Lions lose to Packers, 30-20, open playoffs in Dallas

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press
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Detroit Lions defenders on the bench during the final seconds of the 30-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – They chanted "M-V-P" when he was carted to the locker room and when he limped back out, and the way a gimpy Aaron Rodgers played on one good leg Sunday it's hard to argue.

Rodgers threw two touchdown passes and ran for one more score as the Green Packers beat the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field, 30-20, to clinch their fourth straight NFC North title.

The Packers will be the two seed in the playoffs and get a first-round bye, while the Lions, despite finishing 11-5 – tied for second most wins in franchise history – will hit the road for a wild-card game against the Dallas Cowboys next week.

The Lions extended their state-of-Wisconsin losing streak to 24 games with the loss. The last time they won at Lambeau Field was in 1991, when Wayne Fontes was coach and Erik Kramer was quarterback.

"This is the way it happens in this league," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "You don't play well enough to win, you don't win. We didn't win. We're 11-5 and it's a new season. None of that stuff matters. I told our guys after they get out of that shower, when they get finished, we got to look forward. We're not going to look behind, we don't have to address any issues and talk about this particular game. It's over with, it's done. They've played well enough to give us a chance to get into a new season and this new season is win or go home. It's a new day."

Rodgers said his performance Sunday was not heroic, but he certainly gave the Packers a lift both emotionally and with his play.

A favorite to win his second league MVP award, Rodgers left Sunday's game late in the first half when he aggravated a calf injury on a touchdown pass to Randall Cobb.

The Lions scored touchdowns on a 20-yard pass from Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson just before halftime to cut their deficit to 14-7, then added a 4-yard Stafford-to-Johnson score on their first possession of the third quarter before Rodgers returned.

Rodgers said he spent halftime in the locker room with heat on his calf "thinking about if I could finagle myself to go back in the game."

"It was kind of one battle a time," Rodgers said. "A battle to be able to get back taped back up and see if you can do anything on the sidelines. Once I got back out there, I felt pretty good on the sidelines. I knew it was going to be kind of like last week, not able to move a whole lot, but I just felt like if I could (get) back in there it might give us a little jolt and I wanted to be out there with the guys competing."

In his first possession back, after Sam Martin's squib kick rolled out of bounds to give the Packers the ball at the 40-yard line, Rodgers led Green Bay on a seven-play, 60-yard touchdown drive.

The Packers ran the ball on five of their seven plays on the drive before Rodgers hit Cobb for a 13-yard score. Four series later, after a Joique Bell fumble gave Green Bay the ball in Lions territory, Rodgers clinched the game with a 1-yard touchdown run.

Rodgers, working mostly out of the shotgun and throwing short passes, finished the day 17 of 22 for 226 yards with two touchdowns.

Eddie Lacy added 100 yards rushing on 26 carries as the Packers (12-4) gashed the Lions' No. 1-ranked run defense for 147 yards on the ground.

Lacy is the first back to reach 100 yards against the Lions this year.

"We pride ourselves in stopping the run game and we didn't do that today," Lions safety James Ihedigbo said. "They got too many yards after contact I would say."

Stafford had his fourth straight rough performance on the road for the Lions, completing just 19 of 40 passes for 214 yards. He threw two touchdowns to Johnson and a late one to Theo Riddick, but seemed out of sync with his receivers much of the day.

The Lions also had more struggles on special teams. They stopped the Packers on four plays from the 1-yard line on their opening possession, then allowed a 55-yard punt-return touchdown by Micah Hyde.

The Lions missed out on their chance to win their first division title in 21 years Sunday, but this week have a chance to win their first playoff game since 1991.

"For the guys that have been here, of course it hurts," guard Rob Sims said. "Stings for me, no doubt. This was our chance to win it. But same token, I can only think the silver lining is maybe there's something better on the horizon. That's what I'm thinking in my head right now is we got more football to play. Usually we walk out of here with a loss, that's it and we're talking about tomorrow is exit meetings. We're not talking that right now. We've got shots, so I'm going to go take mine."

Contact Dave Birkett: Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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