On the Packers’ opening drive of the game, from the Detroit 29-yard line, quarterback Aaron Rodgers sidestepped the rush and fired deep down the left side to the end zone. Problem was, Donald Driver and Jermichael Finley were both in the general area.
Fortunately, as Driver curled back around to his right, Finley let him have enough room to make a diving catch for the touchdown and an early lead.
“Donald kind of stole that one from Jermichael,” said Rodgers, who threw three TD passes in the first half and had a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating at intermission. “It was a good reaction, and I’m glad he caught it. It’s a situation where he was not exactly the primary target when that ball was in the air, but I’m glad he made the adjustment and Jermichael got out of his way.”
For Driver, the receiving TD was his 21st at Lambeau Field, breaking a tie for second with Sterling Sharpe on the venerable stadium’s all-time list. He now trails only Antonio Freeman, who had 36 TD catches at Lambeau.
Driver also now has played in the 10th-most games all-time in team history, with 165 to his credit.
For Rodgers, it was the second time in his career he has finished the first half with a perfect quarterback rating. He was 8-of-9 for 131 yards and three TDs. He also had a 158.3 rating in the first half at Cleveland last season (Week 7).
Rodgers was just 4-of-8 for 50 yards with two interceptions in the second half, dropping his rating for the game to 105.3. After the game, he clearly wasn’t happy with the overall performance of the offense, which didn’t score in the second half.
“It’s a win, so we’re happy about that, but offensively we have to find our identity again,” Rodgers said. “We have to make sure that we get our best players on the field at all times, and find ways to get them the ball.”
Couple of miscues
Kick returner Jordy Nelson fumbled a couple of times on kickoff returns late last season – once in Detroit on Thanksgiving and then again in the playoff game at Arizona – and he was bitten by the fumble bug again.
Nelson fumbled twice on kickoffs and both were recovered by the Lions. The first one came in the final seconds of the second quarter, and it didn’t end up hurting after Detroit’s Jason Hanson came up short on a 55-yard field goal try on the last snap of the half.
The second one, however, came with the Packers leading only 28-23 in the fourth quarter, and it gave the Lions a first down at the Green Bay 18-yard line. Fortunately, the defense held firm and forced yet another field goal, keeping the Packers in the lead.
“It’s extremely frustrating, not only that you fumbled but you put your team in that situation,” Nelson said. “I put our team in a situation to lose this game and that’s not anything you want to do. I’m glad they came through and saved my butt. I’m part of this team and I can’t be making mistakes like that.”
The streak continues
Sunday’s win was the Packers’ 20th straight over the Lions in the state of Wisconsin, and 19th straight in the regular season. That regular-season streak is now tops among current NFL home winning streaks over one opponent, topping Washington’s 18-game winning streak over Detroit.
The streak spans eight Detroit head coaches and now 12 starting quarterbacks, as Shaun Hill was added to the list.
In a 3-4 defensive scheme, defensive linemen don’t often get a lot of glory. But the Packers’ crew up front certainly did their part on Sunday with a forced fumble, a recovery, and two sacks.
Rookie defensive end Mike Neal made his NFL debut and forced a fumble by Detroit running back Jahvid Best with great penetration up the middle. Neal dove at Best just as he got the handoff, and when he hit Best’s arm, the ball flew out.
Fellow defensive end Ryan Pickett recovered the fumble, his first fumble recovery since his first season in Green Bay in 2006.
Also, defensive end Cullen Jenkins and nose tackle B.J. Raji posted two of the defense’s three sacks in the game. For Jenkins, it’s his fourth straight game with at least one sack, a career-long streak. For Raji, it was his second sack of the season, topping the one he had his rookie season last year.
Rookie safety Morgan Burnett left the game in the first half with a sprained knee, and after the game he was still having tests done on it, according to Head Coach Mike McCarthy.
With Charlie Peprah inactive due to a quad injury, Derrick Martin filled in for Burnett for the remainder of the game.
Linebacker Nick Barnett came out of the game briefly in the first half with a sprained wrist. He went to the locker room for X-rays, which were negative, and he returned after one series with a splint on it, wrapped in tape.
“I’ll be fine,” said Barnett, who finished third on the team with 10 tackles. “I didn’t even want to go in and get the X-rays to be honest. I was disappointed I had to do that, but better safe than sorry.”