DETROIT — It was another slow start for the Lions, but they found a spark in the second quarter on Sunday. They wrapped up the 2017 season with a 35-11 win over the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field.
That gives Detroit a 9-7 finish, their third winning season in four years under coach Jim Caldwell.
It also gives them a sweep of the Green Bay Packers for the first time since 1991 and a 5-1 record in the NFC North. The only division loss was on Thanksgiving to the Vikings.
(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)
Still there is no way to know if it was Caldwell’s final game as the Lions coach. The win gives him a 36-28 record in four regular seasons.
He said nothing had changed and no meetings are planned with general manager Bob Quinn.
Missing the playoffs could be the key.
“I think you give us six, seven, eight plays back over 16-game season and we’re sitting here talking about, we’re maybe wearing a divisional hat, maybe we’re sitting here with a bye week with home playoff games,’’ wide receiver Golden Tate said.
Five reasons the Lions won on Sunday:
1. Matthew Stafford completed 20 of 29 passes for 323 yards, three touchdowns for a 140.4 passer rating. He started a little slow (big surprise) but found a rhythm. And he caught the 2-point conversion in the end zone where he was wide open.
“Man, we just wanted to go out there and finish with a winning record. … We work really hard at this to have opportunities to go out there and play. I’m proud of the way these guys showed up and played. Our coaches did a great job getting us prepared for the game. We went out there and played well,’’ Stafford said.
2. Ziggy Ansah sacked Brett Hundley three times. It was his second consecutive game with three sacks. He finished with 12 for the season which is second-best to 2015 when he had 14.5. In 2016 he had only two.
“You know, sacks come – sometimes they come, sometimes they don’t, you know? You can’t really say that you had sacks because you’re feeling better or not, but I’m just overwhelmed right now, man. I’m just grateful,’’ Ansah said. “It’s a good way to end the season with a win at home and sweeping Green Bay. We are going to be having a good New Year’s Eve.”
3. The preparation week was key. Caldwell made his point and the players listened. They wanted to end with a winning record, sweep the Packers and play to win like they do every week. They got off to a slow start, but found a rhythm offensively and cracked down defensively for the decisive win.
“We prepared the same, we had a bunch of great plays and today they timed out perfectly against the coverage or we held them up front long enough to get open or we held open the hole long enough to make big plays,’’ Tate said.
4. Detroit won the turnover battle decisively, 4-0 with two fumbles lost and interceptions by Jarrad Davis and Darius Slay. It was Slay’s eighth interception this season, a career high.
“It’s a very disappointing loss. I think obviously as a starting point is a minus-four turnover ratio. I think, like anything in the game of football, a team, or certain teams, every team has play styles and you’re supposed to reflect about where you spend your time. The way we took care of the football today was unacceptable. It obviously had a big impact on the game,’’ Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
5. Packers quarterback Brett Hundley is no Aaron Rodgers, not even in the same ballpark. He completed just 14 of 24 passes for 172 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and a 59.7 quarterback rating. Hundley led the Packers to wins in three of his 10 starts since Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone in mid-October.
“You know, we just didn’t take advantage of our opportunities today. Turnovers, for one, and we just didn’t make the plays that were needed to be made,’’ Hundley said. “We had a lot of opportunities, we just stopped ourselves.”