DETROIT—The first major hurdle of the Packers' late-season push has been cleared and the NFC North Division title would seem to be at their fingertips following a convincing, 27-15 win at Ford Field on Thursday.
"I felt it was an excellent character win for our football team," Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said following the game. "Very proud of our football team to fight through adversity. Big road win. Division wins are always the biggest. The stadium was electric. Great atmosphere. We feel good about ourselves today."
McCarthy probably feels best that his team was able to keep its poise against a Lions team that appeared determined to lose its. Lions star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was ejected in the third quarter following a stomping incident. John Kuhn quickly scored on a one-yard run and the Packers were on their way to an easier-than-expected win.
Asked to give his interpretation of what happened in the scuffle between Suh and Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith, McCarthy said: "Two teams battling. You had some extracurricular activity. It gave us a first down."
Packers reserve defensive back Pat Lee was ejected from the game in the first half following a brief scuffle, but Suh's dismissal will likely involve a heavy fine for a player that has the reputation for being the "dirtiest player in the league."
The win is No. 11 for the Packers, who can spend the weekend relaxing and entertaining thoughts of an undefeated season. The Packers' next game will be in New York against the Giants a week from this Sunday.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers pitched two touchdown passes to take his season total to 33, but for one of the few times this season, defense, not offense, was the star of the game for the Packers. Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers employed a bend-but-don't-break strategy the Lions couldn't crack until after the issue had been decided.
"Kept them out of the end zone. They did a great job of that and getting takeaways. It's been a staple of our football team. We do it as well as anybody in the league," McCarthy said of his team's defensive performance.
Lions quarterback Matt Stafford was intercepted three times en route to a 66.5 passer-rating day. The Packers defense limited Stafford to short passes, which largely made star wide receiver Calvin Johnson a nonfactor in the game.
"We didn't want to let them get anything over the top," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "That's what you want to do with a team like that. Detroit has some weapons on offense. We didn't think they could dink and dunk and get touchdowns on us."
The Packers held a mere 7-0 lead at halftime, thanks to a two-play, 13-yard touchdown drive that was the direct result of a Stafford pass that was tipped by defensive lineman Ryan Pickett and intercepted by linebacker Clay Matthews.
In the second half, the Packers turned harder to short passes and the running game. They were more efficient-looking in a 77-yard drive to start the second half, and then exploded with a 65-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to wide receiver James Jones.
"We went a little more under center in the second half. We put ourselves in third-and-manageable more often and converted them more in the second half. In the second half, we got a threat of run," said Rodgers, who completed 22 of 32 passes for 307 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 120.2 passer rating against the league's fifth-ranked pass-defense.
"Get healthy and we'll see you on Tuesday," McCarthy told his team. "It's important for them to step away and get ready for the stretch run." Additional coverage - Nov. 24