Driven in Detroit: NFC North crown may be secured by Packers Sunday


Green Bay Packers’ Rashan Gary sacks Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

(WFRV) Before the pregame coin flip at Ford Field Sunday, the Green Bay Packers will know the outcome of the Minnesota Vikings-Tampa Bay Buccaneers contest.

If Tom Brady and the 7-5 Bucs defeat the 6-6 Vikings, the 9-3 Packers will be able to clinch the NFC North Division title with a victory over the Lions.  With just four games remaining in the 2020 regular season, it’s almost a must-win situation for Minnesota and 5-7 Detroit.

Detroit hosts Green Bay after a stunning come-from-behind victory over the Bears in Chicago in the debut of interim head coach Darrell Bevell, scoring two touchdowns in the final 2:18 of the game.  Bevell replaced Matt Patricia, who was fired after Detroit’s dismal home loss on Thanksgiving Day.

Chicago led the Lions by 10 or more points three times in the contest, but Detroit roared back behind quarterback Matthew Stafford, who threw for 402 yards and three touchdown passes in the 34-30 triumph.   Seemingly ageless running back Adrian Peterson, 35, scored two touchdowns.

With nothing to lose, the Lions unleashed their offense under Bevell and totaled 460 yards as Marvin Jones caught eight passes for a season-high 116 yards and a crucial touchdown pass down the stretch.

Last season, Green Bay never led in the Lions games at Lambeau or Ford Fields until the final play of the game, when kicker Mason Crosby booted short game-winning field goals as the time clock expired.

This season, the Packers trailed Detroit 14-3 at Lambeau Field in Week 2 before exploding for 31 answered points in a 42-21 win.

It was a career day for running back Aaron Jones.  The versatile workhorse, who set his high single-game rushing mark with 168 yards and total yards in a game with 236.  Not only was Jones the game’s leading rusher—outgaining the entire Lions team (89 yards)—but he was effective as a receiver with four receptions (team high) for a game-high 68 yards and a touchdown.

His first touch to open the second half was a 75-yard game-changer.

Jones burst up the middle, split two late-closing Detroit defenders at the second level, and was off to the end zone for a 24-14 Green Bay lead just 12 seconds into the third quarter.  He ended the game’s scoring with a 14-yard touchdown jaunt to account for the final 42-21 score.

The Packers defense also stiffened after early lapses.  Cornerback Chandon Sullivan, an emerging third-year pro, delivered the decisive blow on Detroit’s second possession of the second half.

Pinned back at the Lions’ 5-yard line by JK Scott’s punt and a Detroit penalty on the kick, Stafford was pressured in his end zone and threw an ill-advised pass to Danny Amendola on a short out pattern.  Sullivan read it and undercut the route, picking off the throw at the 7-yard line and stumbling down untouched inside the 5 and rolling into the end zone to expand the lead to 31-14.

A consistent Packers pass rush, absent for portions of the season, resurfaced against the Eagles with a season-best seven sacks.  Pressuring Stafford can lead to forced throws and turnovers—which has been a focus of Mike Pettine’s defense down the home stretch of the season.

Jones, Rodgers, and receiver Davante Adams will be focal points of the Lions defense, which is ranked 28th against the run and 26th against the pass.  Rodgers is 16-5 in career starts against the Lions, continuing his mastery of NFC North division foes.

In what is shaping up to be the most prolific scoring season in NFL history (9,503 points and 1,093 touchdowns in first 13 weeks), the Packers lead the league in both points per game (379 total, 31.6 per game average) and touchdowns (48).

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In the thick of race for NFC No. 1 seed, Packers take care of business on the road behind the Aarons and an opportunistic defense.  This one does not come down to a Crosby field goal.

Packers 35, Lions 20

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