Game Review: Victory Ends Difficult Season

As much as the Green Bay players felt for the plight of their winless foes, the Packers’ 31-21 victory over the Lions in front of 70,141 fans at Lambeau Field on Sunday was more about ending their own losing skid than making history, either way, as part of their division rival’s ignominious streak. - More Packers-Lions Game Center

There really are no consolation prizes in the NFL, but the Packers at least accomplished two things by beating the Detroit Lions 31-21 on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

They put an end to their own five-game losing streak and avoided entering 2009 without a win since mid-November, which seemed unthinkable at the time the Packers were 5-5 and tied for first place in the NFC North.

They also avoided becoming the only team to lose to the Lions this season, as Detroit became the league's first 0-16 team.

But as much as the Green Bay players felt for the plight of their winless foes, the Packers' effort in front of 70,141 fans was more about ending their own losing skid than making history, either way, as part of their division rival's ignominious streak.

"The truth of the matter, it was never about the Detroit Lions," offensive lineman Daryn Colledge said. "This team had to get a win. This team needed to be 6-10. We needed to have some momentum going into the offseason. It truly was never about the Detroit Lions. They could have been 15-0 or 0-15, we had to get a win."

The Packers did that, and were impressive statistically in the process. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers topped 300 yards passing for the fourth time this year and posted a season-best 132.2 rating, completing 21-of-31 for 308 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

That came with four 100-yard performances by the skill players as the Packers became the first team in NFL history to have two 100-yard rushers and two 100-yard receivers in the same game.

Running backs Ryan Grant and DeShawn Wynn rushed for 106 yards each, with Grant using 19 carries and Wynn just seven. And receivers Donald Driver (111 yards) and Greg Jennings (101 yards) contributed six and five catches, respectively, to the offensive production.

But even with all of that, this one wasn't easy.

The Packers jumped out to a 14-0 lead behind Wynn's 73-yard touchdown run on a third-down toss sweep and tight end Jermichael Finley's first NFL score, a 3-yard TD pass late in the first quarter that was preceded by a Charles Woodson interception.

Detroit rallied to tie it, though, on a pair of touchdown catches by second-year dynamo Calvin Johnson (nine catches, 102 yards). Johnson's second TD, a 14-yarder over the middle, was set up by a Grant fumble at the Green Bay 11-yard line early in the third quarter, his first fumble since Week 7.

From there the Packers seemed to take control with a 36-yard Mason Crosby field goal, a three-and-out by the defense, and a 49-yard drive for a touchdown, capped by fullback John Kuhn's 5-yard reception.

But the 10-point advantage didn't last long, as the Lions drove 80 yards in just four plays - two of them passes of 35 and 36 yards to John Standeford before a 9-yard TD run by Kevin Smith (28 carries, 92 yards).

Suddenly, up 24-21 midway through the fourth quarter, the Packers were in the same kind of close game they've played repeatedly over the second half of the season. The last four games had ended in losses by either four or three points, but the players insisted they weren't letting the recent failures affect their approach.

"We still felt confident throughout the game, but we knew we needed to finish it, which we haven't been doing this year," linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "We knew we had to take control of the game and end it, and we felt like we could do that."

Green Bay did by landing one mighty punch. On the first snap of the ensuing drive, Driver ran a stutter-go route up the right sideline and Rodgers let it fly. Driver had beaten cornerback Leigh Bodden badly and after making the catch, maneuvered past the safety for a 71-yard touchdown to finally close one out.

"It felt good just to seal the deal," Driver said. "That's one thing we always feel like we have to do, especially as a receiver group, is make a play. We felt like all season long we didn't make those plays we should make, and today was one of those days we had to make every play count.

"It was a great play, a great call by Coach McCarthy, and a great throw by Aaron."

{sportsad300}Rodgers said the offense had worked on that deep shot this week in practice, missing on Wednesday but connecting on Friday. The play was actually part of McCarthy's opening 15-play script but wasn't run as planned early in the contest.

"Thankfully we came back to it," said Rodgers, who went over 4,000 yards on the season with the throw as Driver went over 1,000 yards with the catch.

"I appreciate the call. It shows a lot of confidence in myself for him to call a play like that, in a running set with two tight ends on the field."

It landed the knockout blow the Packers had been unable to provide so often this season, one that ended with a 6-10 record and a litany of missed opportunities.

That's what the Packers will ponder over the next couple of months as they get an extended break before the offseason strength and conditioning program begins in mid-to-late March. They came close so many times, yet finished a distant four games away from defending their NFC North title.

"That's the NFL right there - games are won and lost by two or three plays just about every game," Rodgers said. "We have to make those plays next year. There's going to be similar situations, we're going to have a lot of our guys back, and we're going to need to win those close games."

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