The Green Bay Packers weathered that early storm, however, and won their third consecutive game 34-12 on Thanksgiving at Ford Field.
For the second consecutive week, the Packers' offense posted prodigious numbers, especially through the air. Aaron Rodgers had 204 passing yards by halftime, but the Packers led only 13-7 at the break. But Green Bay sent the fans scurrying home to their turkey and dressing by the end of the third quarter. Rodgers hit Donald Driver for 45 yards to start a 90-yard scoring drive and capped it with a 7-yard toss to Driver on third down to make it 20-7. On Green Bay's next drive, Rodgers scrambled and flipped the ball to Ryan Grant for a 27-yard gain, then hit James Jones while on the move on third-and-2 for a 21-yard score to make it 27-7 with 38 seconds remaining in the period. That throw gave Rodgers 345 passing yards in three quarters.
The win capped a huge 12-day stretch in which the Packers not only salvaged their season but became major playoff challengers in the NFC. By beating conference rivals Dallas, San Francisco and Detroit in succession, Green Bay improved to 7-4 and, for the moment at least, jumped into first place in the NFC wild-card chase. The three conference victories could be huge if the playoff battle comes down to a tiebreaker.
The Packers' defense, minus Aaron Kampman and Al Harris, had practically no problems against Stafford and gimpy receiver Calvin Johnson. Stafford threw four interceptions, and the Packers turned the first two into 10 points. A late interception by Charles Woodson accounted for the final score, an effort underscored by his Heisman pose in the end zone. Moments later, Woodson added a strip and fumble recovery.
Rodgers wound up with three touchdown passes, including a 7-yard screen to tight end Donald Lee that tied the game 7-7.
Despite dominating statistically, the Packers led only 13-7 at halftime. After an exchange of turnovers and a Lions punt, the Packers marched from their 10-yard line to the Lions' 7. Green Bay faced third-and-5. Its last two trips inside the 10-yard line resulted in field goals, but not this one. The Lions blitzed more players than the Packers had blockers. Donald Driver and Aaron Rodgers were on the same page, with Driver adjusting his route for a key touchdown that made it 20-7.
Donald Driver got Fox's "Galloping Gobbler" award and Aaron Rodgers threw for 348 yards and three touchdowns, but once again, Charles Woodson was the best player on the field. He intercepted two passes, including one for a touchdown, had a strip and recovery for a third turnover, and added a sack. Not a bad day's work for a guy who donated $2 million to the University of Michigan's new C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and Women's Hospital. His fund-raising work is detailed in the cover story of the new Packer Report Magazine.
"I think it's good for us – three games in 12 days – two home games we needed to win and this one to get to 7-4," Aaron Rodgers said. "It'll give us a little time off to rest and recover and it's an important win for us. We knew the kind of effort that Detroit was going to bring and we started off pretty much giving them seven points. We battled back, stuck with the game plan and guys made plays so we were able to come out on top."
The other things you need to know
-- The only injuries of note were to left tackle Chad Clifton, who went down with a hamstring injury in the third quarter, and Jordy Nelson, who exited with an injured shoulder. Coach Mike McCarthy wasn't sure on the severity of either, though neither player returned. Aaron Rodgers will be sore after taking a couple of big shots but wasn't injured.
-- The Packers' injury-plagued defense dominated. Green Bay forced five turnovers, and of the Lions' 272 yards, almost half of them came in the fourth quarter once the game was over.
-- McCarthy said his decision to pass on a 49-yard field goal early in the third quarter, which would have made the score 16-7, was based on a good feeling he had about the play call and not a lack of confidence in kicker Mason Crosby, who has struggled from long distance this season and missed from 43 in the first quarter.
-- With the Packers off until facing Baltimore next Monday night, they get a mini-bye with no practice until Tuesday, plus another day off on Wednesday.
-- Lions coach Jim Schwartz said the decision to play Matthew Stafford was made on Thursday morning. Stafford, who suffered a sprained AC joint in his nonthrowing shoulder against Cleveland on Sunday, completed only 20-of-43 passes for 213 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions. He played with an extra pad and said it didn't affect his performance.
-- A big fourth-quarter pass completion to Dennis Northcutt that covered 47 yards when threw the hands of cornerback Jarrett Bush.
-- At 7-4, the Packers lead the NFC wild-card chase over Philadelphia and the New York Giants, who are both 6-4, and Atlanta, which is 5-5. The Giants visit Denver on Thursday night, Philadelphia hosts Washington on Sunday and Atlanta hosts Tampa Bay on Sunday.