| The Detroit News
Detroit — The Detroit Lions put up a tougher-than-expected fight against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, but ultimately didn’t have an answer for quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the 31-24 loss that sealed a second consecutive division title for the opposition.
Rodgers, a front-runner for his third MVP award, showed why with three touchdown passes and a scoring scramble in the victory, which clinched the NFC North title for Green Bay.
The Lions opened the scoring by taking the opening kickoff and moving 75 yards in 11 plays. Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu had two catches for 37 yards, including a 21-yard, third-down reception to extend the drive.
With second-and-goal from the 1-yard line, tight end T.J. Hockenson took a inside shovel pass in for the score, putting the Lions up 7-0.
The Packers needed just three plays to respond. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers found Davante Adams on a short throw near the right sideline where the receiver immediately broke free of the grasp of cornerback Amani Oruwariye before juking past deep safety Duron Harmon for the 56-yard touchdown, knotting the game at seven.
Following a Lions punt, the Packers took the lead with a more methodical 12-play drive. Completing his eighth consecutive pass to start his afternoon, Rodgers found Marquez Valdes-Scantling on the second play of the second quarter — again with Oruwariye in coverage — for the 13-yard scoring strike.
The two teams traded possessions before the Lions managed to tie the game before the half. Quarterback Matthew Stafford completed screen passes to each of his three running backs for 50 yards, setting up a 3-yard touchdown run by D’Andre Swift with a 1:27 remaining in the quarter.
The Lions actually got the ball back with 35 seconds and all three timeouts, but were driven out of the outer edge of field-goal range when Stafford was sacked.
The last time the teams met, in Week 2, the Packers came out of the half with a 75-yard touchdown run to blow the game open. This time, they took 14 plays to accomplish the same outcome.
After a defensive holding call against Oruwariye on third down extended the drive, the Packers went on to overcome a pair of offensive holds, converting three more third downs, capped with Rodgers scrambling into the end zone from 6 yards out on third-and-goal.
Detroit’s defense barely had time to catch its breath after the offense went three-and-out, allowing Green Bay to once again drive the length of the field.
Keeping it on the ground much of the series, Rodgers put the finishing touches on the 12-play possession with a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Robert Tonyan, extending Green Bay’s advantage to 28-14 early in the fourth quarter.
Thanks in part to four defensive penalties committed by the Packers, the Lions were able to respond, cutting the Packers led to one score with under seven minutes remaining.
The Lions almost scored far quicker, but a replay review upheld the a ruling on the field that Marvin Jones was out of bounds when attempting to get both feet in bounds on what would have been a 35-yard touchdown grab.
Six snaps and nearly three minutes later, Kerryon Johnson plunged across the goal line from 3 yards out, making it 28-21.
Stafford was shaken up on the play before Johnson’s touchdown run, suffering a rib injury and forcing him to exit the game after the series.
The Packers pushed their lead back to 10 with a 57-yard field goal by Mason Crosby, but Jamal Agnew keep the Lions’ hopes afloat with a 71-yard return of the ensuing kickoff.
Chase Daniel, taking over for Stafford, quickly got the Lions into the red zone with a 23-yard pass to Jones. But a holding call against right tackle Matt Nelson would wipe out a touchdown run by Daniel, leaving the Lions to settle for a 32-yard Matt Prater field goal.
With under two minutes remaining, the Lions attempted an onside kick, but failed to recover before it skipped out of bounds. Safety Miles Killebrew made a lunging effort to secure the bounding ball, but replay confirmed the ruling on the field.
Needing a first down to seal the victory, Rodgers rolled out and found Tonyan for the conversion to end it.