GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers didn’t hold a lead for a single second on the game clock Monday night against the Detroit Lions, but they came away with a 5-1 record anyway.
Mason Crosby’s 23-yard field goal as time expired lifted the Packers to a 23-22 win, completing a comeback from what was once a 13-point deficit in the second quarter.
The win kept the Packers atop the NFC North. They are now one of four NFC teams with five wins this season.
Fittingly, here are five observations on the victory.
1. Lions gonna Lions
Three huge penalties on the Lions helped swing this game. In the first half, Detroit had stopped the Packers, but the Lions lined up with too many men on the field before the ensuing field goal. The Packers capitalized on the automatic first down for their first touchdown, pulling within 13-7. In the fourth quarter, the Lions again had the Packers stopped on third down, this time forcing them to punt. But an illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty on Trey Flowers gave the Packers an automatic first down, and they scored three plays later on a 35-yard strike from Aaron Rodgers to Allen Lazard. Then another illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty on Flowers allowed the Packers to run the clock down before their game-winning field goal. Those three penalties cost the Lions 14 points, and a win.
2. Lazard emerging
The Packers clearly missed top receiver Davante Adams, but they perhaps found something in Allen Lazard. Lazard led the Packers in receptions, including a 35-yard touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter. His four catches for 65 yards all came after halftime. If not for Geronimo Allison’s chest injury — Allison was also being evaluated for a concussion — Lazard might not have received a single target. There’s no telling whether Lazard’s big game was a one-hit wonder or something the Packers can build on, but it’s certainly worth exploring as the Packers continue to lack their Pro Bowl receiver.
3. Dual-back offense
Anyone thinking the Packers might double down on Aaron Jones’ heavy usage from last week with Jamaal Williams back on the field was mistaken. Not that Jones didn’t get the ball Monday night — his 47 yards on 11 carries and four catches for 13 yards were not far off the ideal pace — but the night really belonged to the bulldozing Williams. Fresh back from the concussion protocol, Williams had 104 yards on 14 rushes. The duo used their power-and-slashing style to complement themselves nicely. They were the offense’s highlight on this night.
4. The Smiths sparkle
For a moment Monday night, Za’Darius Smith leapfrogged teammate Preston Smith for the team lead in sacks. He had his sixth of the season in the second quarter, beating two blockers to drag down Matthew Stafford for a 5-yard loss on third-and-13. Then Preston Smith answered with two sacks of his own, bringing his season total to 7½. The Smiths have been revelations for the Packers defense all season, and they’re far outproducing expectations. Preston Smith is just a half sack behind his single-season career high of eight. Za’Darius Smith is only 2½ sacks from his career high.
5. Lions play safe
It wasn’t just a pair of penalties that doomed the Lions. Out to a hot start, they had a chance to really put the Packers in a bind early in the second quarter. The Lions had fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line, up 10-0. Instead of going for the jugular, coach Matt Patricia played it safe. The short field goal was a sure way to get points, but it surpassed the chance to take a three-possession lead, which would be significant for a road underdog. The Lions then booted the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, and allowed the Packers their first touchdown on the short field. That’s a good way of sparking a comeback. Or, in the Lions’ case, a collapse.