Left in disarray, Lions must break through in Green Bay - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Left in disarray, Lions must break through in Green Bay


GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- The Detroit Lions are in disarray, left reeling from an organizational housecleaning at midseason precipitated by a 1-7 start.

About the last place they want to play their next game is on the road on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, who have won 24 straight in the series in Wisconsin.

Detroit's team president and general manager have been fired. Coach Jim Caldwell's job security is tenuous at best.

Owner Martha Ford delivered a straightforward message to the team this week: "Told us that we're not in the best situation right now and that she expects us to win," star receiver Calvin Johnson said.

To fulfill that goal, the Lions are going to have to beat the Packers on the road for the first time since a 21-17 victory on Dec. 15, 1991. Back then, quarterback Erik Kramer was handing off to Barry Sanders. Johnson was 6 years old.

The Lions are still transitioning to new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who replaced the fired Joe Lombardi in an earlier in-season ouster.

"A lot of those people we have been around, been close to for a while, since I've been here. So it's always unfortunate," Johnson said. "That's why you have to play well so that those kinds of things don't happen."

Detroit's problems make Green Bay's two-game skid after a 6-0 start pale in comparison.

The Packers have lost to then-undefeated opponents on the road in Denver and Carolina. The defense has struggled over the last three games, allowing an average of 491 yards.

The offense showed signs of breaking out of its doldrums by rallying from a 27-7 halftime deficit for 22 points in the second half before falling 37-29 to the Panthers. Level-headed quarterback Aaron Rodgers offered some perspective.

"We're 6-2. We're tied for the division lead. Everything is right in front of us. We played a couple good opponents and haven't played up to our standard of play," Rodgers said.

Other notes and things to watch ahead of Sunday's game:

ON THE RUN: James Starks has been tabbed the Packers' No. 1 running back, replacing the slumping Eddie Lacy. Coach Mike McCarthy said he still intends to use both backs heavily, only now it will be Lacy coming in to spell Starks.

Lacy and the coaches are still trying to figure out how to get the running back going after he ran for 1,100 yards in each of his first two seasons in the league.

DEFENSELESS: The Lions could be the perfect foe for the Packers to restart the running game. They've allowed a league-worst 30.6 points per game and 133.8 yards on the ground, 30th in the league. To make matters worse for Detroit, top linebacker DeAndre Levy was placed on injured reserve with hip issues.

The Lions had a bye week to get over a 45-10 loss to Kansas City in London, when they allowed 206 yards rushing and four touchdowns on the ground.

NEW GROUND: Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw two interceptions in the loss to the Chiefs, when Detroit was 2 of 12 on third downs. The Lions are hoping an extra week to prepare with a new coordinator will help revive the offense.

"There's going to be something different there. They not only changed offensive coordinator and approach, but they're also coming off a bye week," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "You've got to be ready for all those things."

CORNERED: The Packers' porous pass defense over the last three weeks has in part been due to injuries in the secondary. Top cornerback Sam Shields returned to practice this week after missing much of the last two games with a shoulder injury, while rookie cornerback Quinten Rollins was also back from a neck injury. If they can get Shields back, the Packers will match up better against Johnson, who said he expected to play on Sunday despite an ankle injury.

THIRD DOWNS: Like the Lions, the Packers have had trouble on third downs, converting just 34 percent on the year. It's in part the result of a lack of production in the running game on early downs, leaving the team with more third-and-longs. McCarthy said that running the ball will be a focus this week.

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