|Alex Green was part of a Packers run game that amassed 140 yards Sunday against the Lions. (US Presswire)|
The Green Bay Packers passed for just eight more yards than they ran for in Sunday night’s 27-20 win over the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. In the past, that would almost assuredly have meant defeat for QB Aaron Rodgers and the pass-happy Packers.
But in the wind, rain, snow and cold of Green Bay, the ground game -- along with a couple of key defensive takeaways -- propelled the Packers to a division victory that moved them into sole possession of first place in the NFC North.
Behind new lead-back starter Alex Green, the Packers ran for 140 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns, the first time they’ve done that since Dec. 11 of last year, picking up the slack in a game in which Rodgers did not have to throw for a score.
CB Tramon Williams and the young Green Bay secondary came up big, keeping WR Calvin Johnson moderately in check and intercepting Lions QB Matthew Stafford. And, on what turned out to be the biggest play of the game, Packers DL Mike Daniels returned a Stafford fumble for a defensive touchdown in the second quarter.
It was the same old story for the Lions, who are still winless in Wisconsin since 1991. A disappointing season that once had playoff hopes keeps getting worse. They could have at least hurt the hated Packers’ aspirations. Instead, Detroit (4-9) sank further into the NFC North cellar, while Green Bay (9-4) remained undefeated in the division with eyes toward a first-round bye in the postseason.
When the game turned: With the Lions leading 14-3 midway through the second quarter, Daniels, a rookie, was the recipient of an early Christmas present when Stafford lost his grip on the ball and lost a fumble without being touched. Daniels scooped it up and rumbled 43 yards for his first touchdown and, subsequently, his first Lambeau Leap (but just barely). It was a momentum-changing play and Green Bay came out of halftime and scored on its first second-half possession, on a 27-yard Rodgers run to take the lead 17-14.
Highlight moments: Daniels’ fumble return was the biggest one, of course. ... Rodgers’ run was another, as he magically escaped a sack, rolled right, directed traffic and scampered in for the go-ahead score. ... But the biggest, and potentially most underrated highlight moment was the clinching, fourth-quarter rushing touchdown by an undrafted free agent who was recently promoted from the Packers’ practice squad last week. RB DuJuan Harris, who carried the ball on Green Bay’s first play of the game, charged in for a 14-yard touchdown in his first NFL game, the second straight week the Packers have gotten in the end zone on the ground. ... In the same vein, you could call RB Ryan Grant’s single carry for 13 yards a highlight. Grant, a Packer from 2007 through 2011, was re-signed off the street on Wednesday and celebrated his 30th birthday Sunday night with a first-down run.
- Packers WR Randall Cobb -- seven catches for 102 yards
- Packers CB Sam Shields -- four tackles, one interception
- Lions WR Calvin Johnson -- 10 catches for 118 yards
What they said about Packers RB DuJuan Harris, who scored a touchdown in his first game with the Packers:
- Packers coach Mike McCarthy: “I like the way he’s worked since he got here. He’s got a unique skill set. I like a lot about him.
- Packers QB Aaron Rodgers: “Excited about (No.) 26 (Harris). … He’s special.”
Numbers you should know: 22, as in the Packers’ winning streak at home against the Lions, the longest streak in the NFL. … Johnson’s 118 yards would be an impressive output for most receivers but it ended his run of straight games with at least 125 receiving yards. … Green Bay did not record a single individual sack; Stafford’s fumble was recorded as a team sack. This was the third straight game Detroit has blown a lead of 10-plus points, tying an NFL record shared by six other teams.
Injury update: Neither team announced any new injuries after the game.
Going forward: Packers -- The Packers have a showdown with the Bears, who lost earlier Sunday to fall out of a first-place tie with Green Bay, next week in Chicago. After that important game, the Packers get the Titans at home and then travel to Minnesota to face the Vikings in the season finale. Their final three games are against top-shelf running backs: Matt Forte, Chris Johnson and then Adrian Peterson. Lions -- Detroit travels to Arizona next week to face the awful Cardinals. Then the Lions have home dates with the Falcons and Bears to close out a disappointing season.