Packers coach Mike Sherman tipped his hat to the resilient Lions, but lauded his defense for staying in the game.
"Our guys were tired, and we probably didn't make as many plays as we should have, but we made one at the end, and that was all that mattered," Sherman said. "To win on the road against a divisional opponent is huge. We hung in there. Our backs were against the wall, but we never stopped playing."
Despite the Lions' QBs apparent ability to scramble out a pressure on several occasions, the Pack's sack attack still managed to strike three times. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila added to his team lead, while Flanigan and Santana Dotson also had sacks Thursday.
The Packers defense probably thinks it has been playing since Sunday, when it gave up 75 plays and 417 yards to the Atlanta Falcons during Atlanta's 23-20 upset win at Lambeau Field. On Thursday, the Lions ran another 67 plays, gained 360 yards, including 167 yards rushing. All those plays took their toll, Sherman said.
"They were truly tired out there," he said. "I think we settled down in the second half. But after giving up about 75 plays last week, our guys showed a huge amount of heart to stick in there."
The defense, despite holding a 16-point lead with 7:06 left, allowed the Lions to march 71 yards in 19 plays, score a touchdown and a two-point conversion to cut the lead to 29-21 with 1:17 left. During that drive, Detroit converted three fourth-downs.
Then, Lions kicker Jason Hanson booted a perfect onsides kick – kicking the ball opposite the side the Packers bunched. It became a foot race for the ball, and Lions cornerback Todd Lyght recovered it at the Packers 31.
Three plays later – on fourth down after the Lions appeared to score a touchdown on a play that was ruled out of bounds and not reviewed by the officials – backup quarterback Mike McMahon found rookie wide receiver Scotty Anderson in the end zone with 10 seconds left.
On the two-point conversion, McMahon dropped back, rolled right and was nearly sacked by defensive tackle Jim Flanigan. He rolled left, and lofted a pass toward tight end David Sloan, who was open. But his pass dropped in front of Sloan.
The Packers recovered the ensuing onsides kick and ran one play – their only one in the last seven minutes of the game – to run out the clock.
"We want to be able to shut the door when teams try to come back," said safety Darren Sharper. "But you're going to have games where the other team make some plays against you. We just wanted to get out with a win."
Defensive end John Thierry agreed. "We came out on top, and that's all that mattered," he said. "We knew it would be a tight game. This was two teams fighting and fighting to get a win. It's good to get out of here with one."