Game Review: Packers Win Third Straight, Now 7-4

DETROIT - Not long ago the Packers lost a game they shouldn’t have at previously winless Tampa Bay to drop to .500, and they were staring at a stretch of three games in 12 days that could define which direction the 2009 season was going to go. They emerged from that stretch unscathed with a third straight victory, 34-12 over Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. - More Packers-Lions Game Center

DETROIT - Not long ago the Green Bay Packers lost a game they shouldn't have at previously winless Tampa Bay to drop to .500, and they were staring at a stretch of three games in 12 days that could define which direction the 2009 season was going to go.

They emerged from that stretch unscathed with a third straight victory, 34-12 over the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day at Ford Field, and now at 7-4 they've put themselves among the front-runners for an NFC Wild Card playoff spot.

"We obviously came back from a real tough loss, and we knew we had three games in 12 days," veteran offensive lineman Mark Tauscher said. "To come out of that 3-0 playing fairly well, it's big. Now we get a chance to regroup and get our second bye week, come back refreshed and look to get going again.

"It's a huge win. We're in a position we want to be, and we're just going to keep building on that."

The Packers had to overcome a slow start in this one, as Jordy Nelson fumbled away the opening kickoff and the Lions took advantage of the short field, driving 20 yards for an early score. Then Green Bay drove 64 yards the other way, only to see Mason Crosby miss a 43-yard field goal, keeping it at 7-0.

But from there through the end of the third quarter, the Packers dominated the Lions on both sides of the ball.

On the Packers' next six offensive possessions, they scored five times, including three touchdown passes by Aaron Rodgers to Donald Lee, Donald Driver and James Jones. The only empty possession came at the start of the third quarter, when Head Coach Mike McCarthy eschewed a long field goal to go for it on fourth-and-3.

Meanwhile, over that span the defense, playing for the first time without cornerback Al Harris and linebacker Aaron Kampman (who were lost for the season to knee injuries last week) recorded three interceptions, forced two punts, and made the Lions try a long field goal, which missed.

It all added up to a 27-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter, and the Packers were well on their way to a fourth straight season sweep of the Lions.

"The game of football is about execution, it doesn't matter who's out there on the field," said cornerback Charles Woodson, who had another monster day with two interceptions - one for a touchdown in the fourth quarter - a forced and recovered fumble, and a sack. "Today we executed and got some turnovers, which was big, and the offense drove downfield and put up points. When you've got those things working together, you can win games."

The sudden return to health of Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford (sprained shoulder) and receiver Calvin Johnson (hand, knee) ultimately didn't matter much. Stafford threw four interceptions in all and posted just a 30.5 passer rating (20-of-43, 213 yards, 1 TD), while Woodson held Johnson to only two catches for 10 yards.

Rodgers obviously did his part, leading a Green Bay offense that was both efficient and explosive. He finished 28-of-39 for 348 yards with the three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 124.7 rating, and he had six completions of 19 yards or longer.

The first of those seemed to jump-start the Packers on the final play of the first quarter. Facing third-and-11 on his own 25, Rodgers dropped back and had several seconds to scan the field back and forth. He eventually decided to heave the ball deep to Driver, who hauled in a 68-yard reception on an impressive throw that traveled at least 70 yards in the air.

"I think they just kind of lost him," Rodgers said of Driver. "I was running around like I didn't know what was going on, looking to the left and looking to the right, and I saw Donald out of the corner of my eye. I had to make a split decision whether I could throw it that far. I still didn't throw it far enough where he could catch it and score. But that was a fun one."

{sportsad300}It turned out to be a fun day for the offense, which rolled up 422 yards and converted 9-of-16 third downs (56 percent). Driver put up a season-high 142 yards on seven catches, while running back Ryan Grant added 103 yards from scrimmage (61 rushing, 42 receiving).

One hiccup was a safety the Lions recorded on a tackle of Grant in the end zone after Detroit had turned the ball over on downs at the 1, but otherwise the offense was hurt by just one sack and one turnover - both happened on the failed fourth-and-3 play - and five different players took part in the six passes of 19 yards or more.

"The line did a great job giving me time," Rodgers said. "A couple times I held the ball I think for probably 4 or 5 seconds, or more, and when you have the opportunity with the kind of players we have in our receiving corps, we feel like we can make plays."

Added Tauscher: "Obviously we're performing better but there's always room for improvement. We want to be an offense you can count on to put up a lot of points."

Now the Packers need to count on carrying this momentum through a de facto second bye week before the season resumes with a big Monday night showdown against Baltimore at Lambeau Field on Dec. 7.

The time off to rest and recuperate will be important, but so will be keeping the edge this team has displayed since that disheartening loss in Tampa.

"We're at 7-4, stacking success, feeling good, and our confidence level should be high right now," Grant said. "But we know we need a bigger surge for these last five weeks."

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