Second-half rally tops Lions, 16-13

Thanks to Ryan Longwell and a shanked Lions punt into a blustery wind late in the game, the Packers were able to overcome an early 13-point deficit and nip the Detroit Lions 16-13 Sunday at chilly Lambeau Field.<p>

Longwell's' 23-yard field goal with 2 seconds left in the game, his third game-winner of the year at the wire, moved the Packers (8-5) into sole possession of first place in the NFC North after the Minnesota Vikings (7-6) lost 27-23 to the Seattle Seahawks in the Metrodome.

The Packers won their 14th straight game (including the playoffs) over the Lions (5-8) in Wisconsin dating back to 1991 and bounced back from an embarrassing 47-17 loss to the NFC-leading Philadelphia Eagles a week earlier.

Longwell made all three of his field goal attempts in the swirling 30 to 35 mph winds from 36, 28 and 23 yards in the third and fourth quarters. Brett Favre, who struggled in the first half, threw for 160 yards in the second half, after just 28 in the first half, and a touchdown.

"We bounced back from a very disappointing loss last week, but there's no guarantees in the last three (regular season) games, so we'll see what happens," said Favre, who led the Packers to his 33rd comeback win when the Packers were trailing entering the fourth quarter.

The Packers host the Jacksonville Jaguars next Sunday at Lambeau Field, then play the Vikings on Christmas Eve in the Metrodome, and finish the regular season against the Bears in Chicago.

Green Bay began its game-winning drive on the Lions' 42-yard line when Nick Harris could only muster a 19-yard punt into the gusty north wind. Favre completed passes of 11 yards to fullback William Henderson and 10 yards on third-and-eight to wide receiver Javon Walker to get the Packers to the Lions' 18. Ahman Green, who fought hard for all of his 76 yards rushing on 23 carries, ran the ball three straight times for nine yards to the Lions 5 to set up Longwell's game-winning field goal.

Though Longwell has been automatic inside 40 yards in the last couple of seasons (43 straight), nothing was certain because of the blustery, swirly wind conditions.

"There's a misnomer that there was a direction with the wind and against the wind," Longwell explained. "That was not the case today. It was a crosswind, a heavy, heavy crosswind. ... I feel I had a good feel for the wind going in that direction."

Longwell said that he told coach Mike Sherman that he felt confident attempting a field goal inside the 22-yard line going into the open end of the stadium, which is the side he kicked the winning field goal, and inside the 20 yard line into the closed end of the stadium. Kickers and punters on both teams struggled throughout the game kicking into the closed end (north end) because the wind was mainly in their face.

Longwell also made game-winning field goals this season Nov. 21 against Houston and Nov. 14 against Minnesota.

Favre only completed 3 of 15 passes, often throwing incomplete on shorter passes in the first half. He said he told coaches that he could be more effective throwing deeper routes in the second half, and that triggered Green Bay's offense.

"As I told Mike (Sherman) and those guys at halftime, I felt better off throwing the ball with some velocity downfield," Favre said. "The down-the-field throws with some velocity on it was much easier than a five-yard to the slot pass. The wind was pretty predictable for the most part. ..."

The Packers had a 70-yard screen pass for a touchdown to Ahman Green called back because of a holding call in the third quarter. But the Packers bounced back from the penalty before Favre hit Driver with a 23-yard touchdown pass that closed Green Bay to 13-10 late in the fourth quarter.

Favre's 39-yard strike to Driver early in the fourth quarter set up Longwell's 28-yard field goal to tie the game at 13-13.

While the Packers got it in gear on offense in the second half, Green Bay's defense figured out how to stop Lions running back Kevin Jones, who finished with 156 yards on 33 carries and a touchdown.

Though the Eagles ripped through Green Bay's defense for 460 yards through the air, the Lions went to the ground in the first half with great success behind Jones, who rushed for 196 yards in a victory over the Arizona Cardinals a week earlier.

Green Bay entered the game ranked third in the NFC, allowing 103.9 yards rushing per game, but Jones gave Detroit a 10-0 lead on his 24-yard touchdown run with 14:20 remaining in the second quarter. He rambled through Green Bay's defense for 118 yards on 23 carries in the first half.

"They were loading up the box, so you run the ball sometimes against eight in the box, which is not easy," said Lions coach Steve Mariucci. "He broke some tackles and I thought he played well. This was his first cold weather game, and he certainly handled it OK."

The Packers' offense, shut down by the Philadephia Eagles on Dec. 5, wasn't much better in the first two quarters. Green Bay was held to 78 first-half yards and four first downs. Detroit had 13 first downs, and 147 of its 155 total yards came on the ground in the first half.

Green Bay held Detroit to 73 yards of offense in the second half.

"We came in here (locker room at halftime) and did some soul searching, and the guys came out and did what they had to do," said Sherman. "We got rid of the senseless penalties and we were able to convert some third downs and make some big plays on offense."

The Packers never began a drive beyond their own 20 yard line in the first quarter and didn't get a first down in their first three series. As a result, punter Bryan Barker struggled kicking into the 30 to 35 mph wind, and the Lions never began a series closer than their own 40.

Jason Hanson's 31-yard field goal capped a 9-play, 47-yard drive that gave the Lions a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter. Detroit took advantage of two pass interference penalties on the Packers, including a 17-yard penalty on cornerback Al Harris against wide receiver Roy Williams on the Lions' 3. But Green Bay's defense stiffened. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila sacked Harrington for a five-yard loss and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins deflected a pass that was nearly intercepted by safety Darren Sharper, forcing Detroit to settle for a field goal attempt.

Detroit drove to Green Bay's 18, thanks to Jones' 31-yard burst and Harrington's 17-yard scramble for a first down late in the first half. But the Packers held Detroit, which got a 36-yard field goal from Hanson into the wind for a 13-0 lead.


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