Five keys to Detroit Lions’ 23-20 loss to Green Bay Packers

DETROIT — Absolutely fitting that the Detroit Lions wrapped up the disappointing season by leading the Green Bay Packers for the entire game until Mason Crosby kicked the game-winning field goal as time ran out.

The Packers earned a first-round bye with the 23-20 win over the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday. The Lions lost their ninth straight game and finished with 3-12-1, their worst record since 2009 (2-14). Matt Patricia is 9-22-1 in his first two seasons. On a positive note, they are guaranteed at least the No. 3 pick in the draft.

Once again Patricia said he was proud of his team.

“The team fought as hard as we could, we really tried to do everything we could to give ourselves a chance, obviously we needed to make a couple more plays, give Green Bay credit they made some plays at the end especially that they needed to to win,” Patricia said. “I think this team, like I’ve said all year and today was another great example of how hard this team works, how hard they fight.’’

With so many injuries he played guys in different positions just to get through.

“I’m proud of the toughness of this team, I think it’s the foundation of what we’re looking for — I think we want to be tough, we want to be a team that competes, we want to be a team that goes out and works hard every day,’’ the coach added.

Five keys to the loss:

1. The Lions defense kept Aaron Rodgers in check in the first half when Rodgers went just 6 of 18 got 90 yards. The Lions held a 17-3 lead heading into the third quarter, but Rodgers came back in the second half on fire and looked more like the quarterback of a 13-3 team. 

2. Once again, the Lions could not hold a fourth-quarter lead. It was the seventh game Detroit has lost when holding the lead in the fourth quarter. Finishing is an issue on both sides of the ball. The Lions knew it but didn’t have any answers.

3. Green Bay placekicker Mason Crosby was just 2 of 3 on field goals on Sunday, but had no problem with the game winner of 33 yards. This is the second game this season that Crosby has beaten the Lions by kicking a field goal as time ran out. On Oct. 14, the Packers beat the Lions 23-22 at Green Bay with the same scenario. 

4. Rookie quarterback David Blough, in his fifth start, had a solid effort (12-29, 122 yards) and looked like he might be on his way to his first win. But in the fourth quarter he threw a pass intended for Chris Lacy but it was so short it was easily intercepted by Blake Martinez. The Lions were at midfield with about eight minutes left and a 20-13 lead. But on the ensuing possession, Rodgers marched the Packers down to Detroit’s 28-yard line and then threw a touchdown pass to Allen Lazard. The extra point tied the game. The Lions got possession twice more, but had to punt both times. Rodgers was able to get in field goal range. It was the difference in the game.

5. Matt Prater kicked two key field goals including one of 56 yards to keep the Lions in the game. Prater moved past Jason Hanson into second place all time in the NFL for most 50-yard or longer field goals with 53.

UP NEXT: A long offseason.

 

Lions’ trick touchdown play had been in the works since training camp

DETROIT — The Lions had been working on a trick play since training camp. They saw a good opportunity to use it early in the 23-20 loss to Green Bay on Sunday and executed it to perfection.

Wide receiver Danny Amendola threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to quarterback David Blough who was wide open in the end zone. It gave the Lions a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

It was the second straight year the Lions have used a trick play against Green Bay in the final game of the season.

“Honestly, a lot of those plays that we have – we work on them through the course of the season. Sometimes they come up in the games that we can call them and sometimes they don’t,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “Certainly, we had one dialed up that we had been working on for a while, and we’re just kind of waiting for the right situation. Obviously, we couldn’t really wait past today. So, thought we’d take a shot.”

They’ve been working on it or a version of it since training camp under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell who has run a similar play for years with various teams.

It was a great call by Bev, Danny threw a great ball, I couldn’t have been more open,’’ Blough said. “We got some alerts on it to see if it’s man or zone, nobody’s got the quarterback in man coverage. It was kind of a fun play,’’ Blough said. “We’ve had in a couple times this year, just got it off the card, awesome timing for the call, Danny sold it great. That’s how you hope it comes out.’’

Blough said when the ball was in the air he was thinking “don’t drop it.”

“You play football, catching passes in the yard as a kid, we’ve run it a bunch of times in practice and you just catch it and I kind of knew I was open — I had a couple catches in college — but this was pretty special,’’ Blough said.

He was so excited that he threw the ball up in the stands immediately afterward.

I feel bad because I could’ve given it to Danny. It was the second of his career, I don’t know I was kind of excited obviously. I don’t really remember it all that great,’’

Amendola also threw a touchdown pass last season when he was with the Dolphins.

Five things to watch as Lions face Packers to wrap up the season

While the Lions have nothing to play for except memories heading into the offseason, Green Bay should be motivated at Ford Field on Sunday.

With a win, the Packers can earn a bye in the first round of the playoffs, giving them a week off to rest and recuperate.

The Lions at 3-11-1 are going nowhere. The result won’t change the status of coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn who will return next season. The Packers staged a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Lions in their first meeting on Oct. 14.

“I think (the Packers are) probably quite similar other than the fact that they’re playing so well right now and with so much confidence. I think that since we played them last, they’ve really, really built momentum and confidence,’’ Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said. “They play together. It’s like they know each other very, very well. That probably wasn’t quite the case when we played them the first time, just based on number of games they have under their belt right now. I think the difference probably would be (that) they were playing at a pretty high level then, they’ll play even better now.”

Five things to watch.

1. David Blough will get his fifth start. As expected, he’s looked like a rookie at times and shows potential at others. That shows in his stats with four touchdowns and five interceptions. 

2. Perhaps you’ve heard this before and it might be too late for this season, but the Lions have to find a way to finish games. Once again at Denver last week they were up 17-13 in the fourth quarter, then collapsed and lost. In their first meeting against Green NBAy, the Lions held a 22-13 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Packers came back and won 23-22. It’s been a theme of the season, giving up leads late in the game. They’ve been outscored 136-84 in the fourth quarter in the first 15 games.

3. Green Bay’s running game propels the offense. In the previous matchup they gashed the Lions’ defense for 170 rushing yards led by Jamaal Williams with 104 yards. Just like always, Detroit’s secondary will have its hands full with Aaron Rodgers. Before the Packers quarterback was intercepted on Monday night he had gone eight games without a pick.

4. The game could play a role in whether the team wants to keep or take another look at a few younger players who haven’t seen much game time. With all the injuries — 16 Lions are on injured reserve — it’s a great time for the rookies and young guys to show what they have against a good team like the Packers. 

5. The Packers are coming off a tough 23-10 win at the Vikings on Monday night. With a short week interrupted by Christmas, it might be a good time to face the Pack. Still, they will be motivated and the Lions are decimated by injuries with nearly 20 players on injured reserve.

PREDICTION:  Packers 34, Lions 17