Packers averted potentially historic fold

Eric Goska
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Had the Detroit Lions’ revival Sunday at Lambeau Field blossomed into a full-blown comeback, history would have been made on two fronts.

Green Bay Packers cornerback Josh Hawkins (28) gives a long touchdown catch to wide receiver Marvin Jones (11) against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field  September 25, 2016.

Instead, the size of the deficit and just enough plays from the Green Bay Packers prevented the rally from reaching fruition.

Green Bay withstood a formidable charge from Detroit in turning back the Lions 34-27. The surge by the visitors served as a reminder that few leads are insurmountable.

The Packers finally rediscovered their offense Sunday – at least for two quarters. It vaulted them to a 31-3 lead just before halftime.

That sizable advantage (28 points) may have caught some by surprise in light of last season’s offensive struggles. But jumping ahead to that extent was not uncommon for Mike McCarthy’s teams in years past.

Since 2008, the year Aaron Rodgers became Green Bay’s starting quarterback, the team has posted leads of 25 or more points in 22 regular-season games. It did so four times each in 2009, ‘10, ‘11 and ‘14.

In most cases, it was game over once the Packers achieved their lofty position. Thirteen times they did not allow the competition more than a touchdown once they were out front by 25 or more.

Not so Sunday. Detroit piled up 24 points after falling behind by 28 and did enough in the second half to create some anxious moments.

Only three times have the Packers given up more points in a regular-season game in which they led by 25 or more. They surrendered 33 to the Steelers in 1951 and 28 each to the Bears and Seahawks in 1944 and 1978, respectively.

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McGINN: Rating the Packers vs. the Lions

In all four cases – Steelers, Bears, Seahawks and Lions – Green Bay’s considerable edge was built before halftime. That left two or more quarters for opponents to stage a rally.

Detroit put the time it had to good use. It scored on four of its final five possessions to pull to within seven with 3:34 to go.

Had the Packers not picked up two first downs to kill the clock, the Lions would have had at least one more shot. And given that Detroit needed only 91 seconds to produce its final touchdown, one more opportunity might have been all it needed to force overtime.

Numbers posted before and after Green Bay went up big illustrate how the game shifted. Let’s use the pass that put the Packers up 31-3 with 1:10 left in the second quarter – a 17-yard toss from Rodgers to Jordy Nelson – as the demarcation line for before and after.

With that throw – the fourth TD pass by Rodgers – Green Bay swelled its offensive production to 215 yards on 24 plays (8.96 average). It had five gains of 15 or more yards.

After that, the Packers managed only 112 yards on their next 23 snaps (4.87 average). Their longest gains were runs of 14 yards by Rodgers and Eddie Lacy.

Green Bay’s quiet finish was a little like the Lions’ start. Detroit gained 136 yards on its first 33 plays (4.12) and lost yards seven times.

On the second play after falling behind by 28, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford connected with Marvin Jones Jr. for 73 yards and a TD. It was the longest burst in a 34-play, 282-yard outlay (8.29) that set Green Bay back on its heels.

Quarterback play drove many of the numbers. Rodgers completed 12 of 17 passes for 174 yards and four scores (143.1 rating) as Green Bay ascended, but was just 3-for-7 for 31 yards (56.3) afterward.

Stafford was not at his best early. His 10 completions in 19 attempts gained 120 yards and included an interception (50.3 rating). Down the stretch he was nearly flawless, hitting on 18 of 22 passes for 265 yards and three scores (156.4 rating).

The Packers have built leads of 25 or more points in 143 regular-season games since 1921. They are undefeated when doing so.

Twice the Lions have come back when down 24. They did it against the Cowboys in 2011 and the Colts in 1957.

Had Detroit prevailed Sunday, it would have marked the greatest comeback by the Lions and the greatest meltdown by the Packers in their respective histories.

Extra point

Green Bay has surrendered 128 yards rushing in its first three games. That is the best start by the team since 1933 and the second-best effort overall for a three-game span. In 1945 the Packers allowed 118 yards in closing out the season: 12 to the Yanks, 51 to the Giants and 55 to the Lions. was used to determine the greatest comebacks by the Lions.

Not so fast

Regular-season games in which the Packers gave up 20 or more points after jumping to a lead of 25 or more.

Pts.   Date                   Opponent        Result

33     Oct. 7, 1951       Steelers           GB won 35-33

28     Oct. 15, 1978     Seahawks        GB won 45-28

28     Sept. 24, 1944    Bears               GB won 42-28

24     Sept. 25, 2016    Lions               GB won 34-27

21     Oct. 14, 1962     Vikings           GB won 48-21

20     Sept. 15, 2013    Redskins         GB won 38-20

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