GREEN BAY – For the second time in five days, the Packers came out of the gates slow on Thursday night and Detroit made them pay for it.
Coming off a thrilling comeback win over New Orleans on Sunday, Green Bay found itself in another sizeable first-half deficit and wasn't able to fully climb out of it during a 34-20 loss to the Lions in front of 78,052 at Lambeau Field.
Detroit made a critical error on its first possession, resulting in Packers safety Rudy Ford's interception of Lions quarterback Jared Goff, but otherwise played a flawless first half to take a commanding 27-3 lead at halftime.
Other than the field goal they generated off Ford's takeaway, the Packers struggled to get the ball moving in the first half. The offense went three-and-out on four of its first five possessions, with a first-down interception sandwiched in between.
The Lions led Green Bay 284-21 in total yards at halftime, with 15 first downs and five third-down conversions. It was eerily similar to how the Packers fell behind the Saints 17-0 on Sunday before scoring 18 unanswered in the fourth quarter to win.
"It's not what you want. It's almost the same exact thing that happened last week with the Saints," right guard Jon Runyan said. "We weren't able to get anything going. They were stuffing our run. We're getting in this second- and third-and-long situations and we're throwing the ball and going three-and-out consistently."
To their credit, the Packers kept fighting. Receiving the ball coming out of halftime, quarterback Jordan Love led a 12-play, 86-yard drive that culminated in a 1-yard touchdown pass to returning receiver Christian Watson.
It almost looked like Green Bay might claw its way back into the game after the defense had back-to-back stops in the third quarter and Love pulled the Packers back within 10 after a 9-yard scramble for a score eight seconds into the fourth quarter.
A medley of missed opportunities, untimely penalties and a pair of interceptions ultimately resulted in the Lions extinguishing any hopes of a Packers comeback. Detroit nearly doubled Green Bay in total yards (401-230), running the ball 43 times to the Packers' 12. The Lions also won the time of possession battle, 37:58-22:02.
The Packers have outscored the opposition 77-37 in the second half through the first four games. Unfortunately, it's come after falling behind 59-23 in the first two quarters.
"We gotta figure that out," defensive lineman Kenny Clark said. "We just gotta look at the film and figure that out; why we starting slow? We had the interception at first and then gave up some big plays. We gotta look at the film, be critical of ourselves and figure that out."
After the game, many veterans credited the young football team for not giving up after the troublesome first half. Six different players touched the ball on that 12-play drive coming out of the half, with Watson's 24-yard catch moving the Packers into Detroit territory for the first time.
Check out photos from the Week 4 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023.
Second-year receiver Romeo Doubs also made a critical 15-yard catch in the middle of the field on fourth-and-9, leading to Watson's 1-yard TD two plays later. A 44-yard pass to rookie Jayden Reed at the end of the third quarter set the table for Love's second running TD in a week.
"I thought we responded really well," said Doubs, who led the Packers with a career-high nine catches for 95 yards. "We just gotta do that all four quarters because in that first half we did not play to that standard. Again, it comes down to being technical and really critical and just getting better."
Running back Aaron Jones, who returned after a two-game absence with a hamstring injury, spoke to the Packers' locker room after the game and stressed to his teammates the importance of playing with urgency from the first whistle.
While Green Bay managed to pull off a colossal comeback against the Saints, NFL teams are too good for the Packers to fall behind by multiple scores early and expect to win. With one road game left before Green Bay's Week 6 bye, the Packers hope to find answers soon enough.
"You can't come out and spot teams like that – we did it last weekend and it worked out for us but that's not always going to be the case," Jones said. "I told the guys I'm proud of them because they showed their character that we're not going to give up. We're not going to quit but we gotta start a lot faster.
"I think now that we've had these past two games, I think they feel what urgency is when your back is against the wall. If you can just play with that at all times, it's deadly."