Taking on the undefeated Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving, the Detroit Lions had a golden opportunity to make people forget about embarrassments of the past on Turkey Day. For one half, despite some terrible penalties, they were doing a pretty good job of that, too. In the second half, however, the Lions melted down with more bad penalties and more awful turnovers. The Packers capitalized on the mistakes and jumped out to a 24-0 lead before ultimately winning by a score of 27-15.
When the Lions look back on this game, they will kick themselves for missing out on so many chances to score in the first half because of penalties. On the first drive of the game, for example, the Lions moved into Packers territory pretty quickly and looked like they were getting ready to score. Kevin Smith was running well and picked up 16 yards, but the play was negated because of a holding penalty on Nate Burleson. The drive immediately stalled and the Lions had to punt.
After getting a good stop, the Lions got the ball back and again put together a promising drive. Just like the first drive of the game, though, this one was derailed by penalties. Jeff Backus picked up an illegal hands to the face penalty, and Brandon Pettigrew was called for holding. The latter penalty backed the Lions out of field goal range, and they had to punt after failing to pick up a first down.
The Packers went three-and-out, and once again the Lions had a promising drive. The story was the same as the first two possessions, though. Penalties killed the Lions' chances of points. Maurice Morris was flagged for a chop block when the Lions were in Green Bay territory, and the penalty killed the drive. It put the Lions back on their own side of the field and resulted in another missed opportunity to take the lead.
The penalty wasn't the only bad thing to happen on this drive. Smith suffered an ankle injury on a reverse. He simply tossed the ball to Nate Burleson, but he immediately came up lame and had to leave the game. He didn't return, and this, along with injuries to Chris Houston, Louis Delmas and others, really hurt the Lions' chances of winning this game.
The Lions managed to make a stop on the next Packers drive despite picking up several more penalties. This meant the score was still 0-0, but that changed after Matthew Stafford was picked off on the next Lions possession. His pass was tipped and intercepted by Clay Matthews, and it took the Packers only three plays to score after taking over at the 13-yard line. Aaron Rodgers found Greg Jennings for a three-yard TD and put the Packers on top, 7-0.
The Lions blew another chance for points on the next drive when Jason Hanson missed a 47-yard field goal. Green Bay didn't score on the ensuing drive, but neither did the Lions before time ran out on the first half. The score was 7-0 in Green Bay's favor, and although on the surface that wasn't bad considering all of the mistakes, the Lions really should have at least been tied given how the first half played out.
Things unraveled for the Lions on the opening drive of the second half. Rodgers put together a good drive for the Packers, but the Lions made a stop on third-and-goal, seemingly holding Green Bay to a field goal. That would have been the case had Ndamukong Suh not decided to stomp a Packers player, drawing a flag and an ejection. The Packers scored two plays later to take a 14-0 lead, and it was all downhill from here.
The Lions offense picked up where it left off in the first half and shot themselves in the foot after putting together a promising drive. Stafford was picked off again, and the Packers scored on a 65-yard pass from Rodgers to James Jones on the very next play. The wheels were coming off for the Lions with them now trailing by three touchdowns.
The meltdown continued on the next drive when Charles Woodson essentially outfought Brandon Pettigrew for the ball. Stafford was picked off again as a result, and the Packers got a 35-yard field goal out of this particular turnover. The kick gave them a 24-0 lead and essentially put the nail in Detroit's coffin.
The Lions did try to at least make things interesting on the next drive with a touchdown. Keiland Williams scored on a nice run from 16 yards out, and the Lions' two-point conversion was good, making this a two-possession game.
After the Lions defense forced a stop, the offense had a chance to make things even more interesting. Instead, however, they went three-and-out, basically ending the game. The Packers took over and ran nearly six minutes off the clock before kicking another field goal. The Lions did add another touchdown in the final minute of the game, but their onside kick went right to the Packers, allowing them to start celebrating their 27-15 victory on Thanksgiving.
For the Lions, they simply had too many injuries, penalties and turnovers to beat a team like the Packers. All week it was said that Detroit needed to play a good game for four quarters in order to beat Green Bay. They weren't able to do that and missed out on far too many opportunities to score in the first half. Once the meltdown really got underway with Suh's ejection, the Lions were toast, and Rodgers and the Packers made them pay.
The Lions now sit at 7-4 on the season and they have to travel to New Orleans for a game against the Saints next Sunday night. It will be another tough game for the Lions, especially with all of the injuries that happened today and the possibility that Suh will be suspended. To say the least, an upset in the Superdome will be tough to pull off.