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Key to the game: Aggressive start paves the way for Packers' victory

Green Bay scored 20 of its 29 points in the opening quarter against Lions

Packers WR Christian Watson
Packers WR Christian Watson

DETROIT – The Packers made it clear from the opening coin toss this was not going to be a redux of their first encounter with the Detroit Lions earlier this season.

Electing to take the ball for the first time this season after winning the coin toss, Green Bay put its foot squarely on the gas when Head Coach Matt LaFleur called for a deep ball to receiver Christian Watson on the first snap.

Quarterback Jordan Love found the second-year receiver for a 53-yard gain, setting the tone for what turned out to be a 29-22 Packers victory in front of 66,476 in attendance on Thanksgiving at Ford Field to snap Detroit's seven-game winning streak over the NFC North.

The deep connection sparked a five-play, 75-yard drive that concluded with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jayden Reed to put the Packers on the board in a game they never trailed.

It's the type of showing Green Bay wanted to put forth after falling behind 27-3 at halftime against the Lions in Week 4, a game the Packers would ultimately lose 34-20.

"It's my dream – just come out here and be able to make plays," said Watson, who led the Packers with 94 receiving yards and a touchdown. "To know (that) we're starting off with me, got to go out there and make a play. That's exactly the type of pressure and the type of anticipation I want going into a game, so that was huge."

Watson's play marked the beginning of a big first quarter on both sides of the ball. After Detroit answered with a touchdown of its own, Love marched the Packers back down the field on a 10-play, 75-yard drive on their second offensive series.

A 9-yard out to Watson on third-and-8 keyed the series, but Love also completed passes to rookie Malik Heath (for 16 yards) and running back AJ Dillon (for 11) before Reed took an end-around 15 yards into the Lions' red zone.

Three plays later, rookie tight end Tucker Kraft caught his first NFL touchdown pass on third-and-1 to put Green Bay up 14-6. Kraft was making his second career start after fellow rookie Luke Musgrave (abdomen) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.

"We're putting great things on film and we're eliminating the bad every week," Kraft said. "We played a good team game. Of course, we're gonna turn on film and there's gonna be some mistakes but we played hard, and we played for 60 minutes."

The defense also had a hand in the Packers' fast start, with Rashan Gary recording the first of his three sacks of quarterback Jared Goff on the Lions' second possession.

Facing second-and-12, Gary swatted at Goff's arm and forced the first of two fumbles. Safety Jonathan Owens recovered the loose ball and returned it for a 27-yard touchdown that put Green Bay up 20-6 after just 12 minutes, 48 seconds.

It was Owens' first NFL touchdown and the defense's first fumble recovery for a touchdown since Preston Smith's 14-yarder against Chicago on Nov. 29, 2020.

"I seen RG. I seen him hit it out," said Owens, who led Green Bay with 12 tackles. "I just picked it up. That's what you gotta do, every loose ball on the ground, just pick it up and run. … That's how we train, man. You pick up every loose ball, even incomplete passes. We work it in practice."

The Packers' 20 points in the first quarter were their most since scoring 21 points in a 38-17 win over Carolina on Oct. 19, 2014. It also matched Green Bay's entire first-quarter point total from its first 10 games combined this season.

The Packers tacked on a 42-yard Anders Carlson field goal to take a 23-6 lead into halftime. Their 247 total yards in the first 30 minutes was more than Green Bay had for the game in the Week 4 loss to the Lions.

The success was rooted in how the Packers started and the mindset the team took into a crucial game against the division-leading Lions.

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