The 2010 Green Bay Packers overcame a multitude of injuries during the regular season to win Super Bowl XLV. The current Packers team is showing the same kind of resiliency. Playing without several key starters, the Packers overcame a 14-point second-quarter deficit to defeat the Detroit Lions 27-20 at Lambeau Field.
Detroit owned much of the first 18 minutes of the game, beginning with a 12-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 4-yard run from quarterback Matthew Stafford to give the Lions a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. The Packers would respond, as Aaron Rodgers led an up-tempo attack, using the no-huddle to quickly drive down to the Lions’ 12-yard line. On a second-and-10 play, Rodgers exited the pocket to buy some time, but perhaps held the ball too long, allowing defensive end Lawrence Jackson to hit him from behind, dislodging the ball, which was recovered by middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch.
The Lions took advantage of Rodgers’ miscue with an 11-play, 79-yard drive that chewed up nearly six minutes of the game clock before Stafford hit tight end Tony Scheffler on a quick slant for a 6-yard touchdown. A key play on that drive came from an unlikely source as wide receiver Kris Durham, Stafford’s former roommate at Georgia and 2011 fourth-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks who has spent the entire season on the Lions’ practice squad before being added to the 53-man roster this week, made a spectacular one-handed grab of a Stafford pass to set the Lions’ up at the Packers’ 6-yard line.
Green Bay would chip into the 14-point deficit with a 49-yard field goal from Mason Crosby, who had missed nine field-goal attempts on the season entering Sunday night’s action. The Packers opened with solid field position following a 28-yard kick return by Randall Cobb and a 27-yard pass play from Rodgers to Greg Jennings, the only time the latter would appear on the stat sheet.
On the Lions’ next possession, Stafford would commit a costly mistake when an attempted screen pass would slip out of his hands and land behind him. Packers fourth-round defensive end Mike Daniels would scoop the loose ball up and rumble 43 yards for a touchdown. Following Daniels’ score, the Lions quickly moved to the Packers’ 41-yard line before a Stafford pass intended for Durham was intercepted by cornerback Sam Shields, who was making his return after missing the previous six games with an ankle injury.
Down 14-10 at the start of the second half, the Packers would again utilize the no huddle offense on the opening possession of the third quarter, driving down to the Lions’ 27-yard line largely on short passes from Rodgers to James Jones, Alex Green, Jermichael Finley and Randall Cobb, with the Lions providing an additional 15 yards thanks to a roughing the passer penalty on a third-and-6 play by Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Rodgers used his legs, an underrated part of his game, on a third-and-4 play from the 27-yard line. With no one open down the field, Rodgers bought himself some time and began to take off for the first down marker. Noticing a lot of green in front of him, Rodgers turned on the jets and scampered into the end zone, with the 27-yard score marking the longest touchdown run by the Packers this season and giving the Packers a 17-14 lead. The Lions responded via a 46-yard field goal by the ageless Jason Hanson and a missed attempts from 51 yards out by both Crosby and then Hanson had the NFC North rivals tied at 17 with 14:49 to play in the fourth quarter.
Following Hanson’s miss, the Packers’ running game took over as Green, Ryan Grant and DuJuan Harris combined for 59 rushing yards on seven plays, with Harris capping the drive with a 14-yard touchdown run. The backs received outstanding blocking from the patchwork line, which was minus T.J. Lang, who was active but did not play due to an ankle injury. Undrafted rookie Don Barclay started at right tackle and on that series, the Packers used undrafted center Greg Van Roten as a sixth offensive lineman.
Overall, the Packers ran for 140 yards on 25 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns. Rodgers praised the performance of that aspect of the offense.
“It’s getting better. We have to run the football,” Rodgers told NBC’s Michele Tafoya. “Teams are playing a lot of two-high, so [we] try to run it until they come out of that. We got three guys tonight who ran the ball well. Ryan Grant came back and had a couple of good runs. DuJuan Harris, you know, he could be special down the road and obviously Alex Green ran the ball well tonight. And I had a little run myself.”
The Packers would add a 41-yard field goal by Crosby to extend their lead to 10 points, which essentially salted the game away. After turning the ball over on downs, and using all three of their timeouts to get possession of the ball back from the Packers, Detroit would add a 34-yard field goal by Hanson with 12 seconds remaining. An onsides kick attempt would dribble out of bounds and the Packers would take a knee to conclude an ugly but important win.
“It was an ugly win, but ugly wins are a lot better than tough losses,” said Rodgers. “So we’re first in the division right now. We got three left, big week next week, Chicago, a chance to go two games up in the division, so it’ll be a quick turnaround.”
Rodgers completed just 14 of 24 passes for 173 yards on the night, mostly to Cobb, who finished with a team-high seven receptions for 102 yards. Stafford was 27 of 45 for 264 yards and Calvin Johnson, who remains on pace for what would be an NFL single-season-record 1,900-receiving-yard season, had a game-high 10 receptions for 118 yards in the loss.
With the win, the Packers improve to 9-4 and can clinch the NFC North with a win over the Chicago Bears next week in Soldier Field. The Lions, who have not won in Lambeau Field since Dec. 15, 1991, have now lost five straight and are 4-9 on what’s been a disappointing season after going 10-6 and making the postseason in 2011.
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