After consecutive losses to unbeaten opponents on the road, the Green Bay Packers were looking to reignite the spark that fueled their 6-0 start Sunday against the lowly Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field.
But in a sobering sign of just how far the Packers have fallen, they were stunned by a reinvigorated Lions team, losing 18-16 to tumble to 6-3 on the season. For the Lions, it was their first win in Wisconsin since 1991, snapping a 24-game losing streak.
A record crowd of 78,526 was vocal in its disapproval, booing the Packers as they left the field at halftime and again during the second half.
The Packers pulled to within 18-16 with 32 seconds left on a TD pass to tight end Justin Perillo, but a two-point pass attempt failed. However, the Packers recovered on onside kick that was fumbled by the Lions' Calvin Johnson, giving Green Bay one more shot at a game-winning field goal. But Mason Crosby's 52-yard attempt was wide and well short.
Green Bay opened the game with a 12-play, 57-yard drive that produced a 44-yard Crosby field goal. But after that, the offense went back into hibernation. The Packers failed to score a first-half touchdown after having done so in their previous 26 games, the longest active streak in the NFL.
Here are five quick observations about the Packers' loss:
Out of sorts: After facing two standout defenses against the Broncos and Panthers, the Packers' hoped to find the airways more favorable Sunday. Things started well on the first drive, when Rodgers was 6-for-8, but little else went right in the first half, with the usually sure-handed Randall Cobb short-circuiting one drive with a drop of a third-down pass. Rodgers looked to be totally out of sorts most of the game and lacking confidence in his receivers. He wound up with career single-game highs in both attempts (61) and completions (35) for 333 yards. But an erratic Rodgers raises the angst over the Packers' offense to a whole level. Jared Abbrederis gave the passing game a boost, hauling in a huge 32-yard pass midway through the fourth quarter. It set up the four-yard TD toss to Richard Rodgers that pulled the Packers to within 12-10.
Running on empty: James Starks was named the starter over Eddie Lacy in an effort to rejuvenate the Packers' ground game, but the move didn't pay big dividends. He was fresh off a solid effort against Carolina, where he rushed for 39 yards and caught six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. But against Detroit's 26-ranked rushing defense, Starks lacked burst and prevented the Packers from getting favorable down-and-distance plays. Starks rushed for only 42 yards on 15 carries. He only excelled during a late-game drive, converting screen passes into nice gains.Lacy, meanwhile, was inactive after being listed as questionable because of a groin injury.
Bounce back for defense? The Packers' defense came out with a chip on its shoulder, playing with emotion and forcing three-and-outs on the Lions' first two possession. The pass defense had been burned for huge yardage in the last three games, falling from fourth to 23rd in the league rankings, but welcomed back cornerback Sam Shields, who suffered a shoulder injury early in the Denver game and didn't play against Carolina. They gave Matthew Stafford fits early, but he managed to hit Brandon Pettigrew on a 2-yard TD pass when Julius Pepper slipped in coverage. Poor tackling by Sam Shields and Morgan Burnett on a 43-yard reception by Golden Tate set up the decisive Lions touchdown.
Special needs: The Packers' kickoff coverage was burned on the second-half kickoff by Ameer Abdullah, who came out of the end zone and returned it 104 yards to the Packers 1. The Lions converted that into a Stafford-to-Pettigrew TD pass and a 9-3 lead, and Green Bay never recovered.
Big picture: With the shocking loss, the Packers look to be in total disarray. Losing twice on the road to quality teams was one thing; falling at home to an awful Lions team is an indication that the wheels are coming off. Green Bay fell to 6-3 and dropped a half-game behind the Vikings, who played a late game at Oakland, in the NFC North. It's certainly not the way the Packers wanted to begin a stretch of four division games in a span of 19 days and casts their playoff worthiness into serious doubt.