Here it was, in Detroit, for a division crown. Both the Lions and Packers had already punched their tickets to the playoffs thanks to the New York Giants, but playoff seeding and bragging rights in an old rivalry were on the line, as it should be.
The Lions started with the ball and gave it to Zach Zenner to start the game, but stalled and ended up three-and-out. The Packers would take advantage of Aaron Rodger’s elusiveness early, as Devin Taylor came off the edge but could not stop Rodgers from doubling back around and gaining yardage. Tavon Wilson would get home on a blitz to notch the first sack against him and put the Packers third-and-long. A tipped pass forced the Packers to punt it back to Detroit. While the Lions would pick up a first down and get yardage, a deep pass out to Golden Tate overshot his hands and forced another punt.
The Lions finally started to break through as the first quarter ticked down. Zenner busted out for 15 yards, and then Marvin Jones reeled in a catch for another 9 yards. Golden Tate’s time to shine came next as he reeled in two 17-yard passes. However, an offensive pass interference from Tate would cause the drive to falter. Prater came on for a 39-yard field goal and had a rare knuckle ball: the Lions walked away with nothing.
The Packers saw a chance to capitalize. On third down, Ezekiel Ansah somehow missed on a leaping sack and Rodgers got the ball out for a first down. After that the Lions suffered as Tavon Wilson missed several tackles. A holding call against the Lions pushed the Packers up to the doorstep and Rodgers found Aaron Ripkowski to walk in for the touchdown and the first score.
The Lions fired right back as Stafford found TJ Jones deep for 35 yards. After that, the Lions started to feed Zach Zenner, who picked up chunk yards after chunk yards. Stafford found Ebron to set up first-and-goal. After two shots at the end zone the Lions handed the ball off to Zenner, who torpedoed through the Packers line and in for the touchdown to tie the game, 7-7.
The Lions gave up two first downs while back on defense, but the Packers play started to get sloppy. Two consecutive holds—one declined—and Rodgers defended well set up for a third-and-12. The Rodgers throw would be short of the sticks—not to mention an additional illegal block in the back flag that was declined—and the Packers punted just before the two-minute warning.
With two minutes to go, Stafford found Marvin Jones right after the warning for 9 yards. After that came Anquan Boldin for a reception and three Zenner gains to push the Lions into the red zone. Boldin caught another pass for 10 yards out to the Green Bay 3-yard line, and then Golden Tate caught the ball on the next play to get in for the second touchdown.
The Packers had about 25 seconds and three timeouts to play with, and Rodgers capitalized immediately by finding Geronimo Allison for 39 yards. The possession would turn into a 53-yard field goal from Mason Crosby, and the teams went to the locker room, 14-10 Lions.
The Packers received the ball to start the half. Rodgers got to work making the sort of insane plays that makes everyone but Wisconsinites unbelievably frustrated to watch, finding Geronimo Allison and Jordy Nelson for big plays, and the Lions finding themselves taking a few flags to help out the Packers’ drive. Davante Adams beat Don Carey close to the goal line as Rodgers was falling backwards, nevertheless reeling in the ball for a touchdown to go ahead. Adams dunked the ball over the goalposts for good measure, which is neat, but still drew a 15-yard penalty.
Zennerball continued as the Lions made their first drive in the second half, with one rushing attack from Zenner and then a short pass. But the Lions struggled to get more out of the drive and Stafford found himself sacked on third down. The Lions punted, and Zenner made the tackle on special teams on the return man just because he did everything he could in this one.
The Packers worked to grind out another drive, and the Lions defense stepped up. Although Ansah would leave the game for a bit, he would return, and in his absence A’Shawn Robinson nearly ate Ty Montgomery. The fourth false start against the Packers put them back on third down and Montgomery would be stopped short of the first down, forcing a punt that buried the Lions at their own 4-yard line. That didn’t bother Stafford much, who put a dime on Marvin Jones for 30 yards. Packers cornerback Quinten Rollins hit his head trying to bring Jones down, and hit it bad enough to force the cart and a backboard to come out. The Lions ran one short Zenner run before the fourth quarter came, once again requiring the Lions to try a comeback.
Stafford fired past Andre Roberts as Roberts ran the wrong route, and the Lions were forced to punt. Methodically, the Packers marched down the field. Don Carey got burned and the Packers scored after Rodgers did a lot of insane stuff. I’m too mad to think about it more than I have to. Crosby missed the extra point, so mini-victory, I guess?
The Lions offense slowly remembered where it was and got to work. Stafford found Marvin Jones for 23 yards, who had to leave the game for a bit after taking a shot on the reception. The drive stalled, but Prater nailed a 54-yard field goal to cut into the deficit, 23-17.
Of course, this meant the Lions had to come on to stop the Packers and they couldn’t. Rodgers and Montgomery took the Lions defense to task and did what the Lions had done all game, burning clock and holding onto the ball while inexorably marching towards the end zone. Eventually, Rodgers found Davante Adams with less than three minutes to go and converted the two-point conversion, putting the game away for good.
With only 28 seconds, Stafford stepped back, moved to his right and heaved a pass down the field and into the end zone. It landed in the arms of Anquan Boldin, and the Lions made it a 31-24 game with 13 seconds left. Detroit attempted an onside kick, but the Packers recovered it and took a knee to run out the clock and the hopes of a NFC North title.
In spite of the loss, the Lions were in the playoffs and marching on towards Seattle.