DETROIT — This was supposed to be the game that would finally expose the Green Bay Packers.
The up-and-coming Detroit Lions, in front of a national television audience and a deafening home crowd at Ford Field, were going to give the unbeaten Packers a heaping helping of Thanksgiving humble pie.
“A lot of people picked against us this week and thought this was the week that we were going to go down,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.
A lot of people were wrong.
The Packers throttled the Lions 27-15 on Thursday in a performance that was far more dominating than the final score or statistics indicated.
So much for conventional wisdom, or the loose lips of Lions defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, who on Tuesday proclaimed that “by all means” the Lions could play at the Packers’ level.
Not only did Suh plant his foot in his mouth, but he used it to get penalized and ejected from the game when he stomped on Packers lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith in the third quarter.
That ferocious, man-eating Lions defensive front that was supposed to make life miserable for the Packers never really materialized. Rodgers was barely touched, and although it took him most of the first half to get warmed up, he picked apart the Lions as he has done to every other opponent this season.
That explosive offense led by quarterback Matthew Stafford that helped the Lions put up 45 or more points three times this season was shut out until the fourth quarter when the outcome was already decided.
The Packers had no interest in engaging in a war of words with the Lions this week.
“Champions don’t have to talk,” Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji said. “Their actions speak for themselves. When you’re not a champion you tend to want to talk like you’re one. We didn’t have much to say because we let our play do the talking.”
The next time Suh opens his mouth, he might want to check himself. On Tuesday he said this about the Packers: “I don’t see them as a golden perfect team. Everybody has flaws in this league.”
In reality, the Packers are a golden perfect 11-0 and off to their best start in team history. They have won 17 games in a row dating to last season. They have all but wrapped up the NFC North Division title and have the inside track for home-field advantage in the playoffs.
Their biggest burden down the stretch will be answering questions about a possible perfect season.
But heading into Thanksgiving there were still some lingering doubts, particularly about the defense and how it would contain Stafford and receiver Calvin Johnson.
Packers defensive lineman Ryan Pickett said he wasn’t oblivious to the criticism.
“I heard it from everybody saying, ‘Oh (the Lions) can score 50, they can outscore (anybody),’ Pickett said. “Just insults like these.”
As far as Pickett is concerned, the insults can keep coming.
“We don’t mind,” he said. “It’s actually motivation for us. And then just hearing the talk about what our defense can’t do … That’s one thing you can’t take away from us. We know how to win games, our defense does.”
Once again, the Packers defense gave up more than 400 total yards, a meaningless stat if ever there was one. But the Packers also added three interceptions to their league-leading total and made key stops all game long despite losing starting linebackers Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk to injury.
This is a team that knows how to handle adversity. And after last year’s run to the Super Bowl, the Packers also know how to perform on big stages, which was another advantage they held over the Lions’ heads on this day.
“It’s one of those things where this organization in the last couple years has been in a lot of big games,” Raji said. “This was a huge game because it was a divisional game. We’ve been in these type of situations, so we know how to handle ourselves. We don’t let our emotion get the best of us.”
Instead, the Packers are cold-blooded and methodical, meaning the Lions really never had a fighting chance.
“We just came in and do what we usually do,” cornerback Tramon Williams said.
All the Packers have done this season is win, and it’s going to take more than talk to change that pattern.
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