DETROIT - The first win can be the toughest, and this one was difficult all the way through the game's last play.
Green Bay got a banner day from Brett Favre but had to withstand a fourth-quarter comeback by Detroit that ended with a Hail Mary pass falling incomplete in the end zone, preserving the Packers' 31-24 victory over the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday.
"Nothing's going to come easy," receiver Donald Driver said. "That's how it is."
But it's certainly much easier on the psyche to be 1-2 rather than 0-3, and in a game the Packers never trailed, they used an efficient offense and just enough defense to give Head Coach Mike McCarthy his first regular-season win.
Favre was superb, completing 25 of 36 passes for 340 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Meanwhile the defense gave up two big touchdown plays early but scored one of its own and got two stops in the final 2 minutes to hang on.
"That's the way you're supposed to spend Sunday afternoon," McCarthy said. "It was an excellent win for us. I'm just really happy with how they scrapped and fought for 60 minutes.
"I thought they had an excellent week of preparation, and to go out there and cash in on that performance, (I'm) very happy for everyone involved."
A back-and-forth first half began with Favre throwing his 400th career touchdown pass, hitting Greg Jennings on a hitch route that the rookie receiver turned into a 75-yard score with the help of Driver's downfield block on Dre Bly.
Detroit countered with a 37-yard touchdown pass by Jon Kitna, who beat a Packer blitz with a quick dump-off to Shawn Bryson. The running back sprinted through the secondary for the easy score.
The Packers' defense regained the lead when Kitna tried to thread a pass to Corey Bradford, who was tightly covered by Ahmad Carroll. The ball was deflected into the air and intercepted by Marquand Manuel, and 29 yards later the Packers were up 14-7.
But the Lions quickly evened the score again, as Kitna went deep to Roy Williams for a 42-yard touchdown on the final play of the first quarter, tying the game at 14.
That was the last time Detroit would draw even, though, as the Packers avoided getting caught up in the emotional ebb and flow and began to use longer, more methodical drives to take control.
"We played four quarters of football," fullback William Henderson said. "We didn't go up, we didn't go down, we didn't play on a roller coaster of emotion. We just played even keel.
"When they came back and countered whatever punch we gave, we found a way to rally and put more points on the board."
That started in the second quarter with a 13-play, 69-yard drive that set up Dave Rayner's 24-yard field goal. A fumble by Noah Herron deep in Detroit territory squandered a scoring opportunity at the end of the first half, but Favre directed a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on the Packers' opening possession of the third quarter, hitting Driver from 5 yards out for a 24-14 lead.
Favre's ability to move around in the pocket, take the short throws when they were the best option, and spread the ball around to 10 different receivers had the Packers' offense looking more efficient than it has all season. His stellar 127.1 quarterback rating was his highest since Week 5 last year against New Orleans.
"I didn't feel like I had to take chances or many chances," Favre said. "And when guys are making plays when you can throw it underneath, then it makes it a lot easier."
Added McCarthy: "We didn't have any things from a decision standpoint, he was 100 percent in that area. His performance in the passing game was excellent. I thought he was very smart with the football - pushed it down the field when the opportunity presented itself, took the check-downs. I thought he had an excellent game."
Kitna was nearly as good, completing 25 of 40 passes for 342 yards, but the Lions could never completely swing the game back in their favor.
A 5-yard TD run by Kevin Jones pulled Detroit within 24-21, but on their next possession the Lions were unable to get a first down while backed up near their own goal line. After a punt, the Packers took advantage of the short field, as Favre's 32-yard pass to Donald Lee set up a 10-yard TD pass to Ahman Green for a 31-21 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Detroit rallied within one score on a 40-yard field goal by Jason Hanson with 5:24 left and got the ball back, but the Packers stopped the Lions on Corey Williams' fourth-down sack of Kitna with 1:54 to go.
It still wasn't over, however.
The Packers needed just one first down to run the clock out, but Green fumbled on third down. Jamar Fletcher made the recovery, giving the Lions one last shot from their own 32.
Three completions moved the ball to midfield, but Kitna's heave to the end zone on the final play was batted away, finally allowing the Packers to exhale and chalk one up in the win column.
"It's been a tough sled here," offensive tackle Mark Tauscher said. "We've just taken a beating from the outside, and we've had to stick together and hang in there.
"We've made mistakes, but we haven't made excuses. We've owned up to it and we've just tried to keep plugging away and getting better. Today we finally got a little reward for all the work we put in."