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Game recap: 5 takeaways from Packers' victory over Lions

Game was won up front by Green Bay

Packers S Anthony Johnson Jr. (36) and LB Isaiah McDuffie (58) join S Jonathan Owens (34) in the end zone after Owens returned a first-quarter fumble 27 yards for a touchdown in Thursday's game against the Detroit Lions.
Packers S Anthony Johnson Jr. (36) and LB Isaiah McDuffie (58) join S <forge-entity title="Jonathan Owens" slug="jonathan-owens" code="player">Jonathan Owens</forge-entity> (34) in the end zone after Owens returned a first-quarter fumble 27 yards for a touchdown in Thursday's game against the Detroit Lions.

DETROIT – Despite a banged-up roster and several starters sitting out, the Packers pulled off quite the holiday surprise, knocking off the NFC North-leading Lions on Thanksgiving at Ford Field, 29-22.

Here are five takeaways from the big road triumph:

  1. The game couldn't have started any faster for the Packers.

In a change of pattern, Head Coach Matt LaFleur took the ball when winning the opening coin toss, and he had a deep shot from Jordan Love to Christian Watson dialed up for the very first play.

It was a call he had pondered quite a bit, apparently.

"As a matter of fact, I almost changed the first play call. I was mulling it over quite a bit," he said. "I texted Jordan this morning and told him I was going to change it to something else, and he said he wanted this call.

"So I told Christian right before the game, hey, there's a good chance this play is going to go to you. Just go up and attack the football, and he did exactly that."

The 53-yard gain was the first of several clutch contested catches by the receiving corps. It also put the Packers in scoring territory right away and sparked a huge first quarter for the team.

  1. The lead got to two touchdowns quickly.

Love finished the offense's first drive with a pinpoint slant pass to Jayden Reed for a touchdown. The Lions responded with a TD of their own, but then Love took the offense right back down the field for another score, this one to rookie tight end Tucker Kraft for his first NFL touchdown.

A couple of snaps into Detroit's next drive, Packers linebacker Rashan Gary hit Lions QB Jared Goff as he threw the ball, and with some players pulling up, safety Jonathan Owens scooped up the ball and returned it 27 yards to the end zone.

Replay upheld the call on the field of fumble instead of an incomplete pass, and the Packers were suddenly up 20-6 less than 13 minutes into the game. It marked the first time the Packers had 20 points on the board in the first quarter in nine years.

The big play from the defense foreshadowed several more to come.

  1. Fourth down was Green Bay's down on defense.

The Packers wound up with four defensive stops on fourth down as the Lions repeatedly stayed aggressive in trying to rally.

The biggest of those fourth-down stops came in the third quarter, when the Lions tried a fake punt from their own 23-yard line. Rookies Lukas Van Ness and Karl Brooks tackled the up man who took a direct snap, and three snaps later, the Packers were in the end zone again on a 16-yard TD pass to Watson for a 29-14 lead.

Obviously, the Packers were not surprised by the attempt at a fake punt.

"We just know how aggressive they are, and we were kind of alerting for that," LaFleur said, crediting special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia for preparing the unit and assistant QB coach Connor Lewis upstairs calling to defend the fake.

"That obviously was a very critical play in the game. It was the epitome of complementary football … a really important sequence in the game."

Among the three other fourth-down stops, all in Green Bay territory, Gary had another sack and forced fumble, giving him a three-sack day, his second such game this season.

Returning to the stadium in which he tore his ACL last November, Gary gave himself a much better memory this time around.

"RG had a big day," LaFleur said. "Last year was a very emotional experience. He experienced a different kind of emotion today."

Check out photos from the Week 12 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023.