Packers clinch NFC North, take lead in race for NFC top seed by outlasting Lions 31-24
From the beginning of the 2020 season, it was apparent the Green Bay Packers were the runaway best team in the NFC North.
That’s just what the Packers did Sunday, completing their runaway NFC North title with a 31-24 win at the Detroit Lions. The victory, coupled with Minnesota’s loss earlier Sunday at Tampa Bay, clinched a second straight division title for the Packers (10-3) under coach Matt LaFleur.
Kicker Mason Crosby, who had the worst game of his career at Ford Field in 2018, continued exacting his revenge on the Lions with a clutch 57-yard field goal to give the Packers a 10-point lead with 3:30 left. Crosby had a pair of game-winning kicks against the Lions in 2019. On Sunday, his kick sealed the victory, giving the Packers a 10-3 record.
Here are five observations on the game:
Packers pull into NFC’s top seed
The win had bigger ramifications than the NFC North. With a loss in Philadelphia, the New Orleans Saints slipped to 10-3, tied with Green Bay. Because the Packers beat the Saints in New Orleans in Week 3, they own the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Packers moved into the NFC’s No. 1 seed with their win coupled with the Saints loss, especially important because along with home-field advantage, the top seed also gets the conference’s lone first-round bye in the playoffs. The loss was especially damaging for the Saints because they also host the Kansas City Chiefs next week.
Rodgers hunts third MVP
The Chiefs won again Sunday, but quarterback Patrick Mahomes showed some cracks in his MVP candidacy. Mahomes threw for 393 yards and three touchdowns, but he also had two interceptions. His four this season are now tied with Aaron Rodgers, who had another masterful performance against the Lions. Rodgers finished 26-of-33 for 290 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, a 133.6 rating and a rushing touchdown. This MVP race is going to be a photo finish. Both Rodgers and Mahomes have had marvelous seasons. In Rodgers’ favor, he now has five more touchdown passes than Mahomes with a higher passer rating.
Adams stays red hot
After the Lions opened with a touchdown, Davante Adams ended the Packers' first drive in a hurry. In a play very few NFL receivers could make, Adams caught a back-shoulder throw near the Lions’ 40-yard line. Cornerback Amani Oruwariye was in position to make the tackle, but whiffed. Adams took it the rest of the way, running through the Lions' defense for a 56-yard touchdown. The Packers never trailed again. It was Adams’ eighth straight game with a touchdown catch. His 14 on the season are tied with the Chiefs' Tyreek Hill for most in the NFL. With seven catches for 115 yards and a touchdown, Adams had his sixth game this season with 100 yards and a score.
The Packers' pass rush feasted for a second straight week. After seven sacks vs. the Eagles a week earlier, the Packers sacked Matthew Stafford four times Sunday. Dean Lowry had a sack for the second straight week, remarkable since Lowry went 24 straight games without a sack before snapping that drought earlier this season. Safety Darnell Savage Jr. had a sack late in the first half, preventing the Lions from moving into field-goal range. But the rising player on this defensive front is Rashan Gary. With a sack Sunday, Gary now has five this season, with 2.5 coming in the past two weeks. Gary had two sacks as a rookie in 2019. Talk of general manager Brian Gutekunst wasting the 12th overall pick in the 2019 draft might have been premature. Gary could be turning into a stud.
Halftime tie a moral victory
When the Packers entered halftime tied at 14, it could have been disappointing. They had led 14-7 but allowed a Lions touchdown inside the two-minute warning on a 3-yard run from D’Andre Swift. If the Packers knew their history, they had to be satisfied. Sunday was the first time in nine seasons the Packers entered halftime at Ford Field without a deficit. The last time was their 7-0 halftime lead at the Lions in 2011. Since then, the Packers had an average halftime deficit at Ford Field of 11.3 points, with four double-digit deficits. In a stat that epitomizes this rivalry, the Packers managed to win four of those eight games anyway, including a second-half comeback from 17-3 down in 2019. On Sunday, no comeback was necessary.