Aaron Rodgers leads Packers to dramatic win over Lions; second seed


Green Bay Packers wide receiver

Randall Cobb

celebrates by jumping into the stands after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. Green Bay won 30-20. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph

The Green Bay Packers overcame an injury to Aaron Rodgers and a hungry and determined Detroit Lions unit that played the Packers right to the end in a 30-20 battle to win their fourth straight NFC North Division title this afternoon at Lambeau Field.

While Rodgers started without a first quarter pass completion, he heated things up in the second quarter, got hurt, and then came back in the second half to lead the Packers to the hard-fought win.

Rodgers finished with a quarterback rating just below 140 and may have solidified his opportunity for another MVP award with one of their most gutty performances in a long time.

The Packers and Lions went head-to-head in the first half of this pitched battle at Lambeau – an arena where the Packers are still undefeated at 8-0.

The story of the first half was Aaron Rodgers going down with an rein jury of his calf; a couple of early missed opportunities to score;  and Brad Jones‘s ridiculous personal foul penalty that gave the Lions another shot at the end zone – converting on a Matthew Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson 20-yard TD just before the end of the half to bring them within a touchdown at 14-7.

The Packers scored on a Micah Hyde 55-yard punt return for a touchdown and a pass from Rodgers to Randall Cobb with just over 2 minutes left in the half. And as good as Rodgers was today, the Packers defense also came to play, containing the Lions’ run and pass game and coming up with huge plays at opportune times.

The Packers defense held the Lions to a total of 313 yards, 202 passing and 111 rushing, while Green Bay churned out 377 yards, 152 yards rushing and 225 passing.

Eddie Lacy kept the Lions defense honest and head coach and play-caller Mike McCarthy stuck with the run game, continuing to give the ball to Lacy so that he could pound out the tough yards.

Lacy rushed 26 times for exactly 100 yards. But it was Aaron Rodgers who wrote the story today in the second half.

He finished with 17-of-22 completions for 226 yards and two touchdowns. It was his first TD to Randall Cobb that was the most incredible.

Under intense pressure, Rodgers ran out of the pocket to his right and pushed too hard off the calf that he injured last week.

Dec 28, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) lies on the ground after an injury in the second quarter during the game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

However, before falling to the ground he completed the dump-off pass to Cobb for the Packers first offensive TD of the game. He was carted off the field just before halftime in front of a hushed 80,000 in attendance.

But as quiet as the crowd was when he went off, they were as loud when he walked back on the field early in the third quarter. The Packers got the first possession and Matt Flynn led them to a three-and-out as Rodgers stood in the tunnel.

When the possession was over, he made his entrance … to save the day. And his entrance came at the right time as the Lions took their opening possession, scoring on an 11-play 51-yard drive that was capped by a four-yard lob to Johnson in the right back corner of the end zone. Enter Rodgers …

In 4 minutes, one second, he led the Packers to a touchdown and a lead they would never relinquish. It was the 13-yard catch and run by Randall Cobb over the middle that put Green Bay up 21-14.

Both teams exchanged punts through the end of the third quarter and into the fourth.

That was when Stafford muffed the handoff and Morgan Burnett recovered at the Lions 42.

From there, Rodgers moved the Packers down inside the five yard line where he surprised everyone in the stadium and watching on television by diving in from the one yard line for the touchdown, giving Green Bay a 28-14 lead.

But the Packers weren’t done.

With the Lions operating from deep in their own territory, Stafford was called for intentional grounding while in the end zone, causing a safety to give the Packers a 30-14 lead.

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) gets pressure from Green Bay Packers defensive end

Datone Jones

(95) in the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph

But the Lions weren’t done.

On the ensuing punt after the safety, the Lions recovered the ball and then moved down to score in five plays and 47 seconds to bring them to within 10 points at 30-20.

However, the two-point conversion attempt, a running play, was ruled short, essentially ending the game.

The outcome of today’s game gave the Packers their fourth straight NFC North Division title and solidified them as the #2 seed and a week off.

Clearly, the Packers need to get Rodgers healthy for the Playoff run.

Some notes of interest from throughout the day …

Second Half Notes

• Packers go three and out with Flynn at QB and punt.

• Aaron Rodgers comes back on the field to a huge roar as Lions take over on punt

• Pass to Johnson in the corner of the end zone for a TD

Packers 14 Lions 14

• Rodgers back in and Lacy and Starks get first down; Lacy gets a helmet on the arm and comes out

• Rodgers to Cobb for 29 over the middle to the 19

• Rodgers to Cobb TD over the middle to give the Packers the 21-14 head  at 3:33 to go in the fourth quarter.

• On one first down play, Rodgers passed to Lacy, who dove, caught the ball, rolled for the first down, was hit by a Lions player. The ball came out, but Lacy was ruled down by contact; Lions Coach Jim Caldwell challenged that Lacy had fumbled, but lost the challenge and a time out.

• On a 52-yard FG attempt by Mason Crosby, the kick is blocked … the third blocked FG attempt this season the seventh blocked kick overall.

Rodgers QB sneak  for the TD … an amazing moment that had to be an audible by Rodgers.

• On third and 5 Rodgers hits Jordy Nelson over the middle for the first down. Rodgers gets stepped on by Suh … he wasn’t happy about it … whether it was intentional or not, the appearance that Suh did it on purpose was enough to raise the ire of many, including Packers linemen.

First half Notes

• The announcement of the inactive players raised many eyebrows – DuJuan Harris, used for the first 15 games as the Packers primary kick returner was inactive and on the opposite side of the spectrum, quarterback Scott Tolzien, who had never been activated for a single game this season, found himself in uniform today.

Coach Mike McCarthy said he wanted improvement out of the kickoff team, thus the move to deactivate Harris and move both Micah Hyde and Randall Cobb into the punt and kickoff return units.

As for Tolzien, the promotion to the active roster raised questions about whether Aaron Rodgers’ injured calf was worse than most thought – though the Packers said all week there was no concern. The move of Tolzien could have been done simply as an insurance policy.

• Packers come out running the ball with Lacy and Starks, but get stuffed on six straight tries from inside the five yard line. Punt to Lions who proceed to go three and out.

• Micah Hyde ignites Lambeau Field with a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown.

• Packers defense gives up just one first down on first two drives to the Lions; Clay Matthews very active with one sack and a run stuff for a loss.

• Good to see the Packers special teams coming up with big plays in the early going.

• Packers lead at the end of the first quarter 7-0, despite the fact that Aaron Rodgers was 0-2.

• Matthew Stafford 5-of-7 for 52 yards in the first quarter.

• Packers have 61 first quarter rushing yards; Lacy with 38 of them

• Eddie fumbles had a fumble for the second time this year at the Lions’ 20. Only the second time he has fumbled this year – both against the Lions.

• After starting 0-3, Rodgers up to 5-of-8 for 93 yards … he also rushed for a first down.

• Aaron Rodgers leads Green Bay to a touchdown inside of two minutes, but crumbles in a heap on the TD pass to Randall Cobb … taken off the field on a cart.

• The Detroit Lions score on a Stafford to Calvin Johnson 20-yard touchdown pass. The score came after a personal foul roughing the quarterback penalty on Packers LB Brad Jones who was flagged for a slap to the head of Stafford. The TD pass came on the next play after Jones’s penalty.