DETROIT – It had been a long wait for Davante Adams.
A lightning rod for criticism from fans after a rough Thanksgiving performance, Adams finally ended his touchdown drought by finding the end zone in the third quarter in the Packers’ 27-23 victory over the Lions on Thursday night at Ford Field.
Moments after a strip-sack by Julius Peppers gave the Packers the ball deep in Detroit territory, Adams caught QB Aaron Rodgers’ pass on third down for an 8-yard touchdown, the first score for the second-year receiver since the playoff victory over Dallas in January. It pulled the Packers within 20-14.
“I just tried to attack the ‘backer and get over the top of him,” Adams said. “Aaron made a great pass. The ball was right there for me to grab. I just had to make sure I got my feet in.”
Adams finished with just 21 yards on his four catches, but perhaps getting a TD will be a personal turning point for the stretch run.
The turning point in the game might have been Peppers’ big play. Down 20-0 in the third, the Packers had finally gotten on the board with a fumble recovery for a touchdown when Peppers whacked Lions QB Matthew Stafford’s arm on the very first snap of the next series.
Rookie linebacker Jake Ryan recovered at the Detroit 12-yard line, and three plays later, the Packers suddenly had two touchdowns in 98 seconds after not scoring since the first half against the Bears a week ago.
“It brings energy to the sideline,” Peppers said of the turnover. “The sideline was a little dead, so we made a couple plays, got the energy back, got the momentum rolling, and the rest is history.”
Ryan takes over: Ryan, the fourth-round pick from Michigan, got the first start of his career at inside linebacker in place of Nate Palmer and played the whole game.
The press box statistics credited him with 10 total tackles, including one for loss.
“I started kind of slow, kind of shaky, but as soon as I got rolling, I felt pretty comfortable,” Ryan said.
He was also johnny-on-the-spot for the big fumble recovery.
“Julius made a great play, and I was in the right place at the right time,” Ryan said.
Tough duty: With rookie cornerback Damarious Randall sidelined with a hamstring injury, veteran Sam Shields had to shadow Lions star receiver Calvin Johnson all night, and Shields more than held his own.
Coming off a three-TD game on Thanksgiving against the Eagles, Johnson caught just three passes for 44 yards. One was a 17-yard touchdown one play after the Packers turned it over deep in their own territory, but even that was a perfect throw and even better catch along the end zone sideline against nearly textbook coverage.
“Good throw, good catch,” Shields said, shrugging his shoulders and smiling. “You know, Megatron.”
Shields has gone toe-to-toe with Johnson plenty over the years, so he knew what he was in for. In the first game against the Lions this year, he split duties with Randall against the 6-foot-5 pass-catcher, but he was all by himself this time.
Shields will take three catches for 44 yards anytime against that guy.
“He’s a beast, man, and that’s every year,” he said. “You have to come with it with him. It’s just being physical and going at it.
“It was a battle out there. He’s not an easy guy to cover one-on-one all game.”
Shields’ work was part of a defensive effort that allowed the Lions to score just six points (two field goals) over the final three quarters, after Johnson’s TD had put them ahead 17-0 in the first period.
“We just had to keep fighting,” defensive lineman Mike Daniels said.
On the Lions’ final drive, they converted on third-and-12 with just over two minutes left. The Packers then tackled running back Joique Bell for zero, minus-2 and minus-1, forcing a punt with just 30 seconds left, which turned out to be just enough time.
“We stopped them in the backfield twice, and they punted, and Aaron Rodgers proved who he is,” Daniels said.
Last-minute call: Undrafted rookie running back John Crockett was signed to the active roster just a few hours before Thursday’s game, and the former practice-squad back made an impressive NFL debut.
Entering the game in the second half, Crockett ripped off five carries for 22 yards, including a 12-yard burst two plays before the Packers’ first touchdown.
“It’s nothing I did,” said Crockett, an FCS product from North Dakota State. “At the end of the day, it’s all the offensive line. Those guys were great up front. They were able to make holes for me. My job was to figure out a way to get through them.”
Injury update: That offensive line dealt with injuries all game. Filling in at right guard for T.J. Lang, Lane Taylor made his first NFL start, while Don Barclay took Bryan Bulaga’s place at right tackle.
During the game, center Corey Linsley re-injured his ankle and exited in favor of JC Tretter, and Josh Walker even filled in briefly for left tackle David Bakhtiari when his knee flared up and he had to get it re-wrapped.
On defense, rookie cornerback Quinten Rollins left the game with a forearm injury but returned. Undrafted rookie LaDarius Gunter took some snaps while Rollins was out.
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