(ALLEN PARK) - It is amazing what 65,000 beer drinking, pilgrim and turkey
costume wearing rabid Lions fans can do for a football team.
With their super fans egging them on at every turn, the Detroit Lions defense flew all over the field, recording three sacks of Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre and forcing five Green Bay turnovers as the Detroit Lions beat the Packers 22-14.
The loss by Green Bay was shocking, not only the many fans who made the trek from Wisconsin to downtown Detroit, but to the Green Bay players including corner Mike McKenzie who said he was "surprised with the way we played out there and the things we didn't get done. Defensively we were expecting to come over here and have a full dominating game and I think we fell short of what we were trying to accomplish out there today defensively."
Instead, it was the Detroit defense that dominated.
Detroit rode the leg of Jason Hanson who booted five field goals from 42, 28, 49, 46 and 32 yards and then watched as the defense rose to the occasion, playing their best game of the season stuffing the NFC leading rusher Ahman Green, holding him to 52 yards rushing.
"I thought it was an extraordinary effort on the defense's part to take the ball away five times," said Lions coach Steve Mariucci. "When you do that you should win. And to hold that team, that has rushed the football so well to 52 yards was an unbelievable effort. It was a big win against a good football team."
Detroit's offense was able to control the football, limiting Green Bay's opportunities to score. When the Packers did have the ball they were unable to run effectively forcing Favre to beat them. Favre was unable to, instead committing several costly mistakes including a fumble when the ball slipped out of his hands
Lions' quarterback Joey Harrington sparkled in the first half going 12 of 14 for 124 yards and a 103.6 passer rating. His pinpoint pass to Az-Zahir Hakim threaded the needle. He then topped that with a beautiful touch pass to Mikhael Ricks that turned into a 38-yard gain. Four plays later, Detroit went up 10-0 on Hanson's first field goal.
Earlier in the game, Detroit cashed in on an 8 play drive when Shawn Bryson
scored from six yards out.
"There's a different buzz around this game knowing the whole country's watching," Harrington admitted. "Knowing that everyone sitting at their table and getting the Turkey ready and watching the Lions and the Cowboys. That's Thanksgiving. And as much as you want to try and downplay it, there's something special about this game and so coming out, I felt terrific. I did."
When Green Bay got the ball back, Favre drove the Packers 84 yards in eight
plays, connecting with tight end Wesley Walls for 30 yards before hitting his
other tight end, Bubba Franks, with an 8-yard TD pass to cut the Lions lead to
Harrington drove the Lions right back with strikes of 13 yards to Bill Schroeder and 13 to Hakim before Hanson hit a 28-yarder to give Detroit a 13-7 lead at the half.
Harrington was thankful that he could bounce back from last week's four interception performance to reward the defense, led by corner Dre' Bly, for an outstanding effort in shutting down the Packer offense.
"Not only Dre'," said Harrington, [but] he has some huge plays; he was all
over the place. The defense held for us. Last week the defense played incredible
and [the offense] didn't play so well for them."
Green Bay started the second half by driving quickly into Lions territory before Bly intercepted Favre's pass intended for Antonio Freeman. It was Bly's fifth interception of the season. The stop, though, was temporary as Detroit couldn't move the football. Favre and company got it back after the Lions went three-and-out and Nick Harris could only mount a 30 yard punt that the Packers' Antonio Chatman returned 15 yards setting Green Bay up in good field position.
Favre then hit Walker with a 45-yard TD pass to give Green Bay a 14-13 lead.
Detroit said, to a man, that they were not rattled after they fell behind. "Nobody got down when they hit us with that score to go up," said defensive tackle Shaun Rogers. People were still positive and our offense was holding the ball, moving the ball well and it was just an overall good day for the Lions."
"Defensively, we came out [in the first half] kind of sluggish and they were able to move the ball," Bly said. "For us to come out in the second half and force turnovers, to create turnovers, that was key."
Detroit's defense stiffened when Green Bay got the ball back with a chance to increase its lead. Robert Porcher sacked Favre and that seem to rattle the Green Bay veteran. Porcher has two sacks on the afternoon increasing his total to four. Favre hit Walker over the middle but Bly's heavy hit forced a Walker fumble and Lions corner Terence Holt recovered.
Detroit was able to convert that into a go-ahead 49-yard field goal by Hanson to re-take the lead 16-14. With Detroit driving on their next possession, Harrington was intercepted, but on the very next play, Favre was sacked by Shaun Rogers, fumbled the football and Detroit recovered. That led to Hanson's fourth field goal and a 19-14 lead.
Bly's second interception on the ensuing possession by Green Bay cemented the win as Hanson added his fifth field goal to give Detroit a 19-14 lead.
Favre, desperately trying to lead Green Bay back, threw his third interception to Lions corner Doug Evans. "Late down there in the fourth quarter, it's a crucial situation you come up with a big play, man, that's what the coaches look for. That's what they bring you here for," said Evans who was signed off waivers from Seattle.
Lions defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson said Detroit came in with the emphasis on stopping the run. "We went out there and played very aggressive, flew around and put our emphasis on stopping the run. [Green's] a heck of a back and to stop a guy like that takes 11 guys running to the ball, getting off blocks and doing what we had to [in order] to get to him because on any given play he can break it."
"It's just a matter of going out there and having fun," said defensive tackle Shaun Rogers. "Guys were really enthused about accepting the challenge and I think we just stepped up big today. Today, I really felt something special out there on that field.
If the Lions defense accepted the challenge, then Bly threw down the gauntlet. The North Carolina Tar Heel grad was huge, cementing his position as the best corner in the NFC with two interceptions of Favre, a forced fumble, 3 tackles and 2 passes defended. "I feel like right now I'm playing my best football," said Bly. "I feel like right now, I'm in my prime and the best football for me is ahead of me. I've just been believing in myself and just been able to make some key plays this year."