DETROIT – The Green Bay Packers, with a late rally and a memorable defensive performance, extended their winning streak to five games with a 24-20 victory at Detroit on Sunday.
Green Bay, its offense sputtering all day behind a makeshift line, took a 21-20 lead on the final play before the two-minute warning. Trailing 20-14, Jermichael Finley turned a 2-yard out into a 40-yard run by following blocks from Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson and then running through a tackle attempt by Stephen Tulloch.
That put the ball at the 31. After a 6-yard completion to Finley and a 3-yard run by James Starks, Aaron Rodgers floated his best ball of the day to Cobb, who made the catch against cornerback Jacob Lacey and safety Ricardo Silva for the 22-yard score with 1:55 remaining.
Detroit got the ball at the 25 with 1:48 to play. Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw two bad balls on first and second down, sandwiched around a false start. On third-and-15, Casey Hayward deflected a pass at the sideline, and on fourth down, Stafford’s desperate heave to tight end Tony Scheffler was knocked away by safety Jerron McMillian.
Mason Crosby, who had missed his two earlier attempts, hit a 39-yard field goal with 19 seconds to go to put the game on ice.
Trailing 17-14, Green Bay got the ball at Detroit’s 44 with 11:33 to go in the fourth quarter. An 11-yard completion to Nelson was a good start, and the Packers got another first down on defensive holding, but the Packers couldn’t move the chains after getting a first-and-5. Crosby then missed a game-tying 38-yard field goal wide left.
After starting the season 5-for-5, that sent Crosby to 10-of-17.
The Lions had a chance to put the Packers away on the ensuing possession, with two big plays. On third-and-1, defensive coordinator Dom Capers sent five but blitzing safety McMillian got to Matthew Stafford too late. Rookie receiver Ryan Broyles cut to the outside and got safety Morgan Burnett leaning, then broke back inside for a 27-yard catch and run. One play later, Titus Young got open between safeties McMillian and Sean Richardson for a 24-yard play to the 10.
The drive stalled, however, and Green Bay got away with just a field goal, keeping it a one-score game at 20-14 with 4:25 remaining.
M.D. Jennings gave the Packers a brief 14-10 lead midway through the third quarter. With Detroit facing third-and-10, Stafford threw a pass behind Scheffler. Scheffler got a hand on the ball and Jennings grabbed the deflection. He got key blocks around midfield by Erik Walden and Dezman Moses, then followed Davon House and McMillian to the end zone.
Detroit, however, answered with a 10-play, 83-yard touchdown drive. Mikel Leshoure did a lot of the dirty work. On second-and-20, Calvin Johnson ran a post route, which Packers safety Morgan Burnett jumped for what he thought would be an interception. Unbelievably, Burnett didn’t even get a finger on the ball, and Johnson made the catch for a 25-yard touchdown with 3:01 left in the quarter.
Green Bay’s defense, going without Clay Matthews (hamstring), played a superb game in giving a struggling offense a chance. When the Packers’ ensuing possession stalled near midfield, Tim Masthay punted the Lions to the 8 and Davon House and Erik Walden collected the team’s fourth and fifth sacks to force a punt.
The Packers had to be kicking themselves while facing a 10-7 deficit at halftime.
Of Green Bay’s six first-half possessions, it started at the 39, Detroit 48, Green Bay 48 and Detroit 42. The Packers got exactly zero points off of those drives. Their only touchdown, which gave them a 7-3 edge, was an 81-yard march. Rodgers converted third-down plays with 15 yards to Nelson, 11 yards to Donald Driver and 19 yards to Nelson. On second-and-7 from the 20, the Packers ran running back James Starks and linemen Jeff Saturday and Jeff Sitton to the right as if they were running a screen. That got Jermichael Finley open in the middle field, and he wasn’t touched until splitting two defenders at the goal line.
Green Bay had a 2-1 edge in turnovers – an interception by Casey Hayward and a strip by Dezman Moses that was recovered by Mike Daniels, but wasn’t helped by six penalties. Two of those penalties came on the second drive, when the Packers started at Detroit’s 48. The first wiped out a long completion to Cobb and the second created a second-and-21.
The first half ended with struggling Crosby missing wide right from 50 yards. The Lions, however, called timeout before the kick. It didn’t matter; Crosby missed wide left on the next one.
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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 email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.