A generation of Detroit Lions fans witnessed something they’d never seen before on Sunday:
A Lions victory at Lambeau Field.
Detroit (2-7) shocked the reeling Green Bay Packers (6-3) 18-16 on Sunday. The victory snapped the Lions’ 24-game losing streak in Wisconsin, the longest in NFL history and one that dated to 1991 – before the Brett Favre-Aaron Rodgers era at quarterback.
As is the Lions’ way, it wasn’t easy, as they survived a frantic Packers comeback but escaped when Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby appeared to mis-hit a 52-yard field-goal attempt on the final play.
“We’ve got to win that game,” Crosby said. “I hate it. It kills me inside.”
It could be a killer for the Packers, who fell one game behind Minnesota in the NFC North race. That makes next week's game at Minnesota almost a must-win.
Detroit, on the other hand, basked in the thrill of victory in Wisconsin for the first time since Wayne Fontes was coach and Erik Kramer was the quarterback.
“It’s a big win for us,” said emubattled Lions coach Jim Caldwell. “It’s the first one in this quarter (of the season), against a division foe that’s been outstanding within this league. To be able to come in here and get a win is pretty special. I can certainly feel and sense how eager everybody was to come here and get a victory.”
When quarterback Matthew Stafford connected with receiver Lance Moore for a 4-yard touchdown with 1:57 remaining, the game should have been all but over. Instead, Matt Prater missed his second extra point of the game, giving Green Bay sliver of hope down 18-10.
Green Bay took possession at its 27 and used a 19-yard screen to running back James Starks, a 12-yard pass to tight end Justin Perillo and a 9-yard screen to Starks to advance to the Lions’ 29 with 51 seconds remaining. On third-and-1, Rodgers hit tight end Richard Rodgers, who fought to get out of bounds at the Detroit 23 with 45 seconds to go.
On second-and-10, Aaron Rodgers threw incomplete to Richard Rodgers but defensive end Ziggy Ansah was flagged for roughing the passer on a low shot in which Aaron Rodgers got up favoring his left knee. That made it first-and-10 from the 11 with 36 seconds to go. On the next play, Rodgers stepped up in the pocket and fired a touchdown pass to Perillo, who beat linebacker Tahir Whitehead and safety Glover Quinn.
That made it 18-16. On the two-point play, Detroit cornerback Crezdon Butler, who was promoted from the practice squad on Saturday, broke up a pass to receiver Davante Adams.
“We got a lot of pressure up the middle and he put a little more air on the ball than he wanted to and I ended up making the play,” Butler said.
Still, Green Bay wasn’t done. Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson couldn’t field the onside kick but Packers rookie Damarious Randall did, giving Green Bay the ball at the Detroit 49 with 31 seconds to play. Two completions to Adams gave Green Bay a chance for the winning field goal but Crosby’s kick didn’t even get to the end zone.
The Packers have lost three in a row with Rodgers at quarterback for the first time since 2008. The first two were on the road at teams that were undefeated, Carolina and Denver. This one, however, was infinitely worse considering the state of their opponent. The Lions had given up 37.3 points per game in their previous four games but held Green Bay’s struggling offense in check.
“We’ve got to throw it better. We’ve got to catch it better, and we’ve got to make some plays, especially when we’re taking shots down the field,” Rodgers said.
With the game tied 3-3 at halftime, Detroit rookie running back Ameer Abdullah returned the second-half kickoff 104 yards before being hauled down by Micah Hyde at the 1. On third-and-goal from the 2, Stafford hit tight end Brandon Pettigrew for a touchdown as linebacker Julius Peppers fell in coverage. Prater missed the extra point, but the Lions jumped in front 9-3.
Late in the third quarter, the Lions drove into scoring position but, on third-and-9, Stafford's pass deep down the middle was intercepted by Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at the 6. Not that it mattered. A first-down run by Starks gained 1, Rodgers scrambled and was sacked by Jason Jones on second down and Rodgers' third-down pass to Cobb wasn't close to being completed.
The Lions took over at their 45 on the punt. Two completions to Johnson set up Prater's 51-yard field goal, which gave Detroit a 12-3 lead with 13:10 remaining. That lead seemed almost insurmountable for the Packers, with Rodgers 18-of-32 for just 148 yards through three quarters.
Finally, with 10 minutes remaining, the Packers’ offense got going. They converted a third-and-9 on defensive pass interference and a third-and-12 on Rodgers’ across-his-body throw to Cobb for a gain of 20. After receiver Davante Adams dropped a potential 36-yard touchdown, Rodgers hit receiver Jared Abbrederis for a 32. And after James Jones dropped a pass in the end zone, Rodgers fired a bullet to Richard Rodgers for a touchdown. That cut the margin to 12-10 with 5:55 remaining.
Detroit’s offense, however, came through with a couple of big plays. First, on third-and-9, Stafford got away from two potential sacks and connected with Johnson for a gain of 13. Then, on third-and-3 from the Packers’ 48, Stafford beat a blitz with a short pass to receiver Golden Tate, who broke two tackles en route to a 43-yard gain. On the first play after the two-minute warning, the Stafford-to-Moore connection made it 18-10 with 1:57 remaining.
Green Bay was held to its first-half fewest points since scoring just three at Dallas with Matt Flynn at quarterback in Week 15 of the 2013 season. With Rodgers at quarterback, it was the team's fewest points since scoring zero at Seattle in Week 3 of the 2012 season.
The Packers drove to an opening field goal, with Rodgers completing four passes to Davante Adams and Mason Crosby banging through a 44-yard field goal off the left upright.
The defenses took over from there, though. After Green Bay's score, three of its next five possessions ended in three-and-out punts. The Packers had a couple of chances but Rodgers threw a poor pass to Adams, who was open on a crossing route, and Cobb dropped a potential big gain on third-and-9.
The Lions were worse, going 0-for-7 on third down with six first downs and 102 yards. Punter Sam Martin being the obvious first-half MVP. He backed up the Packers to their 7- and 5-yard line for two possessions late in the first half.
When Green Bay went three-and-out on the second of those, the Lions took over at their 47 with 45 seconds to go in half. Stafford hit Johnson for a gain of 19 to set up Prater's 49-yard field goal.