The Packers' running game and defensive lineman Mike Daniels came up huge in a crucial win.
The Green Bay Packers lead the NFC North with all tiebreakers intact, and can clinch the division title with a victory against the Chicago Bears next week. They got off to a terribly slow start, going down two touchdowns early to the Detroit Lions on Sunday night, but rallied back in the second half to capture a 27-20 win.
Green Bay's offense failed to sustain anything throughout the first half, while the Lions defense repeatedly stayed on the field on third down. Detroit closed the first half with two-thirds of the possession, something that they would eventually squander. Green Bay finished with just under 23 minutes of possession to Detroit's 37 minutes, but they managed to eat up plenty of clock with their running game in the second half as they pulled ahead in the game.
Detroit got off to a dominant start with a 12-play, 79-yard drive that ate up nearly eight minutes of clock to open the game. Matthew Stafford capped off the drive with a 4th and 1 touchdown run on a naked bootleg to put the Lions ahead. On the ensuing Packers possession, Lawrence Jackson stripped Aaron Rodgers, and Stephen Tulloch recovered the fumble. The Lions went on to score with another long drive following the turnover, as the Packers dug a deep hole.
Mason Crosby, who has struggled mightily in the second half of the season, had a much better game than usual on Sunday and got the Packers on the board with a 49-yard field goal on their next drive. Detroit appeared to be driving down the field to expand their lead when they regained possession of the ball, but the weather got the better of Stafford.
While the two teams were not playing in blizzard conditions by any stretch of the imagination, there was snow with a solid 10-plus MPH wind behind it that affected play. It got the better of Stafford with just under seven minutes remaining in the second quarter, when he wound up to throw a pass and the ball slipped out of his hand. Defensive lineman Mike Daniels pounced and took off 49 yards to the end zone, giving the Packers a much needed spark and turning around the game in their favor.
The second half was much different than the first, as the Packers managed to sustain drives with a very balanced offensive attack. Aaron Rodgers finished the game with 24 passing attempts, and was sacked three times. He was also responsible for three uncalled running plays out of the Packers' 25, and the 31-22 play calling split will have been around what most fans are hoping for on a game-to-game basis from Green Bay.
Green Bay took the lead with their first drive of the second quarter, and it was Rodgers' legs who put them in front. On 3rd down and 4 from the Detroit 27, the pocket collapsed on Rodgers, but he was able to make a stunning escape to avoid a sack. Seeing blanket man-to-man coverage in front of him, he took off running, and managed to reach the end zone virtually untouched to put the Packers ahead, 17-14.
While Detroit would kick a field goal on their next drive to tie the score, the Packers did not trail in the game from any point after Rodgers' rushing touchdown. They went back on top for good on their first drive of the fourth quarter, with recently signed running back DuJuan Harris providing the scoring punch. He powered through the Lions' defense on an impressive 14-yard run, scoring his first career NFL touchdown.
Alex Green carried the majority of the load for the Packers on the ground, rushing 13 times for 69 yards, but Harris was effective on his seven carries for 31 yards. Ryan Grant also got in on the act, carrying one time for 13 yards in his return to the Packers, which also happened to fall on his birthday.
Crosby, who barely missed a 52-yard field goal after his one long make, nailed a clutch kick in the 4th quarter from 41 yards out to put the Packers up by two scores. The Lions marched into Green Bay territory on their next drive, from the four-minute mark, but some massive plays by Casey Hayward prevented them from cutting into the Packers' lead. He made knockdowns on 2nd and 3rd down plays, before Jerron McMillian broke up an attempted 4th down pass to Tony Scheffler. The play was originally ruled an interception for McMillian, but was overturned and the Lions turned the ball over on downs.
Green Bay failed to make anything of their next drive, giving the Lions another shot. They kicked a field goal with seven seconds remaining, giving them a shot at an onside kick attempt and a Hail Mary, but they never got the ball back. Their onside kick attempt sailed out of bounds, and Rodgers took a knee to seal the win.