The Green Bay Packers extended their NFL-record 22-game home-field winning streak over the Detroit Lions, winning 27-20 on Sunday night at snowy Lambeau Field.
Green Bay, winners of seven of their last eight, improved to 9-4 and assumed first place in the NFC North ahead of Chicago (8-5), which lost at Minnesota. The Packers play at the Bears next week with a chance to clinch the division title. Detroit (4-9) lost its fifth in a row.
The last time these teams met here, last year’s season finale, the quarterbacks combined for 1,000 passing yards and 11 touchdown passes. Aaron Rodgers wasn’t a factor that day – Matt Flynn got the start as the Packers rested for the playoffs – and he wasn’t a factor on the go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. In a span of five plays, Alex Green ran for 10 and 9, Ryan Grant ran for 13 and DuJuan Harris ran for 5 and the 14-yard touchdown.
The Lions, as has been the story of their season, couldn’t make a key play. The ensuing offensive possession gained two first downs but Matthew Stafford just missed Tony Scheffler deep over the middle on third-and-8. A bad punt set up the Packers at their own 37. On third-and-11, the Lions rushed three, giving Rodgers plenty of time to hit Randall Cobb, for a catch-and-run gain of 38. That set up a 41-yard field goal by Mason Crosby, which extended the advantage to 27-17 with 4:02 remaining.
Detroit’s last realistic shot to make a game of it ended on Stafford’s fourth-down incompletion with 2:26 to go. The Lions got the ball back and got a 34-yard field goal from Jason Hanson with 7 second to go. A pooch kick went out of bounds and the Packers ran out the clock.
The Packers spotted the Lions an early 14-0 lead but took a 17-14 on the first possession of the third quarter on Rodgers’ 27-yard touchdown run on third-and-4. Rodgers was pressured by defensive ends Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young but avoided the sack. Linebacker Justin Durant was tied up in coverage with Jermichael Finley at the sideline and fullback John Kuhn blocked linebacker Stephen Tulloch as Rodgers ran untouched through a huge void on the right side of the field.
The Lions cut the margin to 17, then were given a short field when Crosby missed his seventh consecutive field goal from 50-plus yards. The Lions, however, returned the favor when Jason Hanson was short on a 52-yard attempt on the second play of the fourth quarter. Unlike Detroit, Green Bay took advantage with a 50-yard scoring drive in which all seven plays were runs, which Harris punctuated with his touchdown.
Quarterback fumbles were the key to the first half, with the Lions taking a 14-10 lead.
The Lions, who led the NFL in passing attempts entering the game, ran the ball nine times on a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to open the game. On fourth-and-inches, Stafford ran untouched into the end zone on a bootleg.
The Packers appeared to have the answer, reaching the Lions’ 12 on the ensuing drive, but Rodgers was sacked and stripped by Lawrence Jackson, with Tulloch recovering the loose ball. Detroit parlayed that into a 79-yard touchdown drive, capped by Stafford’s 3-yard toss to Will Heller.
Trailing 14-3, it was Green Bay’s turn to take advantage of a quarterback fumble. The ball slipped out of Stafford’s hand on a screen, with defensive lineman Mike Daniels scooping up the loose ball and racing 43 yards for a touchdown.
The Lions dominated the half, with a 218-94 edge in yards and a 41-16 edge in snaps. Mikel Leshoure (11 carries, 43 yards) and Joique Bell (eight carries, 40 yards) led the way as the Lions rushed for 117 yards, with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan taking advantage of Green Bay running nickel and dime packages on every snap of the half.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.