Green Bay Packers give regulars plenty of rest, fall to Detroit Lions 37-30 in playoff tuneup
DETROIT – In a game with two teams having opposite seasons, the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions entered Sunday’s regular-season finale with opposite approaches.
For the Packers, Week 18 felt like a glorified exhibition. A week after clinching the NFC’s top seed, the Packers pulled Aaron Rodgers and many other key starters before halftime. They no doubt heavily scaled back their scheme, intent on not showing any usable film to whoever their NFC divisional round playoff opponent is in two weeks.
Meanwhile, the Lions treated Sunday much like their own Super Bowl, pulling out the full bag of tricks including two reverse passes that went for touchdowns and a fake punt.
More:Davante Adams surpasses Jordy Nelson for Green Bay Packers team record for single-season receiving yards
More:How do you think the Green Bay Packers played against the Detroit Lions? Vote in our ratings.
It was enough to hand the Packers a 37-30 loss, preventing coach Matt LaFleur from reaching his 40th victory in his first three seasons. It wasn’t all bad for the Packers. Rodgers completed 14-of-18 passes for 138 yards, two touchdowns (both to Allen Lazard) and no interceptions.
Rodgers finished the 2021 season with 4,115 yards, 37 TDs, 4 interceptions and a 111.9 rating in what will likely be his fourth MVP campaign.
The second half included some promising moments for Jordan Love. Buoyed by the Packers' run game and a stunning 62-yard touchdown from Josiah Deguara off a tight end screen, Love completed 10 of 17 passes for 134 yards. Love had two interceptions inside the two-minute warning, including an overthrow in the middle of the field that Lions safety Tracy Walker III intercepted, but overall Love’s second significant NFL action was improved from his debut in Kansas City.
Here are four other observations from Sunday’s finale:
David Bakhtiari’s return
For the first time in more than a year, Bakhtiati played. Bakhtiari was on the field for 27 snaps before being pulled late in the first half at Detroit. He was on the field for three snaps on the Packers' fourth possession before Yosh Nijman, who has started eight games this season, replaced the All-Pro left tackle. It completed a long road back for Bakhtiari, who tore his ACL late last season. Bakhtiari allowed no pressures and had at least one pancake on a down block against a defensive tackle on the game’s third snap. The key question will be how his knee feels Monday, but if he receives a clean bill of health there’s no reason to think Bakhtiari won’t be ready to go when the Packers next play in the NFC divisional round at Lambeau Field in two weeks. Bakhtiari’s absence in last year’s playoffs was a pivotal factor keeping the Packers from a Super Bowl trip.
Davante Adams breaks another record
Adams wanted one more record from this 2021 season. It didn't take him long to get it. The Packers receiver caught a 13-yard pass from Rodgers late in the first quarter Sunday against the Lions, giving him 1,528 yards this season. He entered needing 22 yards to surpass Jordy Nelson for the most any Packers receiver has had in any season. Nelson set the previous franchise record of 1,519 in 2014. Adams began the day with 1,498 yards. It's the second season record Adams has set in as many weeks. Adams finished last week's game against the Minnesota Vikings with 117 catches this season, breaking his own franchise mark of 115 from last season. He continued extending that record Sunday in Detroit. Adams finished the most productive season for any receiver in Packers history with 123 catches, 1,553 yards and 11 touchdowns in 16 games, numbers that will surely lead to his second straight first-team All-Pro selection.
Dean Lowry emerges as DL threat
The Packers have longed for a second defensive lineman who can help take some of the pressure off Kenny Clark. Lowry is finally becoming that guy. Lowry had another sack Sunday in Detroit, his fifth total this season. In his first five seasons, Lowry combined for 10 sacks. He infamously had no sacks in the entire 2019 season. Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery said this week Lowry has discovered who he is as a player this season, that he must win with physicality, and that was on display against Detroit. If he carries his momentum in the playoffs, the Packers' defensive line will be as formidable as it’s been in years.
Another miss for Mason Crosby
Just when you thought the Packers' kicking operation has figured things out, it took another step backward Sunday. Crosby missed an extra point in the second quarter, pushing his kick just wide of the right upright. The snap and hold looked clean, but Crosby couldn’t split the uprights. Crosby hadn’t missed a kick in more than a month, making all 17 of his extra points and six field goals in the previous four games. The Packers had some promising moments on special teams Sunday, including a deflected punt from Juwann Winfree and forcing the Lions into an unsuccessful fake punt. But that kicking operation remains a concern entering the postseason.