Saved by the Bell

PONTIAC, Mich. – Lulled to sleep late in the game in front of a half-empty Silverdome crowd, the Green Bay Packers were nearly embarrassed for the second time in four days.

Rookie quarterback Mike McMahon, who replaced Charlie Batch after the Packers took a 29-13 lead midway through the fourth quarter, led the Lions on a 71-yard touchdown drive as Detroit closed to 29-21 with 1 minute, 17 seconds remaining in the game. After Detroit recovered a pooch kick on the Packers' 31, McMahon struck again by firing a 29-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Scottie Anderson with 10 seconds remaining.

But the Packers snuck away with a rare win in the Silverdome, their last game here, when McMahon threw incomplete on the two-point conversion attempt to tie the game. The Packers snapped a four-game losing streak in the Silverdome and bounced back from a 23-20 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at home on Nov. 18.

"Hallelujah," said Packers quarterback Brett Favre. "What else to you want me to say?" The Thanksgiving Day win kept the Packers (7-3) within striking distance of first place of the Chicago Bears in the NFC's Central Division.

"This is a Thanksgiving I won't ever forget, I promise ya," said Packers coach Mike Sherman. "We have a lot to be thankful for. I got to say this: the Detroit Lions football team gave us everything we could handle today. They played a hard-fought game and at the end, we thought we had it and we didn't have it. They fought back. I've got to take my hat off to Marty (Mornhinweg) and his staff and those players over there. They did a heck of a job."

The winless Lions were playing without safety Ron Rice, out with a season-ending neck injury, and a number of other players who have been slowed by injuries. It appeared Detroit was rolling over for the Packers when Ryan Longwell made a 39-yard field goal with 7:06 left in the game to give the Packers a 16-point cushion.

But McMahon, a fifth round pick out of Rutgers who completed just two of five passes this season, used his scrambling ability as the Lions dominated the final half of the fourth quarter. The Lions ran off 27 of their 69 plays, converted four fourth downs, scored two touchdowns and nearly shocked the Packers.

"You come with two goals: To win a football game and to play well," said Packers defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. "We achieved one."

McMahon played a series in the second quarter and completed one pass for 12 yards. He finished the game by completing nine of 20 passes for 89 yards. He may have shown the Lions (0-10) enough with his performance to gain an advantage over Batch, who was bothered with a groin strain during the game, as the starter for the remainder of this season, or next year.

"He certainly has the ability to get away from pressure," said Sherman. "We had a tired group of guys running after him, but he does have the escapability factor, which I think in my mind, is a starting point for a quarterback in this offense and in the National Football League to be able to avoid pressure. ... I think he has a bright future."

A master of the West Coast offense, Favre threw for two touchdowns, including a 35-yard play-action pass to running back Ahman Green early in the third quarter that gave the Packers a 24-13 lead.

Favre completed 18 of 26 passes for 252 yards and no interceptions. Green rushed 22 times for 102 yards and scored two touchdowns.

Until the final half of the fourth quarter, the Packers defense recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass, which set up touchdowns for the Packers in the first and third quarters. Green Bay also notched a safety with 12:20 left in the game when defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila sacked Batch and forced him to fumble at the Lions' 1. Defensive end John Thierry and cornerback Tod McBride missed on attempts in a mad scramble to secure the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. But Lions running back Lamont Warren came up with it and the Packers had a 26-13 lead as many of the Lions fans amid the announced crowd of 77,730 who did show up headed for the exits.

Sherman used his second challenge of the game, saying Thierry had control of the ball in the end zone before Warren recovered, but the ruling on the field was upheld. The Packers also submitted the film of the play to the league office for further review.

"Human error is always going to be part of football," said Sherman. "I've had my part of human error as have officials. It's certainly frustrating. You have to move forward." Linebacker Nate Wayne got his third interception of the season by grabbing a deflected pass from Batch and returning it 35 yards to the Packers' 46 early in the third quarter.

Favre hit wide receiver Bill Schroeder with a 13-yard pass along the right sideline to the 39 for a first down. Two plays later, Favre faked a handoff to Green, avoided a blitz and threw to Green, who had nobody around him and raced into the corner of the end zone.

"It was surprising," said Green. "You prepare for things like that. We know how their defense reacts when you do play-action. They try to drop the ‘mike' (middle) linebacker or the ‘will' (weakside) 'backer. ... That's what happened today. (Chris) Claiborne fell out, I believe, and usually what is a three- to five-yard gain for us turned into a 30- 40-yard touchdown pass." Rookie tight end David Martin caught his first touchdown pass with 18 seconds left in the second quarter as the Packers took a 17-13 halftime lead. Martin's touchdown capped an 81-yard drive and helped take away the sting of a turnover that resulted in a Lions touchdown on the previous series.

But Green Bay responded by driving 81 yards on nine plays behind Favre, who completed five passes for 47 yards. Favre also was slammed to the artificial turf by defensive end Robert Porcher, who was penalized 15-yards for roughing the passer penalty midway through the drive.

The Lions took advantage of Green Bay's only turnover of the first half when defensive end James Hall picked up a fumble by Favre and scored from eight yards out. Favre fumbled as he was drilled by Claiborne. Hall picked up the ball and gave the Lions a 13-10 lead with 3:43 left in the half.

Sherman challenged the touchdown, saying Favre hit the ground before he fumbled, but the ruling was upheld.

The Packers scored their first touchdown of the game thanks to rookie Bhawoh Jue, who started in place of the injured LeRoy Butler. Jue punched the ball away from wide receiver Johnnie Morton at the end of a 42-yard completion on the Lions' first play from scrimmage and cornerback Tyrone Williams recovered in the end zone.

The Packers turned around and marched 80 yards on five plays and took a 7-0 lead on Green's 26-yard run. Green rushed for 43 yards in the series, including a 15-yard pickup around the left end on the second play of the drive. Favre's 17-yard pass to Schroeder put the Packers on the 26. Green blasted through a big hole on the left side, broke a tackle at the 20 and trotted into the end zone.

Hanson made field goals from 33- and 54 yards between the first and second quarters to close the Lions to 7-6. Ryan Longwell made a 46-yarder with 9:12 left in the second quarter to give the Packers a 10-6 lead.

Besides Rice, the Lions played without linebacker Stephen Boyd (back), kick returner Desmond Howard (shoulder), wide receiver Bert Emanuel (knee) and guard Stockar McDougle (foot).

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