The Packers have to slow the Lions’ run game
On the flip side, the Packers defense is going to have to find a way to limit the Detroit run game. The Lions enter Week 4 ranked seventh in rush attempts per game, and as Zach Payne pointed out in a recent article, the Lions run the ball on 70 percent of their first down snaps. In short, Detroit wants to run the ball.
Jahmyr Gibbs is averaging 4.5 yards per rush. He’s also been among the best in average yards after contact, and his five runs of 10 or more yards are the fifth-most. David Montgomery is questionable with a thigh injury, but when on the field, he has been very difficult to bring down, having forced 11 missed tackles in only 37 carries.
The Lions do a good job of having the passing game build off of the run game, which can open up opportunities for Goff and the receivers, particularly off play-action, where Goff has been efficient and willing to push the ball downfield. An effective ground game can also result in controlling the time of possession and limiting the opponent’s offensive possessions.
Green Bay has held up well on the ground against Chicago and New Orleans for the most part but was shredded by Atlanta. Slowing the Lions run game will give the Packers the opportunity to get after Goff and make moving the ball through the air more challenging by being in predictable situations where Green Bay can dictate the matchups. Not allowing Goff to throw in time and in rhythm is going to be crucial because when he’s able to do that, he can pick defenses apart.
The interior defensive line will have to get off blocks. The edge rushers will have to set the edge. Linebackers will have to fill running lanes, while the safeties, in particular, will have to read their keys and be disciplined to not get caught out of position. And as always, all 11 players need to swarm to the ball carrier.
Can the Packers contain Amon-Ra St. Brown?
There’s probably no stopping Amon-Ra St. Brown, so the Packers will have to do their best to limit his production and not let him take this game over. St. Brown has spent the majority of his snaps lined up in the slot, but the Lions are very willing to move him around. He’s been an efficient target for Goff, catching 21 of the 27 passes thrown his way at 13.1 yards per catch. St. Brown also ranks ninth among all receivers in yards per route run.
Goff has primarily targeted St. Brown closer to the line of scrimmage, with an average depth of target of just over eight yards. The Lions want to get him the ball in space and let St. Brown pick up yards after the catch.
When St. Brown is lined up inside, unless Joe Barry plans on making some changes, Keisean Nixon is going to have to play a key role in trying to contain him. On the boundary, the Packers have some question marks, with both Jaire Alexander and Carrington Valentine questionable for Thursday’s game.
Also at receiver for the Lions are Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond, two pass catchers who have been able to generate some explosive plays for the Lions. Rookie tight end Sam LaPorta is also emerging as a go-to and efficient target for Goff. LaPorta can play both inline and outside and is a very capable run-blocker as well. The Green Bay Packers secondary is going to have its hands full beyond the stresses that St. Brown brings.