Before Sunday's game Head Coach Mike Sherman told his team he knew how hard his team had scratched and clawed all season, losing seven games by seven or fewer points.
"I told him how proud I was. They were a bunch of fighters," he said. "I knew they were going to fight tonight."
Indeed the Packers fought through another close game, edging the Detroit Lions 16-13 in overtime. Kicker Ryan Longwell nailed a 28-yard field 5:27 into overtime despite frigid conditions to win the game.
"It's something you get used to. I just know how to prepare for the temperatures," said Longwell, who atoned for a 38-yard yard attempt blocked by Jared De Vries in the second quarter. "You just stay loose and don't overkick."
The Packers won the overtime toss and scored on the only drive of the period. Samkon Gado ran six times on the possession, including a four-yard gain during which Earl Holmes committed an unnecessary roughness penalty. That penalty tacked on 15 yards and placed the ball on the Packers' 35-yard line. Brett Favre also completed two-of-three passes, hitting William Henderson for eight yards and Robert Ferguson for 17 yards. After the Ferguson catch moved the ball to Detroit's 35-yard-line, an animated Favre pumped his fist several times.
As seamless as the Packers operated on the final drive, the game -- from the outset -- seemed like it would mirror the course of the Packers' excruciating losses. Lions running back Kevin Jones had a 40-yard run on the game's first drive. On the second drive of the game, several Lions sacked Favre and forced a fumble, which James Davis of the Lions recovered at the Packers' 18-yard-line. On the game's fourth series, R.W. McQuarters returned a kickoff 73 yards to the Green Bay 16-yard-line.
The Lions scored 13 points as a result of those plays, but they would not score again. Detroit went scoreless in the last three quarters. Displaying sound tackling skills, the Packers' swarming defense held the Lions to 241 total yards and 28:08 minutes of time of possession.
"I'm real proud of them," Sherman said.
The defense played most impressively during a goal line stand, which ended the first drive of the fourth quarter. The Lions moved the ball down to the Packers' four-yard-line. Artose Pinner gained three yards on first down, but two successive runs by Pinner and one by Jeff Garcia netted zero yards.
"That was the turning point in the ballgame," Sherman said.
It also marked when the game took a bizarre turn. William Whitticker committed a false start before the Packers' first play. That placed the Packers so far near their own end zone that center Mike Flanagan actually lined up in the end zone. The Packers then handed the ball off to Gado. As Lions players approached him in the end zone, Gado threw an incomplete shovel pass. Or so it seemed.
Officials first ruled it intentional grounding, which would have resulted in a safety. After meeting, the officials deemed it an incomplete pass, thus avoiding the safety. Gado, however, never clearly explained whether he consciously knew that he was outside of the tackle box.
"I just reacted," Gado said. "I wasn't thinking. I had to something. Either way you look at it, it probably wasn't the best decision."
Regardless the ball finally bounced right for the Packers after so much misfortune throughout the year.
Gado helped the Packers in many other ways beside his heads up (we think) safety-saving play. He gained 171 yards on 29 carries, which serves as the best rushing performance for a Packers player all season.
"He played a hell of a game," Favre said.
Gado's best run occurred when he bounced outside for a 64-yard touchdown with 5:08 remaining in the second quarter. That rushing gain represented a season-high for the Packers and a career-high for Gado. During practice all week running backs coach Edgar Bennett urged Gado to cut back toward the inside with less frequency. Gado trusted his reads, headed toward the perimeter and cut the Lions' lead to 13-10.
Like the Packers the Lions only scored one touchdown. On a drive set up by McQuarters' return, Roy Williams bobbled a four-yard reception before dragging his feet down in the corner of the end zone. Green Bay challenged, but officials upheld the play.
The 70, 019 in attendance booed that decision -- indicative of how vocal and boisterous the Packers faithful remained throughout the night. Despite 14 degree temperatures that took Favre half a quarter to rid himself of cold-inducing numbness, the fans added energy to the nationally televised Sunday night football game.
"That was probably as electric as I've seen our fans in quite a while," Favre said. "I don't know if it was the cold weather, alcohol, a mixture of both or what, but it was a lot of fun."
Perhaps the atmosphere reached such a level because it represented as close as both NFC North rivals -- the 4-9 Lions and the 3-10 Packers -- will come to reaching the postseason.
"I wish we were playing in the playoffs right now, but these are our playoff games," Sherman said. "This is all we have. This was the first round of the playoffs for us. That's why it's important."
Injury note: Linebacker Brady Poppinga, who made his first NFL start and recorded four tackles, injured his knee. Sherman deemed it somewhat serious, but doctors will evaluate Poppinga on Monday.