GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Pack's back in the NFC North.
Not that they were really out of it a month into the season. But a loss Sunday to the Detroit Lions, who already had two division victories, would have left Green Bay with more work to do in a quest for third-straight division title.
So the 22-9 win had the Packers smiling again after having to stew about a 1-2 start with an early bye week.
This victory didn't follow the typical script for Green Bay (2-2). The defense recorded five sacks and contained Detroit (3-2), which had to play without injured star wideout Calvin Johnson.
Mason Crosby kicked five field goals to help make up for red zone woes. Finally, the offense caught up with a touchdown on an 83-yard reception by James Jones for a 16-3 lead late in the third quarter.
"The game was kind of up and down as far as breaks in the game. I thought that was more of a reflection of how we were playing," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I thought our players did an excellent job handling the situations that came up in the game. It started first with the defense."
Five things we learned from the Packers' 23rd straight win in Wisconsin over the Lions:
BALANCING ACT: Eddie Lacy had 99 yards on 23 carries, finishing a yard short from the Packers having a 100-yard rusher for the third straight game. It's the kind of balance the team sought to keep defenses from keying on quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the dangerous passing game.
"There's going to be big-play opportunities, but we have multiple runners that can go over 100 yards for us," Rodgers said. "But that balance is going to help us out come November, December."
Rodgers finished 20 for 30 for 274 yards. He was sacked just once.
MINUS MEGATRON: Johnson was on the field — only he was relegated to watching warmups from the sideline in a T-shirt and a backward gray Detroit cap.
"We didn't get it done well enough today — offense, defense or special teams," coach Jim Schwartz said. "With or without Calvin, that was the story of the game — not whether Calvin played or not."
Reggie Bush was held to 44 yards on 13 carries and four catches for 25 yards. Quarterback Matthew Stafford finished 25 for 40 for 262 yards.
Detroit was already playing without receiver Nate Burleson, out with a forearm injury. Not having Johnson was too much to overcome.
Schwartz declined to offer more details on the extent of Johnson's injury. Johnson missed a couple days of practice last week with a knee injury.
BLACK AND BLUE: All five Green Bay sacks came from linebackers, including one from starter Clay Matthews before he left with a thumb injury.
It was a painful day overall for the linebacking corps. Fellow starter Brad Jones left in the first half with a hamstring injury. Later, his replacement, Robert Francois, had to be helped off the field with a torn Achilles.
Nick Perry also missed a play after getting banged up in the second half before getting the second of his two sacks. Inside linebacker A.J. Hawk led the Packers with nine tackles.
STEP SLOW: Lions cornerback Chris Houston started after missing a couple days in practice with a hamstring injury. He got burned by Jones on the 83-yard touchdown pass that finally gave the Packers breathing room. Jordy Nelson had five catches for 82 yards, once again displaying his knack for navigating the sideline like a tightrope for big catches.
Still the Lions' defense kept them out of the end zone — except for that one big exception.
"They might have put some drives together, but they got field goals," safety Glover Quin said. "The only touchdown they scored was a big play, so if they don't get that play, we probably hold them to another field goal."
JUST FOR KICKS: Crosby seems to be back on sure footing in Green Bay.
The veteran kicker outlasted two competitors in training camp after a tough 2012 season. He's been automatic ever since. In fact, Crosby has now hit 13 straight in the regular season dating to last year.
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