Lions go out winners as Jim Caldwell Watch begins

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell waves to the fans as he leaves the field after Sunday's win over the Green Bay Packers.

Detroit — Playing for little more than pride, and the right to say they swept the season series from the Green Bay Packers for the first time in a quarter century, the Lions steamrolled their injury-riddled division rival, 35-11, at Ford Field on Sunday.

With the victory, and a 9-7 finish, attention quickly turns to Jim Caldwell’s future. Was the statement in the season finale enough to stem the tide for a coaching change after Caldwell led the team to a winning record three times in four tries?

After the game, Caldwell was asked about his job status.

“Nothing at this point has changed,” Caldwell said. “We’re still working, just like today. We’re still working.”

As for the game, Detroit overcame an inauspicious start, failing to recover a surprise onside kick to open the contest, to jump out to a 20-3 lead at the half.

Turnovers prevented the Packers from keeping it closer. After driving deep into Lions territory following the onside recovery, linebacker Jarrad Davis intercepted a pass that deflected off the hands of receiver Michael Clark’s hands.

Later in the first quarter, with the Packers in the red zone, safety Glover Quin punched the ball free from Packers quarterback Brett Hundley running a keeper. The fumble was recovered by Tahir Whitehead, ending the scoring threat.

BOX SCORE: Lions 35, Packers 11

The Packers did manage to get on the board first with a 41-yard Mason Crosby field goal in the opening quarter. But the Lions responded immediately with a 56-yard pass from Matthew Stafford to Marvin Jones on the first play of the ensuing drive, leading to a 28-yard Matt Prater field goal, knotting the score, 3-3.

The Lions snatched the lead for good in the second quarter, when Stafford again went deep, hitting Kenny Golladay in stride on a deep post pattern. The rookie receiver ran through a half-hearted tackle attempt from safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to finish the 54-yard score.

The advantage was extended to 14 when the Packers muffed a punt, recovered by linebacker Paul Worrilow at the 14-yard line. Two plays later, Stafford and Jones connected on a 4-yard fade to make it 17-3.

Prater added a 30-yard field goal in the final minute of the second quarter.

The Packers offense remained stuck in neutral coming out of the break when Ziggy Ansah recorded his second sack of the game, forcing a punt.

Ansah, who is a free agent after the season, finished with three sacks for the second straight week. He also forced an intentional grounding.

After an exchange of punts, the Lions continued the onslaught when Stafford found Golden Tate open out of play-action. The receiver outraced the Packers defense down the left sideline, 71 yards, into the end zone. The catch put Tate over 1,000 yards on the season.

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The Packers slowed the bleeding on the ensuing possession, driving 75 yards in eight plays and into the end zone for the first time on the afternoon. Hundley hooked up with Randall Cobb for the 17-yard score on 4th down, and again on the two-point conversion, making it 27-11.

But the Lions didn’t ease up, driving 59 yards for another touchdown. A 26-yard toe-tapping catch by Golladay, which was initially ruled incomplete before being reversed by a coach’s challenge, set up a 7-yard scoring scamper by running back Ameer Abdullah around the left edge.

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And in a moment reflective of the meaninglessness of the game, the Lions emptied out the playbook on the two-point conversion attempt. Abdullah took a direct snap, flipped it to Tate on the end-around before the receiver threw a pass to a wide-open Stafford. Yes, Stafford.

The Lions quarterback finished his day 20-for-29 for 323 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Oh, and the two-point conversion.

Cornerback Darius Slay capped the day, and his Pro Bowl campaign, with his league-leading eighth interception.