Pack back on track, whip Lions, 34-13

The Green Bay Packers wrapped up their most successful regular season since they went to Super Bowl XXXII by whipping the hapless Detroit Lions 34-13 at chilly Lambeau Field Sunday afternoon. Now it's on to the postseason, where the Packers will host a NFC Divisional game on Jan. 12 at 3:30 p.m. (CT).

The Packers opted to rest a number of starters and pulled many others against Detroit shortly after taking a 21-3 lead early in the second quarter. Green Bay's reserves took over from that point on and lifted the Packers to a 13-3 record, a week after they were embarrassed in all phases, 35-7, by the Chicago Bears. Green Bay's record matches the team record for wins in a season, last matched in 1997 when the Packers advanced to Super Bowl XXXII in San Diego before losing to the Denver Broncos.

"We're playoff ready," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who improved to 4-0 against the Lions. "We'll be playoff ready in two weeks. We'll take some time off here in the next couple of days and then we'll get back at it with the fundamentals on Friday and Saturday. We're not going to change our approach. We're going to continue working on improving and getting ready to win football games."

Starting wide receivers Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, tight end Donald Lee, defensive end Aaron Kampman, and cornerback Charles Woodson were among the players not activated to the 45-man game day roster. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has been nursing a hamstring injury, was the designated third quarterback.

Without those players, the Packers rolled up 394 yards of offense against the Lions, including 217 on the ground. Backup running back Brandon Jackson stepped in for an injured Ryan Grant in the first quarter and finished with 113 yards on 20 carries (5.7 per carry avg.).

The Packers' first-team offense scored touchdowns on its first three possessions of the game to give Green Bay a 21-3 lead to the delight of the 70,869 fans on Brett Favre Bobble Head Day before McCarthy began to sub liberally on both sides of the ball.

Brett Favre runs for a 21-yard gain on Green Bay's second play from scrimmage.
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Favre played in three series, completing 9 of 11 passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in the 20-degree weather. Favre finished the regular season with 15 interceptions, his lowest total since 2001 and improved to 17-0 at home against the Lions.

Craig Nall, stepping in for Favre, put the game away late in the third quarter with a 32-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Ruvell Martin on fourth-and-two to give the Packers a 31-13 lead, sending Detroit (7-9) to its 17th straight loss in the state of Wisconsin including the playoffs. Nall, playing in his first game as a Packer since the regular season finale in 2004, completed 7 of 15 passes for 88 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.

Mason Crosby split the uprights with a 35-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to become the NFL's scoring leader this season with 141 total points.

After the way his team played against the Bears, McCarthy was pleased with all phases in the win over the Lions.

"I liked the way we started the game," McCarthy said. "The fundamentals, I'm sure when we look at the film we'll feel a lot better about the progress we made this week getting back to the basics. That showed up today. Playing all of our younger players and the improvement that gives you with depth, there are a number of positives that came out of this game today."

The Packers lost three players to injuries during the game, which further tested Green Bay's depth at three positions. Grant (stinger), cornerback Will Blackmon (foot), and offensive lineman Jason Spitz (quadriceps) left the game in the first half with injuries. Blackmon's injury appears to be the most severe, and McCarthy said he will have more information on the injury to same foot that Blackmon has hurt twice in recent seasons on Monday. Blackmon, however, says he is fine.

"I'm good," Blackmon told reporters afterward. "I'm not on crutches or anything, so I'm just walking around, I'm all right."

The Lions took advantage of a Green Bay's watered down secondary late in the second quarter when quarterback Jon Kitna found wide receiver Shaun McDonald cutting across the field wide open for a 30-yard touchdown to close the Lions to 21-10. Starting cornerback Al Harris was pulled from the game early in the second quarter, and with Blackmon in the locker room, the Packers suddenly had matchup problems with the Lions receivers.

That was the only touchdown Kitna, who finished 22 of 48 for 246 yards, could muster. Green Bay's reserves held the Lions to a field goal the rest of the way.

"We just aren't executing the way you need to execute in this league," Kitna said. "It all has to work together and you can't have breakdowns. That is what we had today. Give Green Bay credit, but for the most part we just didn't make plays."

Prior to pulling their starters, the Packers scored at will on offense while the defense shut down the Lions. Green Bay piled up 10 first downs to Detroit's 1 in the first quarter. Favre's 5-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Koren Robinson, his first as a Packer, with 2:25 left in the quarter gave the Packers a 14-3 lead, capping an 11-play, 97-yard drive. Favre's 12-yard pass in the flat to running back Vernand Morency and 21-yard pass to a wide open Robinson moved the Packers to Detroit's 23.

"Hopefully more will come in the playoffs," said Robinson about his touchdown catch. "I'll get other opportunities to get back into the end zone, but it just feels good. That's my first one here at Lambeau, my first one with the Packers, and my first one with Brett (Favre), that's a special occasion."

The Packers capitalized on one of Detriot's two first-half turnovers when Favre threw a 3-yard strike to tight end Bubba Franks in the end zone for a 21-3 lead early in the second quarter. The drive began on Detroit's 41 after safety Atari Bigby made his team-high fifth interception of the season. Jackson had a 12-yard run and gained 13 yards on a screen play to the Lions' 11 to ignite the drive.

"It's all about just keeping your shoulder pads low and keep your feet running and EB (running backs coach Edgar Bennett) has been doing a great job preparing us for that," said Jackson.

Grant finished with 57 yards on just six carries and was forced to leave the game with 6:07 left in the first quarter with a stinger after a one-yard run. McCarthy said that Grant could have returned, but the coach decided to keep his top running back out. Prior to his injury, Grant gave the Packers a 7-3 lead with 9:57 left in the first quarter on a 27-yard cutback run to the left for his eighth touchdown of the season and sixth straight game with at least one rushing touchdown. The drive was sparked by Favre's 21-yard run to the Lions' 33, his longest scamper since a 35-yard run against Tennessee on Dec. 20, 1998.

"I don't run as much as I used to," Favre said. "That (play) has a run-pass option and I just decided to keep it. I've still got a little bit left."

Aveion Cason opened the game with a 54-yard kickoff return, which coupled with Crosby's 10-yard tripping penalty, gave the Lions the ball on Green Bay's 33. But the Packers' defense forced Detroit to settle for kicker Jason Hanson's 35-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.

Hanson's 38-yard field goal midway through the third quarter cut Green Bay's lead to 24-13. The Lions started the drive on Green Bay's 30 after Nall fumbled the snap from center.

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