The Green Bay Packers use four turnovers, five sacks, and alate touchdown tosneak out of Detroit with a four point victory to extend their league leading winning streak to six.
With what seems like half the team injured and literally half of the starting squad out with injury, Green Bay was able to make just enough plays to escape Detroit with a 24-20 victory, including five sacks on defense, without Clay Matthews on the field today. But the team stepped up when necessary.
"When our best was needed," Rodgers said, "we were able to come through."
His best is exactly what Randall Cobb gave on the winning touchdown play. Rodgers floater for a well covered Cobb was under thrown. Cobb was able to make the adjustment while the Detroit corner back, with his back to the ball, was not, and Green Bay led 21-20.
Detroit took the early lead with the only points of the first quarter when Jason Hanson made a 30 yard field goal.
Green Bay had excellent field position on two of their first three possessions, starting at their own 39-yard line and then the Detroit 48. On the second of those possessions Green Bay elected to go for it over trying a 48-yard field goal.
The coaching staff has lost all confidence in place-kicker Mason Crosby. Crosby had opportunities to get that confidence back in this game, but failed to do so making just 1-of-3 field goal attempts. He missed a 50-yard and 38-yarder in the game and is just 6 of his last 13 after starting the year a perfect 5-of-5. Expect the Packers to hold place kicking auditions this week.
Crosby came into the season with a career 79.6 percent of field goals made, 42nd all time in NFL history, and had his best season as a pro last year connecting on 85.7 percent. But something is clearly amiss this year as he almost shanked an extra point attempt outside the uprights as well today.
Green Bay did get on the board three plays into the second quarter when Aaron Rodgers hit Jermichael Finley on a short toss that Finley was able to run into the end zone untouched for the 20-yard score and a 7-3 Packer lead.
The rest of the second quarter was much like the first with Detroit scoring and Green Bay failing to capitalize on excellent field position starting from their own 48-yard line and the Detroit 42 on two of their three subsequent possessions.
Detroit went 74-yards on 10 plays, capped by a Mikel Leshoure 1-yard touchdown run that was initially stuffed, but Leshoure was able to stretch his hand on across the plain of the goal line on second effort. The touchdown gave Detroit back the lead 10-7.
As they did on each of their scoring drives and much of the day Detroit used big plays to move the ball. The first scoring drive featured a 53-yard bomb to Calvin Johnson. While the second was highlighted by pass completions of 17, 21, and 14 yards. In all Detroit had nine plays of 15-yards or more Sunday.
In the second half Green Bay went backwards on their first possession.
Detroit was able to move 23 yards to the Packer 44-yard line. From there M.D. Jennings was the recipient of a gift deflection off the hands of Tony Scheffler. Jennings returned it for a 72-yard score and a 14-10 Packer lead.
One of the Lion's big plays came on the following possession when Stafford threw a ball that somehow went through the hands of safety Morgan Burnett into those of Calvin Johnson for a 25-yard touchdown and Detroit was back in the lead 17-14.
Detroit used, in part, 27 and 24 yard completions driving to the Packer 9-yard line but could move no further when rookie Casey Hayward broke up a pass intended for Titus Young on third down. One of many superb plays by Hayward on the day, which I will cover later. However, Green Bay was unable to stop the 27-yard field goal as Detroit pushed the lead to 20-14 with 4:25 left in the game.
It took Rodgers and the Packer offense just 2:30 to take the lead back when Rodgers hit Cobb with the 22-yard game winner.
Detroit had one more shot with 1:55 left but instead of gaining any yards they went backwards five with a false start penalty. On 3rd down Hayward undercut Young again for an incompletion and on 4th down Stafford threw up a prayer for tight end Tony Scheffler that was broken up by rookie safety Jerron McMillan.
Crosby added his only successful field goal from 39-yards out for the final score of 24-21.
Rodgers finished the day and efficient 19-of-27 for 236 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, and a 106.4 passer rating.
Randall Cobb had a game high 9 catches for 74 yards and a touchdown. No other Packer had more than three catches.
James Starks, as I predicted, got the start and all but three of the Green Bay carries. He had 74 yards on 25 totes. Consistent with the philosophy during their current winning streak, Green Bay refused to give up on the run.
Hayward, starting in place of the injured Sam Shields for the fourth time, continues to make plays. He had a total of five passes defensed and his fifth interception of the season. Since Shields injury against Houston on October 14 Hayward has four interceptions, 22 tackles, and 11 passes defensed.
His five interceptions is second in the NFL. Depending on the rest of the games, his 14 total passes defensed on the season will rank him among the top five in the league. All accomplished while being the nickel back the first five games, starting just four games and half of another in Houston. Rookie of the year anyone?
Hayward came out of college with a reputation for making plays and has continued that trend in the NFL. It was my very strong, stated, belief he would be a very good corner back for a long time. Already the rookie is clearly the best corner back on the Packer roster. It would be a real mistake to give Shileds his starting job back over Hayward.
Stafford, unlike his counterpart, was an inefficient 17-of-39 for 266 yards, 1TD, 2 INT, and a 54.0 passer rating. Stafford has been a disappointment compared to his spectacular season a year ago. Stafford also lost a fumble. "I have to play better than that to give us a chance to win," he said.
Johnson lead all receivers with 143 yards on five catches with one touchdown. Leshoure lead all rushers with 84 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown.
"We just buckled," Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy said. "Even that last touchdown late in the game, we had a chance to make a play on it, we just didn't make the play. That's kind of been the theme for us this year, being in position and not finishing."
In all fairness Mr. Levy, most teams "buckle" against the Green Bay Packers. Which is really an indication of how good Green Bay is and not how poor others are. This is certainly how veteran receiver Donald Driver feels.
"Early on, we were trying to find the identity we had last year when we had an attitude that no one could stop us coming off our Super Bowl," Driver said. "Now, we got our groove back and we're ready to roll."
Before these same two teams meet again in three weeks, the 7-3 Packers roll on to New York to face the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last year in the Giants. While the 4-6 Lions, losers of two straight, face Houston at home next week.