'Great to see': Lions shut out Packers in finale, fall in draft order
Green Bay, Wis. — Don’t tell the Detroit Lions their season finale didn’t matter.
With seemingly nothing to play for other than pride, the Lions went into Lambeau Field and shut out the Packers on the road for the first time nearly 50 years, 31-0.
"When you play the game of football, I think, a lot of time, the part of it that's hard to understand, they play for each other," Lions coach Matt Patricia said. "They play for the dedication and the commitment they all make. I think it was great to see here at the end and those guys sticking with it and really grinding it out for another 60-minute game."
The Lions (6-10) entered the game with the projected No. 5 pick in the draft but fell to No. 8 with the win.
The Packers finished 6-9-1.
BOX SCORE: Lions 31, Packers 0
The shorthanded Lions got dominant performances on both sides of the ball, but the game’s biggest play might have come on special teams, when kicker Matt Prater took a direct snap on a fake field goal and lofted a pass to tight end Levine Toilolo for an 8-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
It was a play from Patricia's past, one the New England Patriots had run in 2004, his first year with the franchise.
"It's kind of one of those plays I've always just loved," Patricia said. "We had the right situation come up. It was real specific, as far as when were going to have an opportunity to do it. It had to kind of be exactly on and we were close."
More:Niyo: Shine tarnished, Lions' brass turn to critical offseason
The Lions had worked into the red zone on the possession with a 41-yard completion to rookie receiver Brandon Powell, who got open thanks to a pick from Toilolo on a shallow crossing route. But after the drive stalled inside the 10, the Lions lined up for the chip shot for Prater.
Instead, Toilolo jogged toward the sideline, as if he was leaving the field on a substitution. No Packers defender noticed the veteran tight end coming to a stop and lining up out wide. Prater took the quick snap and delivered a slow, but accurate pass to the wide open target for the score.
"I was more concerned with just catching the ball and not throwing it straight into the line or out of bounds," Prater said. "Basically, I was trying not to screw it up. ... Somehow we hid the 6-8 tall guy on the side. We snapped it perfect, I almost dropped it, threw it up a little too high, but Levine made a good catch."
Quarterback Matthew Stafford's assessment of Prater's form.
"Slow delivery,” Stafford said with a smile. “Lollipop. But put it on target, so that’s a plus."
That put the Lions up 14-0 in the second quarter, part of a 21-0 first half.
The two teams traded punts the first four possessions of the game before the Lions put together a 12-play, 56-yard touchdown drive, capped by quarterback Matthew Stafford finding receiver TJ Jones in the back of the end zone on third-and-goal from the 5.
And Detroit closed out the first half with a back-breaking, 13-play drive that covered 86 yards over 5:31. One play after Zach Zenner's 3-yard touchdown was overturned by a holding call, the back darted through the middle of his line for a 13-yard score to extend the lead to 21.
Zenner finished with 123 yards from scrimmage, including 93 on the ground.
"I think (Zenner) is pretty much good at everything he does," fellow running back LeGarrette Blount said. "He's a technician when it comes to football. Obviously, you guys know he's extremely smart. He can probably dissect things before the play even happens."
The Lions defense was also stellar through the first two quarters, forcing three consecutive three-and-outs to start the game and limiting the Packers to 67 yards and three first downs through two quarters.
Aaron Rogers started the game at quarterback for the Packers, but was knocked from the contest in the second quarter due to a concussion. Interim coach Joe Philip said he was unsure when the injury occurred and whether Rodgers' self-reported his symptoms.
With DeShone Kizer replacing Rodgers, the Packers had a few scoring opportunities in the second half. He steered the offense deep into Lions territory late in the third quarter, but on the final play of the frame, tight end Robert Tonyan dropped a fourth-down pass that would have given the Packers a first down in the red zone.
Leaning heavily on his feet, Kizer again moved the Packers across midfield on Green Bay’s next drive, but a fourth-down pass intended for receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling was knocked away by cornerback Darius Slay, giving the Lions the ball back at the 30.
More:Justin Rogers' Lions grades: Stafford, Zenner, Jones are top stars
More:Lions set to draft eighth; recent history of No. 8s favorable
In between those two Packers possessions, Matt Prater added a 43-yard field goal. And following the second turnover on downs, Stafford put the finishing touches on the victory with a tight-window touchdown throw to TJ Jones from 23 yards out.
That guy (cornerback Josh Jackson) had been a little bit aggressive earlier in the game on some hooks, so we thought we'd take a chance," Stafford said. "He really played it pretty good, got his eyes back late, but I just tried to throw it to the outside shoulder and TJ obviously did a good job of spinning, keeping his feet in and making the catch."
Stafford finished his day 20-for-32 for 266 yards and the two touchdowns to Jones. It was his most passing yards in a game since Nov. 11 against Chicago. Powell led a Lions receiving corps missing an injured Kenny Golladay with six catches for 103 yards.
A 38-yard return on the ensuing kickoff gave the Packers good field position, but pressure from linebacker Jarrad Davis and a hit by Romeo Okwara forced an errant throw by Kizer, which was intercepted by safety Quandre Diggs.
From there, the offense was able to run the final 5:33 off the clock.
"To shut out anybody in the NFL is not easy to do," linebacker Devon Kennard said. "There are a lot of good players, so to shut down an offense in an offense-friendly league is not easy. I definitely think we did a good job today and hopefully that's something that can give us confidence."
The shutout was the Lions' first in Green Bay since 1970 and the team’s first overall since defeating the Tampa Bay Bucs, 27-0, on Sept. 29, 1996.
Here is the NFL Draft order for non-playoff teams:
1. Arizona (3-13)
2. San Francisco (4-12)
3. N.Y. Jets (4-12)
4. Oakland (4-12)
5. Tampa Bay (5-11)
6. N.Y. Giants (5-11)
7. Jacksonville (5-11)
8. Detroit (6-10)
9. Denver (6-10)
10. Buffalo (6-10)
11. Cincinnati (6-10)
12. Green Bay (6-9-1)
13. Miami (7-9)
14. Atlanta (7-9)
15. Washington (7-9)
16. Carolina (7-9)
17. Cleveland (7-8-1)
18. Minnesota (8-7-1)
19. Tennessee (9-7)
20. Pittsburgh (9-6-1)
Lions 2019 opponents
Home: Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota, Dallas, Kansas City, L.A. Chargers, N.Y. Giants, Tampa Bay
Away: Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota, Arizona, Denver, Oakland, Philadelphia, Washington