Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields (37) returns an interception in the second quarter of Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media
The Insider's take on Sunday night's game between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. The Packers won 27-20.
The big picture
It took the Green Bay Packers 13 games, but they’re finally alone in first place in the NFC North thanks to Sunday night’s win over the Detroit Lions. And if the Packers go to Chicago this Sunday and beat the Bears, they will wrap up the division title. It would give them a two-game lead over the Bears with two to play, and the Packers would have the tiebreaker based on the head-to-head sweep.
When the Packers couldn’t get much going in the first half, two takeaways kept them in the game. Trailing 14-3 in the second quarter, the Packers got a gift when Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford lost his grip on the ball just before he wound up to pass. Rookie defensive tackle Mike Daniels scooped up the loose ball and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown to get the Packers back in the game. The Lions were driving again on their next possession, having reached the Packers’ 41-yard line when cornerback Sam Shields — playing for the first time since his high ankle sprain in Week 6 at Houston — picked off a deep throw by Stafford, perhaps robbing the Lions of more points. Shields played inside leverage against receiver Kris Durham. Stafford threw the ball to the post but because Shields had the inside covered, Durham couldn’t get to the post. Though the Packers couldn’t turn that takeaway into points, it was nonetheless an important play because it killed another good drive by Detroit. It marked the second straight week turnovers played a big part for the Packers. The previous week, safety Morgan Burnett picked off Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder twice.
The first seven weeks of the season, the Packers had been called for only 10 holding penalties — a manageable number. But in the last four games, they’ve been called for holding 13 times. A holding call on right guard Josh Sitton helped stall a second-quarter drive. After Aaron Rodgers hit Greg Jennings for a 27-yard completion to the Lions’ 35, Sitton dove at the legs of linebacker Justin Durant in an effort to cut block him. Sitton probably would have been OK on the initial block, but he appeared to reach out and trip Durant from behind just as running back Alex Green ran by. The Packers’ drive stalled from there, and they were forced to settle for Mason Crosby’s 49-yard field goal on what once looked like a promising drive. Mike McCarthy even warned his team going into this game that referee Tony Corrente’s officiating crew had a reputation for calling a lot of holding penalties.
Play of the game
Daniels could have just fallen on the ball after it slipped out of Stafford’s hand, but the Packers rookie defensive lineman chanced it. It paid off when he scooped up the loose ball on the run and returned it 43 yards for the Packers’ only touchdown of the first half.
Another bad decision by Ndamukong Suh cost the Lions. On a third-and-6 play on the opening drive of the third quarter, Suh shoved Rodgers well after he released the ball. Corrente said he flagged Suh because he “took two steps” before he shoved Rodgers. That gave the Packers’ a first down into Lions’ territory, and they finished the drive with Rodgers’ touchdown run to put them ahead for the first time, 17-14.
Did you notice?
• Perhaps it was because he had only four defensive lineman available because of injuries to C.J. Wilson (knee) and Mike Neal (shoulder), defensive coordinator Dom Capers ditched his base defense, playing all nickel and dime. However, he did the same thing in the first meeting at Detroit, too.
• First-year running back DuJuan Harris got the ball on the Packers’ first play from scrimmage and gained 11 yards.
• James Jones had his first drop of the season on a hitch in the second quarter.
By the numbers
• 2: 100-yard receiving games this season by Randall Cobb, who caught seven passes for 102 yards
• 27: Yards on Rodgers’ third-quarter rushing touchdown, the longest for the Packers this season.
• 35: Consecutive games at Lambeau Field in which Rodgers had thrown at least one touchdown pass, a streak that ended on Sunday. It was the second-longest streak in NFL history by a quarterback in his home stadium behind Dan Marino (39, from 1983-88 at the Orange Bowl and Joe Robbie Stadium).
• 51: Distance on Mason Crosby’s missed field goal, wide left, in the third quarter. Earlier, Crosby made a 49-yarder and then added a 41-yarder with 4:02 remaining to put the game out of reach.
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @RobDemovsky.