Lions edge Packers 7-3 after knocking out Rodgers
The Green Bay Packers looked lost without Aaron Rodgers. The Detroit Lions weren't much better, but they're used to playing without their starting quarterback.
Drew Stanton threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Will Heller midway through the fourth quarter, and the Lions held on for a 7-3 win over Green Bay on Sunday after knocking Rodgers out of the game late in the first half. Detroit snapped a 19-game losing streak against NFC North opponents despite an erratic performance from Stanton, who is starting because Matthew Stafford and Shaun Hill are both out with injuries.
''If we want to be where we want to get to eventually in the future around here, we have to start winning division games, especially at home,'' Stanton said. ''I think it's a lot better to play ugly and win than it is to play good and lose.''
This one was certainly ugly at times, especially during a scoreless first half. Rodgers left with a concussion toward the end of the second quarter, but the Packers (8-5) were already having their problems, having gone the entire first quarter without a first down.
Rodgers hasn't missed a game since taking over as Green Bay's starting quarterback in 2008, but he went to the sideline Sunday shortly after being hit on back-to-back plays. He was slow getting up after being hit by Amari Spievey and Landon Johnson at the end of an 18-yard scramble. Green Bay took a timeout, then Rodgers was sacked on the next play.
Rodgers stayed in for the rest of the drive before being replaced by Matt Flynn.
''He was a little groggy after those two plays, and the medical staff and Aaron decided it was in his best interest not to go back in,'' coach Mike McCarthy said. ''That's not my call, and I don't know any specifics.''
Rodgers was not in the locker room when it was open to the media. He also had a concussion in an overtime loss at Washington in October and played the following week.
Even without their standout quarterback, the Packers took a 3-0 lead in the second half and had a chance to extend it when Flynn led a confidence-building drive deep into Detroit territory. But Flynn made one big mistake, throwing a short pass over the middle that was intercepted by DeAndre Levy in the end zone.
After withstanding that challenge, the Lions (3-10) still needed points of their own. Stanton - whose passer rating for the game was zero at one point in the second half - finally directed a successful drive in the final quarter. The Lions went 80 yards in 12 plays, and Heller scored on a tight end screen with 7:55 remaining.
Stanton finished 10 of 22 for 117 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions - for a passer rating of 39.4. Stafford has played only one full game this season because of shoulder problems, leaving Hill and Stanton to run the Detroit offense.
Flynn, pressed into by far his most extensive duty of the season, went 15 of 26 for 177 yards. He did lead the Packers to the Detroit 31 late in the fourth quarter, but his long pass on fourth-and-1 fell incomplete.
Green Bay got better news later in the day, when Chicago was routed by New England, keeping the Bears' NFC North lead at one game.
Detroit finally won a close game after being 0-7 in games decided by eight points or less.
''I think that there's been some situations that have come up that would be easy to go south with, to take the wrong turn,'' coach Jim Schwartz said. ''I think the character of this team is that they haven't done that. They've battled every single week regardless of what the situation is.''
The first sign that Detroit's fortune might be changing came in the first quarter, when Rodgers threw an interception. The Lions were flagged for three penalties on the play - but officials ruled that Rodgers was out of the pocket, negating a potential illegal contact call. The interception stood because the other two fouls occurred after the change of possession.
There wasn't much flow to the first half in general. There were three punts in a 57-second span near the end of the second quarter as both teams used timeouts trying to get the ball back, then failed to do anything with it.