Way too close: Packers fend off Lions

The Packers' 37-31 victory over the winless Detroit Lions Sunday at brand new Ford Field was closer than it should have been, littered with penalties and turnovers. Worse yet, the game left the Packers with a slew of new injuries and question marks. Despite all the bad news, the game fulfilled the most important credo in the NFL: JUST WIN.<P>

The close call began with the Packers trailing 7-0 early after yielding a touchdown on a punt return reverse when Eddie Drummond fielded Josh Bidwell's 44-yard punt and dished it off to Az-Zahir Hakim who ran 72 yards for a Lions touchdown two minutes in. The mood under which the game finished wasn't much better: a near-miss on an onsides kick, a pile of penalties that served to keep the Lions' hopes alive. Not many wins finish with the victorious head coach slamming his clipboard and yelling at his staff on the sideline.

What should have been a blowout after the Packers gained a 17-point second-half lead became a nailbiter. With 48 seconds remaining and Green Bay leading by just 6, rookie QB Joey Harrington poised on the brink of heroism and the Packers teetering on the edge of embarrassment, Tod McBride made up for his previous penalties with an interception on third down. On Lions' penultimate play, Harrington and Ricks - who had Na'il Diggs beaten - missed a touchdown connection by the smallest margin.

"Just barely," Sherman replied when reminded his team came away with a win. "But we did get it done. It goes into the books and at the end of the season that's all that matters. But right now we have a lot of work to do.

"It looked like we couldn't put this team away, and that's what a championship team has to do. We have to look at ourselves and see if we get in this situation again what we have to do to put the nail in the coffin," Sherman said.

Ryan Longwell's 34-yard field goal 4 1/2 minutes into the fourth quarter put the Packers up 17 points. That should have been more than enough breathing room again a team as accustomed to losing as the Lions.

But this time, the Lions refused to go quietly. Detroit fought back with a 2-yard Corey Schlesinger touchdown run with 8:23 remaining. Larry Foster started the drive with a 50-yard kickoff return - another sore spot for the Packers Sunday. From there Harrington completed two passes and the Lions moved up an additional 21 yards on a pass interference penalty issued to Na'il Diggs.

After six minutes of futility for both teams, the Lions mounted a 95-yard drive. James Stewart took a Harrington screen pass and eluded Packers tacklers to make a 52-yard touchdown catch-and-run that cut the Packers' lead to 3 points with 1:37 to go. The drive wasons scoring drive was 8 plays, 95 yards.

Darren Sharper recovered a dicey onsides kick, but the Packers couldn't get far on the short field. The settled for a Longwell 47-yard field goal with 1:15 to go, for an uneasy 6-point margin.

"We faced a lot of adversity," Sherman said. "We were down to our last back, we lost one of our tight ends. I'm glad to get out of here with a win."

The adversity to which Sherman refers came in the form of injuries - lots of them. Already without RB Ahman Green, the Packers saw a long list of starters succumb to injury Sunday: William Henderson left the game with a sprained MCL, receiver Javon Walker suffered quad contusion in the first half, attempted to come back but re-exited after one play. Antuan Edwards also sprained his wrist. Vonnie Holliday and David Martin (concussion) were also among the injured. Martin had practiced as the Packers' back-up blocking back and would have been pressed into service after Henderson's injury had he been available.

"In the preseason I told them we'd have adversity. I've had all the adversity I can handle right now," Sherman said. "Number one, a win is a win. Number two, if you don't do things right you have to fix them and make sure they don't happen again."

More adversity: Green bay was whistled for 12 penalties 88 yards. Detroit, a mistake-ridden team coming in, committed only 4 penalties for 24 yards.

Not all the news was bad. Green Bay piled up 442 yards on offense, mostly thanks to Brett Favre. The QB posted his Favre-like numbers, going 31-of-47 for 357 yards and 3 TDs with one interception.

One play into the second quarter, Donald Driver's 21-yard touchdown reception in the left corner of the end zone gave the Packers their first lead of the day (14:56, 2nd quarter). Driver also had a pair of crucial third-down receptions on the drive (8 and 19 yards).

Robert Ferguson's 8-yard touchdown reception moving from right to left in the back of the end zone broke the 17-17 tie (7:56, 3rd quarter). Making his first career touchdown reception, Ferguson became the 34th receiver to catch a touchdown pass Brett Favre. The Packers scoring drive was an impressive 12 plays for 72 yards in 7:04.

In the third quarter, Favre found Bubba Franks all alone in the left corner of the end zone for a 3-yard score to add to his collection of short-yardage TDs. The touchdown was set up by Mike McKenzie's interception and Robert Ferguson's tackle-breaking catch-and-run on third down.

Franks led receptions with 9 for 62 yards. Driver finished with five catches for 94 yards, and Terry Glenn had four catches for 55 yards.

Davenport was indispensable as he picked up the slack in an all-purpose way. He had four catches for 31 yards, led rushing with 84 yards on 22 carries.

While the defense failed to answer key questions as the opponent piled up points, there were shining moments including 5 takeaways.

Just as the Lions looked to benefit from Favre's first-quarter fumble, driving to the Packers 25-yard-line. But facing third-and-4, Harrington's pass for Hakim was tipped by Steve Warren, caught by Marques Anderson and returned 78 yards for a Packers score (7:17, 1st quarter). Anderson's play was the first interception return for a touchdown by a Packers rookie since Antuan Edwards in 1999.

Mike McKenzie tipped and intercepted a Harrington pass down the right sideline to give the Packers possession at the Lions 41-yard-line late in the third quarter.

With the Lions facing third-and-2, fullback Cory Schlesinger got the carry, but Na'il Diggs forced a fumble that was recovered by Marques Anderson at the Lions 35-yard-line.

Sherman gave the defense mixed reviews:

"In the first half, except for the touchdown on 3rd and 1, I thought they did their job. We turned the ball over three times, and they handled that," Sherman said of the positives.

Another bright spot for the defense was holding the Lions to 3-of-13 (23 percent) on third down.

Meanwhile, the Bears were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten and the Vikings fell to 0-3. That leaves the Packers and Bears in the first-place tie in the NFC North.


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