts.

His yards per attempt have dropped from 9.1 in the first seven games to 6.1 in the past four, with Rodgers tossing just three touchdowns to four interceptions.

“We’re not even being effective enough anywhere near our potential, I think,” Rodgers said. “We’re just on different pages.”

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