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Dramatic rally keeps Packers in first in NFC North

Character, fight, resiliency all needed to come from behind vs. Lions

K Mason Crosby does the Lambeau Leap after his game-winning field goal
K Mason Crosby does the Lambeau Leap after his game-winning field goal

GREEN BAY – It didn't take just one comeback, but two.

Rallying from 13 points down in the first half and then nine in the second half, the Packers somehow found a way to knock off the Lions on Monday night at Lambeau Field, 23-22.

Mason Crosby's walk-off field goal from 23 yards out was the game-winner, but what stood out was the list of obstacles the Packers had to overcome to improve to 5-1 and stay in first place in the NFC North.

"I don't even know where to begin," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said.

Two big pass plays out of the gate by Detroit and three turnovers were tough enough. Geronimo Allison joining Davante Adams on the sideline and relegating Green Bay's receiving corps to one of the youngest Aaron Rodgers has ever had to work with only added to the difficulty.

The Packers erased a 13-0 deficit to tie the score in the third quarter. Then the second and third turnovers, the last one at the goal line taking sure points off the board, helped restore Detroit's lead to 22-13 with 12 minutes left.

But the Packers just kept plugging away.

"I think it speaks a lot to the character we have in that locker room," LaFleur said. "Our guys sticking together. We talk about never blinking, and they fought. I was so proud of the effort. We had a lot of guys that had to step up."

That's another list, beginning with young receiver Allen Lazard, who took over for Darrius Shepherd due to the undrafted rookie's rough night. Shepherd fumbled a punt and then slipped at the goal line and had a Rodgers pass bounce off of him and into the hands of Detroit cornerback Justin Coleman.

Both turnovers led to field goals, with Coleman's 55-yard interception return setting up Matt Prater's fifth successful kick of the game.

But Lazard had the initial answer, hauling in a 35-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers on a one-on-one go route against Coleman for the former practice-squadder's first NFL score. The Iowa State product then added three catches for 30 yards on the final possession, two of them moving the chains, as the Packers killed the final 6:46 on the clock with a 14-play, 77-yard drive to get the win.

"In that fourth quarter (Rodgers) was certainly calling for Allen," LaFleur said. "Those two guys made it come to life.

"You have an injury or what-not, for whatever reason, and that's how some guys become who they are. He was given his opportunity, and to his credit he was ready."

So was running back Jamaal Williams, back for the first time since taking a brutal hit on the opening play against Philadelphia 18 days ago. Including a 45-yard scamper to set up a field goal late in the second quarter, Williams powered his way to 104 yards on 14 carries and added 32 receiving yards on four catches, including a 5-yard TD on a shovel pass.

Most important, Williams intentionally fell down on the Detroit 3-yard line with less than two minutes left when the Lions, who were out of timeouts, were going to let him score from the 11. The heads-up play allowed the Packers to kneel twice to drain the clock and call a timeout for Crosby's walk-off.

LaFleur said it had been communicated to everyone the ball was not to go in the end zone, and Williams passed on the touchdown even though it would have been so easy to score.

"I'm sure he did (want the TD)," said Rodgers, who threw for two scores along with 283 yards on 24-of-39 passing, for a 90.0 rating. "He probably wanted to dance a little bit, too. He's a good dancer. He loves to dance.

"It's still tough. When that thing breaks wide open, your natural instincts are to stick it in there and score. He did the right thing."

If there was yet another star of the game, it was the Packers' defense, which allowed just one touchdown despite an offensive onslaught by the Lions early. QB Matthew Stafford (18-of-23, 265 yards, 83.5 passer rating) hit Kenny Golladay on a 66-yard flea-flicker on the first play of the game and connected with Marvin Hall on a 58-yard bomb on the opening play of the Lions' second drive.

But Detroit got just 10 points out of the explosive start and needed a fourth-and-goal plunge by running back Kerryon Johnson, who was oh-so-close to being stopped, to get the lone touchdown. Golladay finished with five catches for 121 yards but Johnson was held to just 34 yards on 13 carries.

From there, the Lions could only add field goals, two of them on drives that started in Green Bay territory. The Packers' defense didn't get any takeaways, but Preston and Za'Darius Smith combined for 2½ of the three sacks of Stafford that helped thwart drives and keep the point total within reach.

Lambeau Field hosted a Monday Night Football matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions on Oct. 14, 2019.

"If you can keep the opponent out of the end zone, you're always going to have a chance," LaFleur said. "I don't know if I've ever been a part of a team where we lose the turnover battle by three and came out on top. That's rare. It doesn't happen in this league very often."

Starting division play 3-0 with a win over each NFC North foe isn't too common, either, and it's a first for the Packers since 2012. They now play seven straight non-division games before finishing the 2019 slate with all three division rematches in succession.

LaFleur said it himself, "It's a long season," so the Packers are in good position, but nothing more. Moving forward, what they have to fall back on is how they've won games in different ways in fourth quarters.

"It was a character win," Rodgers said. "That's what I said in the locker room. What that means is it revealed a lot about our squad.

"A lot of resilience with our guys. Matt talks about a no-blink mentality, and that means you just move on to the next play. You have a short memory, that's important in this business. We're a very confident group. Even though we got punched in the mouth a little bit to start the game, I think we responded the right way."