By Johnathon Gustin / @jgustin113
DETROIT, Mich. — The difference between the Detroit Lions’ Week 3 loss at home 24-12 to the Denver Broncos (their lowest home offensive output of the season) and Thursday’s against the Packers was expectations. That team the Lions fielded on Sept. 27 was a dead-in-the-water offense with a banged up defense that had yet to develop any chemistry. Coming into Thursday, the Lions had won their last three games, holding their opponents to 14 points per game. Most recently, the offense produced a season-high 45 points against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving. Some NFL analysts were even predicting Detroit to win out in their remaining games against a much easier schedule than the start of the season to go 9-7 and a possible Wild Card berth.
However, despite a fast start and jumping out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter, Green Bay produced some magic to steal one from Detroit 27-23.
The game started off with the offensive momentum the Lions had found against Chip Kelly’s defense and made those predictions seem possible as Detroit scored on their first three possessions.
Matt Prater continued his perfect season with a 51-yard field goal. That was followed by Matthew Stafford slicing up the Packers secondary for an 8-play, 76 yard drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown to Eric Ebron. Less than a minute later, Lions safety Glover Quin intercepted Aaron Rodgers. That INT set up a 17-yard touchdown from Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson on the very next plays.
Detroit’s offense seemed to cool off for the remainder of the night. The special teams play by Sam Martin consistently pinning Green Bay back inside their own 30-yard line and the defensive line kept them in control heading into halftime.
Coming out of the locker room to start the second half, Detroit started off with possession of the ball. It did look like the Lions had found their offensive rhythm again with a 66-yard drive. But that stalled out at the Packers 16-yard line and Prater kicked his second of three field goals on the night to make it 20-0.
That’s when the game started to get weird.
The Packers scored on their next possession by virtue of Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb recovering a forward fumble by running back James Starks in Detroit’s end zone. That gave Green Bay their first points of the night.
Rodgers then scored his first passing touchdown after a Stafford forced fumble gave them prime field position at the Lions 12-yard line. Matt Prater responded with his third and final field goal from 42 yards out to make it 23-14.
Alas, Green Bay had other ideas. First up was Rodgers scrambling on a 17-yard TD run to bring the Packers within two.
Then Detroit did their best to try and salt away the remaining three minutes of the game. They almost succeeded, burning up 2 minutes and 41 seconds and trapping Green Bay at their own 21-yard line with :23 to go.
On 3rd down, the Packers, still at their 21-yard line with :06 remaining on the game clock, Green Bay lateraled the ball three times with it ending up back in the hands of Aaron Rodgers as he was sacked by the Devin Taylor. Time expired. However it was not meant to be.
Taylor was called for a facemask penalty giving Aaron Rodgers and the Packers one more untimed play in regulation.
“I knew I grabbed his collarbone, shoulder pad,” Taylor said. “Whatever the ref saw, he called facemask. There’s nothing I could do about it. Just keep playing until the next down.”
A 61-yard hail mary was the only option as Rodgers scrambled to his right. On the other end, Richard Rodgers answered his prayer, slowly backing into the end zone, similar to how a forward boxes out for a rebound in basketball, to snag the ball in front of the wall the Lions defense had created in the end zone.
“Man I’m still in shock,” Lions wide receiver Golden Tate said. “I really don’t know how to feel about what just happened. That’s crazy but it just shows that the game is not over until there are zero seconds on the clock and even sometimes then, it’s not over.”
Going down the board, leading Green Bay in receiving was the aforementioned Richard Rodgers with 8 receptions for 146 yards and 1TD, the game winner. For Detroit, Golden Tate had 8 catches for 63 yards and Theo Riddick had 5 receptions for 27 yards. Calvin Johnson and Eric Ebron had the Lions’ two TD’s of the game.
In the battle between quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers was 24-of-36 for 273 yards, 2 passing TDs, 1 INT along with leading Green bay in rushing with 4 carries for 27 yards and a rushing touchdown. Stafford was 23-of-35 for 220 yards and 2 TDs. Ameer Abdullah had the most rushing yards for Detroit with 13 carries for 67 yards.
Next up: The Lions (4-8) are on the road, facing the reeling St.Louis Rams (4-7). Green Bay (8-4) host the hobbled Dallas Cowboys (3-8) next Sunday and Lambeau Field.