Published December 10, 2012
GREEN BAY, Wis. – New week, same ole story for the hapless Detroit Lions.
After scoring on their first two drives, the Lions could manage only a pair of field goals as they fell to the Green Bay Packers 27-20 on Sunday night.
Calvin Johnson had 118 yards receiving to put him over 1,500 for the season, but it wasn't enough to keep the Lions (4-9) from dropping their fifth straight. It's the third straight loss in which the Lions have blown a lead of 10-plus points, tying an NFL record.
"We've been in every single game this year. But being in games doesn't mean (anything) in this league," said Matthew Stafford, whose fumble in the second-quarter helped spark Green Bay's comeback. "It's about getting wins and we understand that as a locker room and as a team.
"It's tough when the ball isn't going your way," he added. "But we're not helping it go our way. We're doing it to ourselves as well."
The loss also extended Detroit's futility in Wisconsin. The Lions (9-4) have not beaten Green Bay at home since 1991, back when the Packers (9-4) were still playing some of their games in Milwaukee.
The Packers moved within a victory of the NFC North title. Beat the Bears next week in Chicago, and the division title is theirs for a second straight year.
"We're first in the division by a game and we put ourselves in good position, not only for the division but potentially for a first-round bye. The division is our first goal," Aaron Rodgers said. "We can wrap things up next week. It's a tough opponent, a tough place to play. There's a lot on the line."
There is little but pride left for the Lions, who have taken a step backward after making the playoffs for the first time in a decade last season.
"We're probably the best three-quarter football team in the league," Stephen Tulloch said. "And then in the fourth quarter we don't find a way to win games. Unfortunately, that's the way football is, sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don't. This season, that hasn't gone our way. We haven't had a break and we just haven't finished."
The latest Lions slide began with Stafford's fumble midway through the second quarter. The season's first significant storm dumped almost 3.5 inches of snow on Green Bay, making Lambeau Field look like a snow globe for most of the night and the balls glisten with moisture.
As Stafford drew his arm back to throw midway through the second quarter, the ball slipped out of his hands.
"That was a big play. We had all the momentum," Stafford said. "I don't really have much of an explanation for it. I wish I could have gotten on top of it. It squirted away from me again."
And Mike Daniels was right there to scoop it up, rumbling nearly half the length of the field for the score that pulled Green Bay within 14-10. Daniels is Green Bay's first rookie defensive lineman to return a fumble for a TD since 1941.
"Mike Daniels' play was the momentum shift for us that we needed," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "That was a big play."
So was Rodgers' 27-yard scoring run.
Still trailing in the third, Rodgers was trying to find someone — anyone — to throw to on third-and-4. With Lions defensive end Willie Young closing in, Rodgers scrambled away and found a hole on the right side. He ran untouched down the sideline, holding the ball out as he crossed the goal line.
It was the longest scoring run of Rodgers' career, and the Packers' longest this season.
"For him to score from that distance speaks volumes about his athletic ability," McCarthy said. "He's our guy, he's our ace, it's built around him and he played well again tonight."
But it was the go-ahead drive that was most frustrating for the Lions.
The Packers have struggled to run the ball all season because of injuries and inconsistency. Yet they ran it on seven straight plays, and picked up at least 2 yards on each play. They had double-digit yardage on three of the carries, including DaJuan Harris' 14-yard scoring run.
Not bad for a guy who was elevated from the practice squad eight days ago.
"It's very frustrating, especially when they're not a run team. They're a predominantly pass team," Tulloch said. "We're a much better team than that drive showed."
Added Lions coach Jim Schwartz: "It was poor defense. We had a chance to go out and get a stop, and they just ran the ball down our throats."
The Lions pulled within a score on Jason Hanson's 34-yard field goal with 7 seconds left. But the onside kick went out of bounds, and the Packers ran out the clock.
"We're fighting tooth and nail to get wins," Stafford said. "There's no lack of effort there. Guys are giving everything they've got. We're playing as a team and doing everything we can. The ball isn't going our way right now."
Notes: The Packers scored twice on the ground for the first time since Dec. 11, 2011. The two TDs almost doubled their total for the season, giving them five touchdowns on the ground. ... Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew did not return for the second half after injuring his ankle. ... Green Bay is 13-1 against Detroit under McCarthy.
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