Packers' defense rebounds, shuts down Lions in second half

Rookie corner Eric Stokes, special teams shine in win over Detroit

CB Eric Stokes breaks up a pass intended for a Detroit Lions receiver

GREEN BAY – Despite an up-and-down first half against Detroit, the Packers' defense went back the locker room at halftime Monday and knew what needed to happen.

Yes, there were a few corrections that had to made after the defense gave up 197 total yards and 17 points to the Lions in the first two quarters, but the biggest adjustment Green Bay needed was its mindset.

The defense ratcheted up both the intensity and pressure en route to pitching a shutout in the second half, allowing the Packers to score 21 unanswered points in a 35-17 victory over the Lions.

"We all set a motive – just come out there and play as hard as we can for the next 30 minutes," linebacker Krys Barnes said.

"As a unit, we said, 'We're coming for everything that we said we were. It's time to go out there and show what we're made of.' I think in that second half, we went out there and displayed everything we needed to."

First-year defensive coordinator Joe Barry made one significant adjustment following last week's 38-3 loss to New Orleans, inserting rookie first-round pick Eric Stokes on the perimeter in the nickel sub-package and moving Kevin King into the slot.

The 22-year-old Stokes showed early on the moment wasn't too big for him, contributing on a pair of fourth-down stops. While his breakup of an end-zone pass intended for Trinity Benson in the fourth quarter probably had more style points, Stokes' tight coverage on receiver Quintez Cephus in the third quarter had even larger ramifications.

The Packers had just taken their first lead of the game, 21-17, when Detroit drove to Green Bay's 25-yard line. The Lions opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 when quarterback Jared Goff attempted to sneak one past Stokes, who stuck on Cephus.

"He's a key factor for us," said Barnes of Stokes. "Definitely proud of how he played today. He made a lot of big plays for us on fourth-down stops. He came in and had great energy for the guys."

Barnes and fellow inside linebacker De'Vondre Campbell also generated the Packers' first two takeaways of the season. Barnes' recovery of a botched snap at the end of the third quarter marked the beginning of the end for Detroit.

Green Bay's offense took over at the Lions' 23 and scored five plays later on a 1-yard Aaron Jones touchdown run to go up 35-17. Later in the quarter, Campbell would intercept Goff following pressure from second-year pass rusher Jonathan Garvin.

All told, Detroit managed just 147 total yards and nine first downs in the final two quarters, a sizable chunk of that production (57 yards, three first downs) coming in the final minutes with the game in hand. The Packers hope it's just the beginning for a defense that had high expectations for the season.

"We just had to lock it in," said Campbell, who led Green Bay's defense with 13 tackles. "It's a divisional game so it's never going to be easy. It's always going to be a hard-fought battle, two very familiar opponents. Nobody expected it to be easy."

Special-teams standouts: New punter Corey Bojorquez and kickoff returner Kylin Hill provided a big spark for the Packers' special-teams unit against the Lions.

Bojorquez displayed both leg power and accuracy in booming two punts inside the red zone on opposite sides of the field, with his 56-yarder landing at the Detroit 9. He finished with a 46.7-yard average and 43.3 net.

Hill, the rookie seventh-round pick out of Mississippi State, had a 41-yard kickoff return to Green Bay's 44-yard line. It was Green Bay's longest kickoff return since Tyler Ervin's 45-yarder against Chicago on Dec. 15, 2019.

The Packers proceeded to drive down and score on a 10-play, 56-yard drive that culminated with an Aaron Jones 1-yard TD reception to tie the game at 14.

"Special teams did well," receiver Davante Adams said. "'Bojo' had a great punt down there toward the end of the game. Kylin had a great kickoff return. It was probably one of the longest kickoff returns that I've seen since I've been here.

"He's a guy that didn't really see the field as much today, but very easily could have. So we've got to be relying on him a lot to make some plays, too, especially if he's feeling it like that on those kickoff returns."

View some of the best photos from the Monday Night Football matchup between the Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on Sept. 20, 2021.