Playing the unbeaten Packers on a short week might not be the worst thing for the Lions. If they had more time to process all the hype and circumstance around this Thanksgiving Day game, their collective head would explode - national television, against NFC North rival and defending Super Bowl champion Packers, who just happen to be 10-0, trying to strengthen their hold on a wild-card spot.
"Every game is big for me and every game is big for this team," wide receiver Nate Burleson said. "We can't afford to let any games go. It was important for us to beat Carolina and it's going to be important for us to win this one.
"Being on Thanksgiving, being the Packers, being in the division, being that we were 1-1 with them last year, there are a lot of reasons why this is more exciting. But they are all important."
The Lions haven't won on Thanksgiving since they beat the Packers in 2003. The last time they beat a 10-0 Packers team was also on Thanksgiving - in 1962. In that particular contest, the Lions defensive line dominated Green Bay's interior, making a miserable day for legendary QB Bart Starr.
"I'm not much on the history," quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "I am just worried about the 2011 Packers."
The Lions did beat the Super Bowl champion Packers at Ford Field Dec. 12, 2010. They defeated them 7-3 behind third-stringer Drew Stanton, and may have stumbled on the only way to slow quarterback Aaron Rodgers down - they knocked him out of the game in the second quarter.
The Lions are the last NFL team to beat the Packers with Rodgers at the helm.
"The reason we were able to beat them is because we were always hitting (Rodgers)," defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. "We need to speed up his process and get him off his spots. That's the biggest thing."
The Lions sacked Rodgers twice and hit him often. But again, this isn't the same guy, the same offensive line or the same offense. Rodgers leads the NFL in four passing categories - touchdowns (31), completion percentage (72.3), yards per completion (9.6) and passer rating (128.8). His 3,168 trails only Drew Brees. He's only thrown four interceptions.
He has been sacked 25 times. So, the MO is clear for the defense -- do what you did in 1962, and do what you did last season: attack the quarterback.
"They look unbeatable and they have been," Burleson said. "They are at a place that not many teams can get to. We are in a position where we can maybe put a little nick in their armor."
Nate Caminata helped contribute to this story
What was RB Kevin Smith doing before the Lions called him in for a workout two weeks ago? "Wake up at 7, go work out, come home and play with my son," he said.
Smith, whom the Lions drafted in the third round in 2008, hadn't been on a football field for more than a year when the Lions brought him back and he repaid them with a 140-yard, three-touchdown effort Sunday. "It's not really tough, if that's your will," Smith said. "I've always believed in myself and my ability. I've had some tough breaks injury-wise. But I believe in myself. When I was getting up and going to train, and I'd kiss my son and walk out the door, there really was no motivation. There was nobody to say, 'Come on, a team's going to come calling.' It just took me to keep going five days a week, to go to some workouts and not get a job."
DTs Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley put a hurt on Panthers' RG Geoff Hangartner Sunday. According to research by ProFootballFocus.com, Hangartner didn't make a positive block on either tackle. Suh and Fairley combined for seven quarterback pressures and two hits. Both had three tackles against the run.
Suh said he loved playing games on short weeks. "It's fun," he said. Burleson just rolled his eyes. "He's a couple of years younger," Burleson said. "It's tough, bodies are sore. We just have to be true professionals. You have to get into that cold tub, get massages, see the chiropractor. Usually you have five days to get it all in. We've got about 48 hours. It's a short week but if you are a true professional about it, you will feel on Thursday the same way you would on a Sunday."
Quarterback Matthew Stafford said he didn't tweak his fractured index finger at all on Sunday. "It's getting better continually." He will still wear gloves on Thursday.
Coach Jim Schwartz said, correctly, that the Lions wouldn't survive the same mistakes they made against Carolina against the Packers. The turnovers are obviously killers, but so are the drive-sustaining penalties on defense. If they give Aaron Rodgers extra shots, he will make them pay. The Lions kept drives alive with a hand-to-the-face penalty by Andre Fluellen, an illegal contact by Eric Wright - both of those were scoring drives - and a horse-collar penalty on Cliff Avril.
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