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Lions vs. Packers recap: Detroit pulls off upset in 15-9 slugfest

The Detroit Lions didn’t make it easy on themselves, but off a huge defensive performance, the beat the Packers, 15-9.

Miami Dolphins v Detroit Lions Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

This week started with the Detroit Lions firing defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant. It ended with the Lions defense forcing three interceptions—more than doubling their season total—and tallying nine passes defended—doubling their season total in a huge upset win over the Green Bay Packers.

Rookie Kerby Joseph delivered two of those interceptions, while another rookie—a player named Aidan Hutchinson—caught the other. On offense, yet another rookie, tight end James Mitchell caught one of the Lions’ touchdowns on the day.

Detroit didn’t make it easy on themselves with a controversial late-game decision from Dan Campbell and a big play given up on a late fourth-and-2. But Detroit got the one defensive stop they needed to walk away with the win.

Here’s how it happened.

First quarter

The Lions offense got off to a hot start, with a nice mix of runs and passes. A 20-yard pass to D’Andre Swift got them into the red zone, where the Lions eventually faced a fourth-and-1. Detroit opted to go for it with a curious empty backfield formation. Jared Goff got hit as he threw from an untouched Packers blitzer, and he couldn’t connect with an open Tom Kennedy.

The Packers were able to get out of the shadow of their end zone thanks to an Aaron Rodgers 16-yard scramble on third-and-10. A couple more third-down conversions got Green Bay into the red zone. But Derrick Barnes—who was in for an injured Malcolm Rodriguez—deflected a Rodgers pass (with his helmet), and it was intercepted by rookie Kerby Joseph.

Note: Rodriguez would return the next defensive series.

The Lions offense could not take advantage of the turnover, quickly going three-and-out after a holding penalty pushed them back, and Goff nearly threw an interception on a screen pass, but two Packers defenders collided after the pass was tipped.

Facing a third-and-10 at midfield, Rodgers connect with Allen Lazard after Jeff Okudah had fallen down. The play went for 47 yards and set up the Packers at the 1-yard line.

Detroit would make a couple nice defensive stops, setting up a fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line to start the second quarter.

Second quarter

The Packers tried to get tricky on fourth down, targeting their offensive lineman, but Aidan Hutchinson picked it off for the touchback, keeping it a scoreless game.

The Lions were able to move the ball to midfield on the ensuing drive, but got a little conservative on third-and-8. They tried to catch the Packers sleeping with a run play, but after picking up just 5 yards the Lions punted. However, Jack Fox was able to pin Green Bay at their 1-yard line thanks to a nice recovery by Anthony Pittman.

The Packers, again, converted a flurry of third downs to get out of their own end zone and into Lions territory. However, after a Derrick Barnes sack, the Packers found themselves in a third-and-18. After picking up 15 yards on third down, they decided to go for it on fourth-and-3. Rodgers laid a perfect pass to Lazard for a 26-yard gain, but replay showed that the ball jarred loose when Lazard hit the ground, making it a turnover on downs.

On the first play of the ensuing drive, Goff found Tom Kennedy for 16 yards and Detroit got another 15 tacked on for a late hit. Detroit picked up a clutch third-and-4 with an angle route to D’Andre Swift—the same that scored a touchdown the week before. This time, it got Detroit into first-and-goal from the 1-yard line with 28 seconds left. Two players later, Goff found Shane Zylstra wide open for the first score of the game.

Michael Badgley missed the extra point, but the Packers ran into the kicker. Detroit opted to go for two instead, and converted. 8-0 Lions.

Third quarter

The Packers got a nice return to start the second half down to the Lions 33-yard. Again, Green Bay was able to convert an early third down, moving the ball to midfield on an 18-yard pass to Christian Watson. But on the next set of downs, Rodgers tried to target Samori Toure for a big play, but Joseph broke it up nicely—forcing Green Bay’s first punt of the game.

The Lions initially got bailed out after Jared Goff got sacked, but the Packers were called for roughing the passer after hitting Goff in the head. However, on the very next play, Goff tried to take a shot at Amon-Ra St. Brown, but didn’t see Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander, who stepped in front of the pass and picked it off:

Rodgers, however, gave it right back to the Lions with his third interception of the day—his second to Lions safety Joseph.

The Lions quickly went three-and-out again, as Goff was nearly picked off on a couple of errant throws.

Rodgers would finally strike on the ensuing possession. The Packers quarterback found Lazard on a beautiful ball just over Jeff Okudah’s head.

Okudah would get his revenge on the next play, batting away the two-point conversion to keep the lead with Detroit. 8-6 Lions.

The Lions next offensive drive was bailed out early. On a third-and-15, the Packers were called for a defensive hold, nullifying what would’ve been a three-and-out. That seemed to be the kickstarter the Lions needed, as the running game started to open up. Then on a third-and-6, Goff found St. Brown for a huge 25-yard gain. A Justin Jackson run got them down to the 5-yards line, setting the Lions up for a potential big score as we entered the fourth quarter.

Fourth quarter

Facing a critical third down, Goff stood in the pocket for a few seconds and eventually found rookie tight end James Mitchell for a 3-yard TD and a 15-6 Lions lead.

The Lions defense got beat up on the ensuing drive. In a scare collision, Jeff Okudah ran into Kerby Joseph, hitting the Lions rookie in the head/neck area. Both players would head to the locker room on the play. Okudah would return later in the drive.

On the field, Rodgers picked up a third-and-17 with a pivotal 18-yard scramble. A pass interference call on Jerry Jacobs got Green Bay into the red zone. But Jacobs got his revenge, forcing an incomplete pass on third-and-3. The Packers would settle for a 25-yard field goal and make it a one-score game. 15-9 Lions.

Again, a Packers penalty kick-started the Lions offense. This time, a personal foul penalty got the Lions out of a third-and-12 and near midfield. A clutch third-and-1 pass to Mitchell kept the chains moving with under five minutes left. Detroit failed, though, to pick up a third-and-1. Coach Dan Campbell got aggressive again and opted to go for it on fourth-and-3. Goff failed to complete the pass, and Green Bay took over with two minutes left at their own 43-yard line.

The Lions had a shot to win the game on a fourth-and-2, but Rodgers found Toure for 32 yards. The Packers receiver fumbled, but the Lions were not able to recover in bounds.

Three plays later the Packers faced another fourth down (fourth-and-10), but this time Rodgers didn’t have the magic. The Lions pulled off the win.

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