'I put this on our offense': Lions wilt in second half in loss to Packers
Green Bay, Wis. — The Detroit Lions went toe-to-toe with the Green Bay Packers in the first half of the NFC North matchup on Monday Night Football, but as heavy rains drenched Lambeau Field in the third and fourth quarters, the Lions melted like the Wicked Witch of the West.
Unfazed by the increasingly inclement conditions, the perennial powerhouse Packers scored 21 unanswered points in the second half, smacking the feisty Lions back to the reality of their in-progress rebuild with a 35-17 victory.
Despite entering the night a double-digit underdog, the Lions jumped out to a lead at the half and looked as if they might be able to pull off a stunning upset in coach Dan Campbell's second game, in front of a national television audience.
Instead, they were shutout the final two quarters, turning the ball over three times in the process, as the Packers pulled away.
"I put this on our offense," Campbell said after the game. "Offensively we have to be able to outscore a team like this. That's just how I see it, because it turned into that type of game again, that's why.
"So to me, the onus is on your offense," Campbell said. "... We are not allowed to make mistakes or have turnovers, because we can't rebound from those."
At the half, the Lions offense was clicking on all cylinders, scoring on three of their four possessions. Bucking the league-wide trend of deferring to the second half upon winning the coin toss, the Lions asked for the ball and subsequently opened the night with a 75-yard touchdown drive.
Quarterback Jared Goff, kickstarting an outstanding first half, completed all four of his passes, including a 46-yard heave to Quintez Cephus into Packers' territory. Once in the red zone, Goff remained calm as the Packers' pass rush closed in around him, finding Cephus wide open after Green Bay blew the coverage.
"Yeah, just scrambled out there a little bit," Goff said. "He was able to turn up field and make a good catch down the field. I thought it was great. ... I think he's done a great job. He's continuing to improve. A guy that we're starting to trust more and more. Hopefully we can continue to build our rapport."
The Packers wasted little time responding, setting a physical tone with three consecutive handoffs to Aaron Jones to open the series. He also would finish the possession, coming in motion from the right side and taking a tap pass around the left edge for a 4-yard touchdown.
The tempo would slow a bit to begin the second quarter as Detroit's second possession was undone by 34 penalty yards. But the defense responded by forcing the Packers to go three-and-out when defensive tackle Nick Williams sacked quarterback Aaron Rodgers on third down.
Settling down, the Lions recaptured the lead with a methodical, run-heavy drive. A 15-yard face mask penalty against the Packers also aided the Lions, setting up a pretty, 8-yard touchdown pass from Goff to tight end T.J. Hockenson, who fully extended to make the tough grab near the back of the end zone.
Again, the Packers would counter, bullying their way down the field after a 41-yard kickoff return provided Rodgers and company a short field.
Mixing between-the-tackle runs with quick passes, the Packers quickly found themselves on the doorstep when Jones leaked out of the backfield for a 1-yard touchdown reception, his second of the game.
Getting the ball back with under two minutes remaining in the first half, the Lions were able to work into field-goal range, thanks to the offensive line providing Goff enough time to work through his progressions twice before finding Hockenson open in the middle of the field for a 20-yard gain.
Goff took two shots into the end zone, but the first slipped through rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown's hands, while Cephus couldn't complete a spectacular one-handed effort on third down, leading to a 43-yard Austin Seibert field goal that put the Lions up, 17-14, at the break.
Goff finished the first half completing 13 of 16 throws for 147 yards and two touchdowns.
"We're getting better," Goff said. "I think it's showing up in practice and today in the game, that first half. We are getting better. We are getting more and more on the same page as time goes on."
But coming out of the locker room, the Packers managed to grab their first lead of the night as the first drops of rain fell, thanks to a pair of Rodgers' throws on third down.
Facing third-and-12 after a second-down sack, he dropped a deep shot into the waiting arms of his favorite target, Davante Adams, for a 50-yard gain. The reception came against the coverage of rookie cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu, making his first NFL start in place of the injured Jeff Okudah.
To make matters, Melifonwu suffered a thigh injury on the play.
After forcing the Packers into another third down, Rodgers delivered a dart to tight end Robert Tonyan for the 22-yard score, beating linebacker Alex Anzalone and putting the Packers up, 21-17.
Not backing down, the Lions drove deep into Packers territory. But opting to go for it on fourth-and-1 at Green Bay's 25-yard line, Cephus couldn't haul in a diving effort against tight coverage, turning the ball over on downs.
Once again, Rodgers went to work. Despite Detroit's defense forcing Green Bay into third-and-long twice, the quarterback found an open man both times to extend the series, while also drawing a 25-yard pass inference against rookie cornerback Jerry Jacobs.
A 22-yard pass to Adams pushed the drive into the red zone where Rodgers and Jones would connect for a third time, this time from 11 yards out, pushing the Packers lead to 11, 28-17.
With the rain picking up to a downpour, Goff mishandled the first snap of the Lions' ensuing drive. Packers linebacker Krys Barnes jumped on the loose ball, setting the offense up at the Lions' 23.
A defensive pass interference call in the end zone against cornerback Amani Oruwariye allowed Jones to score his fourth touchdown, powering it in from a yard out, making it 35-17 after the extra point with 12:45 in the game.
Any hopes of a comeback were thwarted by Goff errors. He fumbled a second time, when trying to pass on third down, leading to a punt.
"I mean, that's what you got the towels for," Campbell said. "I mean, otherwise you don't wear towels. Crap happened and it's on us. You know? They didn't have those errors. They didn't have the fumbles. We did."
Finally, after the defense got the ball back, Goff was intercepted by linebacker De'Vondre Cambell while trying to escape pressure and force a pass to receiver Trinity Benson.
The Packers move to 1-1 with the victory. With the loss, the Lions fall to 0-2 on the season. They'll return home to Ford Field to battle the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.