Given all of the injuries the Detroit Lions have dealt with in their secondary, it seemed like Aaron Rodgers was poised to light up their defense on Sunday. That did not happen, though. Actually, it was the opposite. The Lions had one of their best defensive performances in quite some time, and the defense led them to an impressive 19-7 victory over the Green Bay Packers.
Sunday's game opened with the Lions trying to establish the run. They did actually pick up a first down thanks to a couple plays on the ground, but that was it for their opening drive of the game.
Following a Sam Martin punt and a decent return by Randall Cobb that was made possible by an uncalled hold on a Packers player, it was Green Bay ball at the Detroit 37. On the second play of the drive, Eddie Lacy had the ball knocked loose by Nick Fairley, and it just sat on the ground for a second or so. Then Don Carey came out of nowhere, picked up the ball and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown. Carey actually ended up reinjuring his hamstring on the play, but he made quite an impact despite only playing two snaps.
After the two teams traded punts for the next few drives, the Lions worked their way into Green Bay territory and seemed to be getting things going on offense. Then Jeremy Ross was taken down for a loss of 5 yards on an end-around, setting up third-and-14. Matthew Stafford had an open receiver underneath for a checkdown, but he tried to go long to Corey Fuller and threw it a bit high. Fuller still should have caught it, but instead the ball bounced off his hands and was intercepted.
The Packers capitalized on the Detroit turnover with a 9-play touchdown drive. They kept the drive alive with a 16-yard pass to Jordy Nelson on third-and-10, and a few plays later they scored on a 10-yard pass on third-and-1. Rodgers found Andrew Quarless for the score to tie the game up.
The Lions responded with yet another turnover, but this one actually worked out in the end. On third-and-10 from midfield, Stafford threw it long for Calvin Johnson and was intercepted at the 1-yard line. It was a bad pass, but it was basically a really nice punt, because Lacy was tackled in the end zone by DeAndre Levy for a safety on the very next play. Suddenly the Lions were back on top, 9-7.
With Ross taking the ensuing kick 34 yards, the Lions started with the ball near midfield. Basically, they picked up where they left off before the Stafford interception, and he shook off the turnover to make some key plays on third down. He helped the Lions move the chains on third-and-5, third-and-5 again and third-and-3. The Lions were unable to do anything on third-and-goal thanks to a sack on Stafford, but they at least got a 30-yard Nate Freese field goal out of the possession.
The Packers got to the Detroit 37 on their next drive before the Lions pushed them back. A false start combined with an Ndamukong Suh sack forced a punt, and the Lions seemed content with simply running out the final 1:53 of the first half. Green Bay, however, called timeout before a third-and-7 play, and the Lions decided to air it out. The idea worked, as Fuller made up for his earlier drop with a big catch for 52 yards. It was actually his first career catch, and it set up another field goal attempt for Freese. Despite it coming from just 41 yards out, Freese pushed the kick wide left, meaning the score remained 12-7 in favor of the Lions going into halftime.
To open the second half, the Lions put together a nice stop on defense, and they followed it up with a promising drive on offense. Promising is the key word there. Their 14-play, 74-yard drive ended with a turnover when Stafford was sacked at the Green Bay 13-yard line. Garrett Reynolds let Julius Peppers go right by him, and Stafford had no chance and lost the ball in the process.
Luckily for the Lions, the defense came up big following the turnover. They did give the Packers a free first down thanks to a defensive holding call that negated a George Johnson sack, but they stood tough and forced another punt.
As the third quarter came to an end and the fourth quarter began, the Lions put together another solid drive, and this one ended with points. They slowly but surely moved the ball down the field, picking up small chunks of yards along the way. They continually put themselves in a good position on third down, and it paid off on third-and-2 from the Green Bay 26. Reggie Bush took a handoff out of the shotgun and zoomed around the left side before fighting his way into the end zone for a big touchdown. The Lions now had a 19-7 lead.
In need of points, the Packers looked like they were going to cut into Detroit's lead. They quickly moved down the field on their next possession, getting all the way down to the 16-yard line at one point. However, the Lions stuffed Lacy for a loss and forced an incompletion to bring up fourth-and-5. Green Bay went for it, and Rodgers' pass to Nelson was off target. Levy was there for the coverage, and the turnover on downs put the Lions in position to put away this game.
Put away this game they did. The Lions finished off the Packers with a brilliant 12-play drive that ran the final 6:54 off the clock. Over the course of the drive, the Lions moved the chains on third-and-7, third-and-3 and third-and-4 to ensure that Rodgers and the Packers didn't get a chance to even think about making things interesting. It was a clinic on how to put a game away, and the Lions were able to clinch their 19-7 win in the victory formation.
Sunday's win was a big one for sure given the implications in the division, but the Lions will have to refocus quickly over the next week with a road game against the New York Jets coming up next.
To buy tickets, visit the NFL Ticket Exchange.