And, perhaps, so much for the Green Bay Packers NFC North strangle hold.
All the good vibrations coming from the Packers’ come-from-behind victory over the Jets didn’t mean a thing against the Detroit Lions on Sunday. With the Lions’ bruising defensive front limiting opportunities to exploit a subpar secondary, Detroit earned a key NFC North victory, 19-7, at Ford Field.
Aaron Rodgers was just 16-of-27 for 162 yards against a Detroit defense that was without a starting safety and three of its top five cornerbacks, plus lost linebacker Stephen Tulloch in the first quarter. Jordy Nelson, who destroyed the Jets the week before, was limited to five catches for 59 yards. That would have been fine had someone else stepped up, but that didn’t happen. There were no big plays in the passing game and too many dropped passes.
Green Bay’s defense was good but just not good enough for long enough. Through three quarters, the Lions’ offense was responsible for only three points and the defense had forced three turnovers.
The third of those turnovers came on second-and-goal from the 7 with the Packers trailing 12-7 and about 6 minutes remaining in the third. Peppers, lined up at left defensive end in a three-point stance, beat third-string right tackle Garrett Reynolds and got the sack, strip and recovery.
The Packers’ offense, however, did almost nothing, even with half the Lions’ secondary in street clothes due to injuries. After the Peppers turnover, Green Bay moved the ball close to midfield. However, DuJuan Harris lost 3 on first down, Randall Cobb couldn’t catch a slant on second down and Rodgers deep sideline route to Jarrett Boykin hit the turf 2 yards short of Boykin.
Finally, the Lions broke through. Detroit converted a third-and-2 when Tramon Williams hit Calvin Johnson just a split-second early, and Stafford converted a third-and-1 with a 9-yard pass to Golden Tate. Finally, on third-and-2 from the Packers’ 26, Reggie Bush burst around left end for a touchdown. Mike Neal got caught inside and Micah Hyde lost contain, with Bush not encountering a defender until he was inside the 5. That made it 19-7 with 10:40 remaining.
The Packers, in desperate need for an answer, drove into the red zone but the drive died on a minus-5 by Eddie Lacy on second-and-1, a third-down incompletion to Andrew Quarless and a fourth-down incompletion to Nelson, who had no room against safety Glover Quin and linebacker DeAndre Levy.
The Packers trailed 12-7 at halftime. A week after a botched first snap of the game against the Jets, Lacy fumbled on the second play of the game, with safety Don Carey scooping up the loose ball and beating Rodgers to the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Green Bay answered late in the first quarter. HaHa Clinton-Dix’s interception on a ball deflected by Lions receiver Corey Fuller and Packers cornerback Davon House took a potential field goal off the board for Detroit. The Packers capitalized, with Quarless making an excellent catch against safety Isa Abdul-Quddus for a 10-yard strike on third-and-1.
House struck again, this time with an interception, though his big play actually came back to haunt the Packers. He hauled in the pass and tumbled to the turf at the 1 and rolled into the end zone. Green Bay was awarded the ball at the 1, and Lacy immediately was stuffed in the end zone for a safety when tight end Richard Rodgers was destroyed by defensive end Jason Jones, allowing Levy to drop Lacy about 3 yards short of the goal line.
Jeremy Ross’ big return on the free kick set up Detroit at the 45, with Stafford weathering quarterback hits by Datone Jones on a third-and-5 completion to Johnson and Clay Matthews on a third-and-5 completion to Reggie Bush. Green Bay’s defense stiffened on first-and-goal from the 6, though, with Julius Peppers dropping Bush for minus-4, Matthews breaking up a second-down pass and Mike Neal sacking Stafford on third down. Rookie Nate Freese, who was 2-of-5 on field goals entering the day, hit from 30 to make it 12-7.
Freese got one more shot late in the half but missed from 41. It was a big reprieve for McCarthy, who called timeout on third-and-7, only to have Stafford hit Fuller for 52.
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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.