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PFW executive editor and resident Packers expert Dan Arkush presents the third of three key matchups in the Packers' Week 12 game against the Lions in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day.
Packers' run defense vs. Lions RB Kevin Smith
Nobody anywhere would have considered Smith a potentially key factor in today's game before last Sunday, when he burst out of the woodwork with a brilliant 201-yard, three-TD performance in Detroit's wild 49-35 victory over the Panthers. Repeatedly making tacklers miss, Smith was a whirling dervish who drove the Carolina defenders nuts, rushing 16 times for 140 yards (8.8 yards per carry) and a pair of TDs and catching four passes out of the backfield for 61 yards and a TD.
Smith, the Lions' third-round pick in the 2008 draft, was considered by most to be permanently damaged goods after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery in December 2009. But given an opportunity to strut his stuff again with Jahvid Best (concussion) and Mikel Leshoure (Achilles) in mothballs, Smith just might be on the verge of staging one of the best NFL comebacks in a long time.
It's worth noting, though, that Carolina's run defense left a lot to be desired last week, and the Packers' run "D" hardly distinguished itself, either, in the win over Tampa Bay, allowing over 100 yards (121) for the fifth time this season. Sloppy tackling and inconsistent gap maintenance had a lot to do with Bucs RB LeGarrette Blount becoming the third back to gain over 100 yards against the Packers this season, and a much better job must be done today on Smith, whose relatively fresh legs could make life more than a little challenging for the likes of ILBs Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk, who are coming off off-kilter performances defending the run.
Green Bay's tacklers must wrap up a lot better and do a better job of squaring up and not being so low to the ground when they confront their prey.