The streak ends! Lions stun Packers, 18-16
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The most unlikely of heroes in the most unlikely of victories in this sorry start to a season had no idea how to celebrate the biggest play of his career, so he took off running down the Green Bay Packers sideline with a half dozen teammates following him along the way.
Crezdon Butler, who signed off the street Saturday as an injury replacement for Rashean Mathis, was forced onto the field one play earlier when the Detroit Lions' depleted secondary lost its second cornerback of the game.
All-world quarterback Aaron Rodgers had just thrown his second touchdown pass to pull the Packers within two points with 36 seconds to play, and Butler saw Rodgers' eyes look in his direction as he lined up for the game-tying two-point conversion.
Rodgers curled his thumb and index finger into a circle to tell receiver Davante Adams the Lions
were playing cover zero defense – blitzing every defender who wasn't matched on a receiver – and Adams, lined up slot right, ran a simple out route in the end zone.
Unable to step into his throw, Rodgers' pass floated through the air as Butler broke hard to his left, his right hand extended just enough to knock the pass loose from Adams' grasp.
The Lions, as they always do, made things interesting.
Calvin Johnson couldn't corral the ensuing onside kick, giving the Packers one final chance to win. But when Mason Crosby flubbed his 52-yard field goal attempt as time expired, the Lions rushed the field to celebrate an 18-16 victory and their first win at Lambeau Field since 1991.
"It feels like the Super Bowl, man," Butler said long after a raucous Lions locker room had quieted down after the game. "It felt like, you don't want to compare it to the Super Bowl, but it felt like it was unbelievable, unreal. Since '91? That's a long time. I was 4 years old. That's crazy. It was meant to be."
The Lions, in the middle of one of the worst seasons in franchise history, ended an NFL-record 24-game road losing streak to the Packers that dated back to Dec. 15, 1991, in the most improbable of ways.
Interim general manager Sheldon White, who played for the Lions the last time they won in the state of Wisconsin, said Butler had been calling and texting him in recent days, telling him he was ready if needed.
And when the Lions decided to put Mathis on season-ending injured reserve with a brain injury, they summoned Butler for a Friday workout and signed him Saturday hours before flying out to Green Bay.
"(He was) working out, in my ear, calling me, calling everybody, text messaging everybody in the building, 'I'm ready if you're ready for me. I'm ready to play,'" White said. "And I am not lying about that. He's been all over us. 'Anytime, I'm ready. Let me know.'"
Butler played only a handful of snaps Sunday, but was part of a larger defensive effort that held Rodgers and the vaunted Packers offense mostly in check.
Green Bay (6-3) opened the game with a 12-play, 57-yard field-goal drive, then didn't crack the scoreboard again until Rodgers hit tight end Richard Rodgers with a 4-yard touchdown pass with 5:55 to play.
The dramatics started from there.
With the Lions leading 12-10, Matthew Stafford led a nine-play, 80-yard drive that ended with his second touchdown pass of the game, 4 yards to Lance Moore.
But Matt Prater missed the extra point, and with 1:57 left, the Packers suddenly had life.
Rodgers, who completed 35 of 61 passes for 333 yards, peppered the Lions defense with short throws to James Starks and Justin Perillo to march the ball downfield.
Fill-in cornerback Nevin Lawson, who started in place of Mathis, left with a brain injury with 45 seconds left, and nickel corner Josh Wilson was helped off the field with a right leg injury two plays later, forcing Butler into action just as Rodgers hit Perillo for an 11-yard touchdown.
Seconds later, Butler was sprinting across the field in celebration.
"From sitting at the crib to winning the game," Wilson said as Butler sat across him in the locker room. "Damn. Tell them I should have been here all year."
Stafford, the first Lions quarterback to win in Green Bay since Erik Kramer, finished 24 of 38 passing for 242 yards.
Stafford's play late leads Lions to rare win at Lambeau
The Lions, who fired general manager Martin Mayhew and president Tom Lewand last week, improved to 2-7 on the year, and coach Jim Caldwell, who was greeted by Lions owner Martha Ford and two of her daughters after the game, said the victory lifted a weight of the franchise's collective shoulder.
"I don't downplay (the streak)," he said. "I want you to understand that. I just don't carry the weight of it. But Mrs. Ford, I can guarantee you one thing, she's happy and extremely excited.
"It's a great organizational win, but not only that, for the fans. One of the things that I would hear consistently from fans, they've always been great and positive when I'm out on the street or at a restaurant or whatever, everybody talks about going to Lambeau Field and getting a victory – and because of the fact that it's been something that's just carried on for a number of years. So we were certainly happy to come in here and play well enough to win."
Grading the Lions: Defense steps up in win over Packers
Contact Dave Birkett at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.
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