In his first season as head coach of the Green Bay Packers, Matt LaFleur was facing a tough situation in the regular-season finale. With a playoff spot clinched and a first-round bye hanging in the balance, the Packers were trailing the lowly Lions, who were 3-11-1 and playing for one of the top three picks in the draft.
The Packers needed a last-second field goal by Mason Crosby to eke out a 23-20 victory, which propelled them to the postseason, before losing in the NFC title game. It was the second time that Crosby saved them from a humbling loss to the Lions, along with a game-winner on Oct. 14.
The Lions never trailed in either of the games last season — but wound up with losses in both. They’ll look to make sure Sunday’s matchup at Lambeau Field doesn’t lead to a trifecta of tough finishes, after having lost the opener to the Bears.
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“We know we’re going to get their best shot. We know it’s an NFC North opponent and they gave us everything we could handle last year,” LaFleur said Wednesday. “I mean, the fact that they were winning for literally 120 minutes out of 120 minutes, I mean it was pretty much a miracle that we were able to take both those games.
“It’s going to be a tough game and we’re going to have to prepare to the best of our ability throughout the course of the week in order for us to go out there and come away with a winning performance.”
The Lions had turned the tables against the Packers, having won the previous four meetings before last season’s deflating defeats. That four-game streak was the Lions’ longest in the head-to-head series since 1983.
LaFleur isn’t judging the blown 17-point fourth-quarter lead against the Bears as an indicator of who the Lions are. Last year’s games showed that even with a depleted roster, the Lions can be dangerous.
“We know we’re going to have our hands full this week. This is a really good Detroit Lions team that, I mean, quite frankly, they should have won last week,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it, and they definitely could have beat us twice last year. We’ve got a big task in front of us.”