GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Under pressure to produce from the boss, the Detroit Lions secured a signature win in the unlikeliest of places.
Matthew Stafford threw for two touchdowns and 242 yards, and Detroit stopped a 24-game road losing streak against the Green Bay Packers with an 18-16 victory Sunday despite a late blunder by Calvin Johnson.
It wasn’t until Mason Crosby missed a 52-yard field goal as time expired that the Lions could breathe a collective sigh of relief. What had been the league’s worst team improved to 2-7.
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”I bet nobody gave us a chance, but that’s the way we like it,” Stafford said.
The last few weeks have been filled with upheaval. Detroit’s team president and general manager were fired at midseason. Earlier, the offensive coordinator was replaced, and two line coaches were let go.
As if that wasn’t enough stress, owner Martha Ford spoke to the players during the week and told them that she expected them to win.
The close call could ease the pressure on embattled coach Jim Caldwell, at least for the time being.
”But Mrs. Ford, I can guarantee you one thing, she’s happy and extremely excited about it,” Caldwell said.
Before Crosby’s miss, the Lions had stopped Green Bay (6-3) on a 2-point conversion attempt after Aaron Rodgers hit Justin Perillo for an 11-yard touchdown pass on the previous drive. Backup cornerback Crezdon Butler, signed from the practice squad this weekend, stuck a hand in front of Davante Adams to break up a pass from Rodgers for the conversion try.
Other notes and highlights from Detroit’s first road win over the Packers since a 21-17 victory on Dec. 15, 1991:
THREE DOWN: The Packers lost their third straight game, but this was a new low after their two previous defeats came on the road to Super Bowl contenders Denver and Carolina.
”I think you always have sequences of games in seasons that you can look back on where one phase isn’t playing as well as the other,” coach Mike McCarthy said. ”I think we’re in that right now. We just need to keep working and fight our way out of it.”
JITTERY FOURTH: A sluggish game filled with three-and-outs turned into a thriller in the fourth quarter.
The Lions could have made it easier on themselves if not for their own mistakes. Crosby had a shot for the game-winning field goal after Johnson muffed an onside kick with 32 seconds left that was recovered the Packers’ Damarious Randall. Matt Prater missed two extra points, but also hit field goals from 49 and 51 yards.
”We had communication errors, we had physical errors, we had all sorts of errors on all three phases,” Stafford said. ”And that’s the way football is, an imperfect game, but you’ve got to make the plays to win.”
HIT HARD: Rodgers was 35 of 61 for 333 yards and two scores, but wasn’t at his best. Receivers including Randall Cobb and Adams had a few drops.
Protection was spotty. Left tackle David Bakhtiari left in the fourth quarter with a knee injury. Rodgers made some uncharacteristically shaky throws and got up slow a few times following hits.
”We played physical,” Butler said. ”We wanted to control (Rodgers) so we brought pressure and we were in their faces.”
McCarthy said Rodgers has been hit too much the last few weeks.
GREAT CREZDON: Butler went from practice squad cornerback to a producer in the clutch in a matter of days.
”Coming off the street, coming in the game in the last seconds, you know they’re coming at you,” safety Glover Quin said. ”He handled it like a champ. That’s why we had him there.”
SLOWED DOWN: It has been a precipitous decline for a quick-strike offense that was once the envy of the NFL. The Packers’ running game stalled, with James Starks gaining just 42 yards on 15 carries against the league’s 26th-ranked defense.
”This isn’t easy,” McCarthy said. ”And frankly, if we spoiled you in the past, that’s great. We’re looking forward to spoiling you again in the future.”
Even Crosby’s 44-yard field goal in the first quarter needed a little luck after glancing off the left upright but over the crossbar.
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