The Packers defeated the Lions 27-20 to complete the season sweep of Detroit.
Lambeau Field was an odd place Sunday evening.
James Jones dropped a pass for the first time all year, Aaron Rodgers lost a rare fumble, Mike Daniels was spotted showing off a Lambeau Leap, the Packers ran the ball with gusto and Mason Crosby hit two big field goals.
Most of the team’s luck this season has been bad, so the Packers welcomed some positive luck on Sunday.
Good luck coupled with a dominating performance in the second half proved to be the equation for victory on Sunday as the Packers moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC North.
Running the Football
The Packers defense was gashed on the ground for the third straight week. The Lions running backs totaled 135 yards on 32 carries, but when it mattered most, the defense came through. The defensive unit was better in the second half while playing with a lead, but the hopeful return of Clay Matthews next week cannot come soon enough.
After seeing the field for just over seven minutes in the entire first half, the Packers offense made the most of its opportunities in the second session.
The offense, led by the rushing attack, came alive. In fact, the Packers only touchdown drive of the fourth quarter featured seven plays and not a single pass.
Green Bay covered 59 yards in just over four minutes following good field position after a rare Jason Hanson missed field goal. The drive culminated with newcomer DuJuan Harris scoring a touchdown on an untouched 14-yard dash up the middle.
Overall, the Packers totaled 140 yards on the ground and continued their streak of running the ball well in the month of December
Play of the Game
The Packers’ offense faced a third-and-four from the Lions 27-yard line on the eighth play of the opening drive of the second half.
Following the snap, the pocket quickly collapsed around quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Like he has so many times before, Rodgers somehow escaped harm. Sprinting out of the chaos and to his right, Rodgers looked for Jermichael Finley in the flat.
Finley continued his route to the sideline and the Lions’ defender closely trailed the tight end creating a clear path for Rodgers to run to the end zone.
Five yards from the end zone, Rodgers raised the ball into the air to celebrate and upon crossing the end line pulled out a championship belt before heading to the stands for one of the poorer Lambeau Leaps in Rodgers’ history.
The score gave the Packers their first lead of the game and the momentum shift proved too much for the Lions to overcome.
Turnovers Tell the Story
Aside from the final score, the turnover battle is typically the second most telling statistic. And for the second straight game, it was the Packers positive ratio in the category that helped bring the team to victory.
An early Rodgers’ fumble led directly to a Lions touchdown but the sole Packers turnover was overcome with a productive second half by the offense.
Matthew Stafford’s own fumble led to a touchdown with defensive lineman Mike Daniels scooping up the ball and barreling 43-yards for the score.
Sam Shields first half interception of Stafford didn’t lead to any points but did stop the Lions’ drive and helped taper the Lions’ explosive first half.
Both quarterbacks' fumbles proved costly, but the Packers overcame what the Lions could not. As Rodgers pointed out in a post-game interview with NBC’s Michelle Tafoya, “Ugly wins are better than tough losses" and the Packers will gladly take the victory.
The Packers came out of the contest unscathed and will happily welcome back Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson for next week's game in Chicago.
A win against the Bears would clinch the NFC North crown for the Packers.
Max Ginsberg is a regular contributor at CheeseheadTV, blogs at PurplePantsGreenJersey.com and can be reached via Twitter @MaxGinsberg or at maxginsberg[at]yahoo.com.