GREEN BAY, Wis. – Jason Hanson made a 46-yard field goal and the Detroit Lions were tied with the Green Bay Packers at 17 after three quarters on Sunday night.
The Lions led 14-0 after scoring on each of their first two drives. But it was all Green Bay after that, with Aaron Rodgers giving the Packers a 17-14 lead on a 27-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter. It was the longest touchdown rushing of his career, and Green Bay's longest scoring run of the season.
But Detroit answered right back, getting a break when Morgan Burnett was called for contact to the head of Calvin Johnson. Johnson had caught a 19-yard pass — his longest of the night — and the penalty tacked on another 15 yards, bringing the Lions to the Green Bay 36. They could only get another 8 yards, but that was enough for Hanson, who knocked it through the uprights to tie the game.
The Packers had a chance to take the lead, giving themselves great field position after pinning the Lions deep in their territory and forcing them to go three-and-out. Randall Cobb caught the punt at the midfield, then made a spectacular catch on the first play of the drive, plucking the ball out of the air with one hand for a 24-yard gain.
But Green Bay was unable to do anything with it. Nick Fairley sacked Rodgers on third-and-10, and Mason Crosby's attempt from 51 yards wobbled wide left.
While Packers coach Mike McCarthy likes to say that all division games are big, this one got even bigger with Chicago's loss to Minnesota earlier in the day. If Green Bay wins Sunday night and then beats the Bears next week in Chicago, the Packers would clinch the NFC North.
Beating the Lions may have seemed like the easy part, considering Detroit hasn't won a game in Wisconsin since 1991. The 21-game winning streak — it includes one playoff game — is the longest in the NFL. Detroit had also lost its last four, the last three by a total of nine points.
But the Packers were playing with only four defensive linemen with Mike Neal and C.J. Wilson both inactive, and Detroit wasted no time taking advantage of it. Bringing in big tackle Riley Reiff as another blocker, the Lions rushed for 117 yards in the first half, including Stafford's 4-yard bootleg that gave the Lions a 7-0 lead after the game's first drive.
The rushing total in the first half is the most the Lions have had in an entire game since running for a season-high 149 against Jacksonville on Nov. 4.
The Packers looked as if they'd match the Lions, getting to the Detroit 12 when Rodgers threw a 21-yard pass to Cobb as he fell. But two plays later, Lawrence Jackson sacked Rodgers and forced a fumble. Jackson recovered it, and Stafford connected with Kris Durham for a 27-yard catch to set up his 3-yard TD pass to Tony Scheffler two plays later that gave Detroit a 14-0 lead.
The Packers finally found their groove, however. Rodgers hit No. 1 receiver Greg Jennings, playing in just his second game after surgery to repair a torn muscle in his abdomen, for a 27-yard gain that put the Packers at the Detroit 35. A holding call backed them up, and Rodgers overthrew John Kuhn on third-and-6 from the Detroit 31. Crosby showed more signs he is finally coming out of his slump, making a 49-yard field goal to cut Detroit's lead to 14-3.
It was his longest field goal since he made a 48-yarder at St. Louis back on Oct. 21. He'd had two misses from 50 yards and beyond since then.
The Packers pulled within 14-10 after Mike Daniels returned a fumble 43 yards for a score. Snow fell in Green Bay for much of the day, and the ball simply slipped out of Matthew Stafford's hand as he brought his arm back. The rookie defensive end pounced on it and rumbled in for the score, his second fumble recovery of the season and first to be returned for a touchdown.
The Packers had a chance to take the lead when cornerback Sam Shields, who had missed the last six games with an ankle injury, picked off Stafford on the next drive. The 32-yard interception return gave Green Bay the ball at its 45, but a false start call backed up the Packers and they were forced to punt.
Notes: Detroit TE Brandon Pettigrew injured his ankle in the first half and his return was questionable.
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