Packers, Detroit Lions trying to regroup after opening losses for Monday night game in Green Bay
By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer
GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers don’t believe a lopsided loss to start the season should impact their sky-high expectations for what they can accomplish this year.
But it sure raises the stakes as they prepare to face the Detroit Lions in a Monday night home opener.
Green Bay’s string of six straight season-opening victories ended with a thud when the Packers fell 38-3 to the New Orleans Saints at Jacksonville, Florida. The Packers now will try to win their home opener for a ninth consecutive season.
“It’s not acceptable, but it’s just one game,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “We’re not going to be held prisoner mentally by that poor performance. Like I said, we’re not going to change a ton of things. I don’t think there needs to be wholesale preparation changes, schematic changes. We had a clunker and we’ve got to play better. I expect that we will on both sides of the ball.”
Rodgers threw two interceptions without a touchdown pass in the season opener. Green Bay’s 35-point defeat marked its most lopsided loss in any game Rodgers has started.
The reigning MVP will try to bounce back against a team he traditionally has dominated, particularly at Lambeau Field. The Packers have gone 9-2 in Rodgers’ 11 home starts against the Lions. Rodgers has thrown 21 touchdown passes with only four interceptions in those games.
Rodgers will be facing a Lions secondary that must regroup after losing starting cornerback Jeff Okudah for the season to a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Detroit’s likely starting cornerbacks will be Amani Oruwariye and Ifeatu Melifonwu, a rookie third-round pick from Syracuse. They understand the challenges of facing Rodgers.
“He’ll be a first-ballot Hall of Famer,” Oruwariye said. “A great quarterback who can make all the throws, really controls that offense. But this game is about us. It’s about a mentality we come with, the physicality we bring.”
The Packers have won their past four meetings with the Lions overall and are favored this time by 11 1/2 points, according to FanDuel SportsBook. The Lions delivered a better performance than the Packers on the season’s opening week, even though both teams lost.
After trailing by as many as 28 points, the Lions made a frantic comeback before falling 41-33 to the San Francisco 49ers in a game that marked the Detroit debuts for head coach Dan Campbell and quarterback Jared Goff.
“We showed a lot of resilience,” Lions rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown said. “Almost came back and had a chance to go to overtime.”
Lions running back Jamaal Williams will be making his return to Green Bay, where he played from 2017-20 while rushing for a total of 2,039 yards.
Williams left the Packers via free agency and now teams up with D’Andre Swift in Detroit’s backfield. He rushed for 54 yards and a touchdown on nine carries and caught eight passes for 56 yards in his Lions debut.
Swift (groin) and Williams (chest) were both limited participants in Thursday’s practice.
SMITH’S BACK TROUBLE
The Packers won’t have Pro Bowl outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith available Monday night.
Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Friday that Smith was going on injured reserve to get more time to deal with a back issue. Smith practiced just one day in training camp and was on the field for only 18 snaps against the Saints.
The injured/reserve designation means Smith must miss at least three games.
Green Bay filled Smith’s spot on the roster by signing outside linebacker La’Darius Hamilton off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad. Hamilton, who had 17 sacks during his college career at North Texas, spent the 2020 season on the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad.
“It’s a matter of just, do you keep him in a limited role?” LaFleur said about Smith. “Or do you shut him down for awhile, try to get him healthy and then get him up to the snap count that we’d like him to be, just like he’s been in the past, because he’s such an impact player? So, that’s just the route that we thought was best long term.”