The Packers, like many of their fellow Americans, had abundant reasons to be thankful on Thanksgiving Day. But being in Detroit for the holiday, it turned out, was not one of them.
Because, unhappily, a humbling ambush awaited in Ford Field. The home-standing Lions, who had previously lost eight of 11 games, were clearly on a mission, prompting Packers GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman to later observe, "We expected their very best game, and that is what we got."
To compound the problem, the Packers were involuntarily cooperative in this process, committing five turnovers along the way - four of them in a disastrous and decisive fourth quarter - in what became a 22-14 loss.
Three of those miscues led directly to Detroit field goals by the Lions' remarkable placekicker, Jason Hanson, who was 5-for-5 on the day, his production including 49- and 46-yard efforts.
Ironically, the "run" of turnovers came after the Packers had gone into the lead for the first time in what became a long afternoon. They went up 14-13 with 3:48 left in the third quarter, following the team's longest offensive strike of the day, a 45-yard Brett Favre pass to wide receiver Javon Walker for Green Bay's second and final touchdown.
It produced a 13-13 tie, Ryan Longwell's conversion putting the Packers in front for the only time in the game.
Optimism, accordingly, began to burgeon on the Packers' sideline - but misfortune lay immediately ahead.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Javon Walker fumbled and Lions safety Terrence Holt recovered at the Green Bay 31-yard line, setting the stage for Hanson's 49-yard success, a development which sent Detroit ahead to stay, 16-14.
What could have been a turning point came on the Lions' next possession, when cornerback Mike McKenzie waylaid a Joey Harrington pass at the Green Bay 41.
A promising opportunity vanished on first down, however, when Favre was sacked and fumbled, and the Lions' Dan Wilkinson recovered at the Green Bay 36, triggering a 46-yard Hanson field goal swelling Detroit's lead to 19-14.
The trauma continued on the Packers' next series, despite a season-longest 57-yard kickoff return by Najeh Davenport, which put the Packers in prime field position at the Lions' 40-yard line.
On first down, Favre's pass - intended for Donald Driver - was intercepted by Detroit's Dré Bly at his own 27. The Lions proceeded to register a pair of first downs, one of them on a 17-yard run by Olandis Gary, to position Hanson for his fifth and last field goal of the day, a 32-yarder which parlayed the Lions' lead to 22-14, the ultimate final score.
The Packers had one more substantial opportunity following the kickoff. Favre had them on the move, but on the sixth play of the drive, former Packer Doug Evans picked off a pass intended for Robert Ferguson at the Detroit 30, returning to the 32.
The Green and Gold limited the Lions to three-and-out, thus acquiring the football for a final time at their own 15, with 29 seconds remaining. Favre hit Walker with a 30-yard strike to the 40 but time ran out a play later, a Favre throw en route to Driver that was incomplete.
The offense, in settling for 52 net yards rushing, saw a remarkable streak come to an end. The Packers had rushed for 935 yards in their four previous outings, an imposing 233.75 yards per game, highlighted by a season-high, 261-yard effort in a 30-27 victory over the Vikings at the Minneapolis Metrodome Nov. 2.
Statistically, meanwhile, the defense turned in one of its best '03 efforts, limiting the Lions to 266 net yards - 100 rushing and 166 passing - the unit's second-best performance of the season.
It was a noteworthy effort, considering that starters Darren Sharper and middle linebacker Nick Barnett were inactive because of chest and ankle injuries, respectively.
Linebackers Hannibal Navies and Torrance Marshall, the latter filling in for the injured Nick Barnett, led the defensive charge, Marshall showing the way with 10 tackles and Navies tight on his heels with 8 (7 unassisted).
THE FAVRE FILE: Brett Favre passed for a season-high 296 yards in the losing effort, just missing the 36th 300-yard game of his career while completing 23 of 37 passes for 2 touchdowns, with 3 interceptions.
The pair of TD passes swelled his career total 336, third-most in NFL history, leaving him only 6 behind second-ranking Fran Tartkenton, who posted 342.
Dan Marino is the NFL's all-time leader with 420.
Favre, in addition to tying the Packers record by playing in his 187th consecutive game, also started his 185th consecutive regular season game, thus extending his NFL record for quarterbacks. It also is the longest current starting streak for any NFL player at any position.
THE GREEN FILE: Ahman Green, who saw a streak of four consecutive 100-yard rushing games come to an end at Detroit, now needs 92 yards to eclipse Jim Taylor's team single-season rushing record (1,474 yards, set in 1962).
Green, who had to be content with 57 yards in 13 attempts against the Lions, now has rushed for 1,383 yards, the fourth-highest total in team history.
His 57-yard production ended a club-record streak for Green, who had rushed for 100 yards in four consecutive games - 137 vs. Minnesota Nov. 2, a team-record 192 vs. Philadelphia Nov. 10, 109 vs. Tampa Nov. 16 and 154 vs. San Francisco Nov. 23.
GM/HEAD COACH MIKE SHERMAN'S COMMENTS:
(on momentum) "We didn't have momentum today, that's for sure. They had all the momentum on their side. We didn't start the game well. We didn't finish the game well. I take my hat off to the Lions and what they did today. They had a great game plan. They did a great job of making plays and we didn't make plays."
(on looking past Lions) "I was concerned. I told our team last night, I told them during the week, we were going to see the very best that the Detroit Lions had to offer and we definitely did. They played a heck of a ballgame. I'm not surprised by how they played. I knew they were going to play (well). They're the host team and this is their ballgame. In order to beat this team I fully understood how complex that was going to be. Our team had to come out ready and willing and able to play 60 minutes of emotionally-packed football against a very inspired football team, that being the Detroit Lions. We certainly didn't exemplify that during our time on that field and that's disappointing. We've had four weeks of hard, tough, intense football and we didn't make it five weeks."
(on if surprised by Packers' poor performance) "Yes, I am surprised because we had an opportunity today to play this football team and hopefully win this game. We had a lot of things in front of us, a lot of things that we wanted to accomplish today that we didn't get done."
(on if loss can be an attention getter) "Yeah, it's an attention getter. It got my attention and it got (the players') attention. I've always said, as much as I hate losing, as much as I hate the way I feel right now, things happen for a reason. Maybe this allows us an opportunity to come back and play a great game next week at home. And I hope that's the case then and in the rest of our games. No one in the National Football League can line up week in and week out and not bring their A-game and expect to win. The Detroit Lions did a great job today. I take my hat off to them and what they accomplished. They deserved to win this football game. If we would have won at the end, I wouldn't have felt like we deserved to win, because we didn't play well enough."
THE PLAYER PERSPECTIVE:
Quarterback Brett Favre: (on Detroit defense) "I think they were determined to come in and stop the run. I'm not saying that because we abandoned the running game, but right away we felt it was just one of those games we fell behind ... I've said this all along. When the run game is there, stick with it, and when the passing game is there, take some shots. Their front-four is good enough to stop the run. They're very capable."
(on if Packers have run out of second chances) "I don't know if we have. I mean, we still have four games left. If we win all four I'd still guarantee we get in (to the playoffs), but we certainly haven't helped ourselves by the up and down way we've played this year. It's upsetting, it's frustrating, but it is what it is from that standpoint. You deal with it, you go on, until there are no more games."
Offensive guard Mike Wahle: (on struggles of running game) "We should have executed. There's not one thing they did today that we have not seen. We've seen it before on tape and we should have just executed."
-In keeping with the Thanksgiving Day tradition, both the Packers and Lions wore "throwback" uniforms for their holiday matchup, the Packers donning their 1967 togs - replicating the ones they wore in winning the '67 "Ice Bowl" - and the Lions sporting their Honolulu blue and silver attire from 1934, the year Detroit launched the Thanksgiving Day game.
-Following Thursday's loss, the Packers now own a 5-11-1 record against the Lions on Thanksgiving Day.
-Linebacker Torrance Marshall, making only the second start of his pro career in stepping in for the injured Barnett, registered one of the Packers' 3 quarterback sacks and also threw Lions running back Shawn Bryson for a 4-yard loss in the second quarter.
-Safety Antuan Edwards also sacked the Lions' Joey Harrington, felling him for a 6-yard loss in the second quarter.
-Edwards later was forced to leave the game in the third quarter with a hamstring injury. Edwards had started the contest at free safety, stepping in for the injured Darren Sharper, with Marques Anderson taking over Edwards' customary strong safety post.
-Defensive end Aaron Kampman forged the Packers' third and final sack, flattening Harrington for a 9-yard loss late in the third quarter and forcing a fumble. The Packers lost a turnover opportunity, however, when the Lions' recovered the football.
-Mike McKenzie's fourth-quarter interception was his second of the season and the 13th of his career.
-Tight end Wesley Walls turned in a season-best and team-leading 5 pass receptions, good for 67 yards.
-Najeh Davenport's 57-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter was the Packers' longest of the season. Davenport also owns the second-longest, a 56-yarder at Tampa Bay Nov. 16. Overall, Davenport has a team-leading 31.3-yard average for 7 kickoff returns.
-Tight end Bubba Franks' touchdown reception was his first in 6 games and his third of the season.
-The Lions emerged with a substantial advantage in time of possession, having controlled the football for 34 minutes, 43 seconds to the Packers' 25 minutes, 17 seconds.
-The Packers have a minus-17 turnover reading for their 6 losses.
-Detroit placekicker Jason Hanson maintained his "perfect" record against the Packers. With his 5-for-5 performance, he has made all 33 field goals he has attempted against Green Bay, along with 46 of 46 extra points.