Lions pound wounded Packers in 'statement' triumph
Green Bay, Wisconsin — The prey was wounded and the Lions did exactly what needed to be done, finishing the kill with ruthless efficiency in a rare demolition of the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field Monday night, 30-17.
Taking advantage of some early breaks and a red-hot offense, the Lions (4-4) never trailed in the NFC North showdown, rolling to their biggest road win over the Packers in 35 years.
“We went into this game thinking that this needed to be a statement game,” wide receiver Golden Tate said. “We needed to click, collectively, and I think that is what we did for the most part.”
The Packers (4-4) had a chance to take the lead on the opening possession, efficiently driving 58 yards on 15 plays before stalling in Lions territory when the pass rush kicked into high gear. Green Bay settled for a 38-yard field goal attempt with long snapper Derek Hart making his debut, and he fired it low to the holder. That led to a low trajectory on Mason Crosby’s kick, which was blocked by defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson.
The Lions looked intent on giving it right back after their first two offensive plays lost yardage and a deep pass to Golden Tate was caught but ruled out of bounds on third down. But Packers defensive tackle Mike Daniels lost his cool, headbutting center Travis Swanson at the end of that play.
The personal foul gave the Lions a fresh set of downs and the offense caught fire from there. Four plays later, quarterback Matthew Stafford laid a pretty pass to Marvin Jones down the right sideline for a 25-yard touchdown.
“Matt had some great throws and I just did what I love to do — go up there and get them,” Jones said.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Lions worked it back into Packers territory, setting up a 55-yard field goal attempt for Matt Prater. The boot came up just short, careening off the crossbar and giving the Packers excellent field position.
But Detroit’s defense forced another quick stop when cornerback D.J. Hayden knocked away a third-down throw intended for Davonte Adams.
As the Lions took over at their own 8-yard line following a holding call on the punt, running back Ameer Abdullah started and finished a 13-play, 91-yard touchdown drive.
Abdullah gained 18 yards on three touches to open the series, Tate kept the drive alive with a 17-yard, toe-tapping third-down conversion and Abdullah pounded out 15 yards on three carries, including a 4-yard score around the right end, to seal the deal. The touchdown put the Lions up, 14-0.
“That’s something that I’ve been wanting more is touches in this offense,” Abdullah said. “More opportunities to be in space, more opportunities to catch the ball.
“It was a heck of a call. We got the leverage on the play. T.J. Lang, former Packer, was in front of me and got the block.”
The Packers managed to put three on the board before the half, driving 12 plays in just under three minutes. Quarterback Brett Hundley threw a risky third-down pass to the middle of the field with no timeouts, but the Packers were able to rush their field-goal unit onto the field for a 35-yard boot as time expired.
The Lions continued to move the ball coming out of the locker room, netting a 44-yard field goal on the second half’s opening possession and pushing the lead back to 14.
Detroit blew a chance to blow it open when Abdullah lost a fumble in Green Bay territory and the team’s red-zone issues showed up on the ensuing possession. The Lions were unable to punch it into the end zone with three shots from the 1-yard line.
Abdullah fumbled again on first down, Theo Riddick was stopped short on second down and Stafford’s sneak was stuffed on third, before Prater kicked a chip shot early in the fourth quarter to make it 20-3.
“Man, I was trying to reach the ball, being stupid,” Abdullah said. “I know that’s not an opportunity, but I really wanted to score right there to really put it away. Selfish decision.”
Safety Glover Quin helped the Lions maintain their advantage through the offensive lull, coming up with a key fourth-down stop, dropping receiver Randall Cobb for a loss on an end around.
“Yeah, that was huge,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “That was kind of a pivotal point in the game. That play gave us the ball right around midfield. Now, we gave it right back to them about 10 or 15 yards later (on Abdullah’s first fumble), but nevertheless, it nullified a score for them.”
The Packers managed to throw one last punch, a 78-yard touchdown drive highlighted by a 46-yard catch-and-run slant to Randall Cobb. Hundley punched it in on a sneak from 1 yard out to cut the deficit to 10 with 9:55 remaining.
But the Lions responded with a quick-strike touchdown to put the game away. Against an all-out blitz, Stafford found Riddick on a screen pass, which the back turned into a 63-yard gain.
“That was just a perfect call by (offensive coordinator) Jim Bob (Cooter),” Riddick said.
Two plays later, Stafford found Jones on a fade from 11 yards out for the receiver’s second touchdown.
Stafford was sharp, completing 26 of 33 for 361 yards and two touchdowns. Jones and Tate each went over 100 yards receiving, combing for 14 catches for 220 yards.
“Those guys outside were doing a great job of winning, and I was just trying to get it to the open guy,” Stafford said. “And all sorts of guys were winning, and when we can spread people out and use a bunch of weapons like we did tonight, we’re at our best.”
The Lions added a 31-yard Prater field goal after the Packers turned it over on downs. The Packers scored a touchdown on an untimed down after time had expired, a 1-yard run by Jamal Williams.
The win helped the Lions gain ground on the idle Vikings (6-2) who were on their bye this week. The Lions return home to face the Cleveland Browns next week.