(WLAX/WEUX) – Matt LaFleur graciously said his team could enjoy their 31-24 victory over the Lions in Detroit Sunday for the evening, which secured the NFC North Division title for a second consecutive season.
Green Bay, now 10-3, had everything fall its way Sunday. The Minnesota Vikings lost in Tampa Bay. The Philadelphia Eagles pulled off the surprising upset of the Saints in New Orleans.
When the dust settled on Week 14’s Sunday games, the Packers not only had won their seventh division title in the past decade but also secured the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
“We’re going to enjoy it for one night and then we’re going to get back to work because there’s a lot out in front of us,” LaFleur said in his post-game zoom press conference before departing on a short but celebratory team flight back to Green Bay. “You know, it’s never easy. It’s never perfect in this league. But our guys stick together, they battle. We knew it was going to be a four-quarter battle.”
Today, it was back to work to prepare for the Carolina Panthers, who the Packers host Saturday night at Lambeau Field.
Aaron Rodgers continued his league MVP-level play as the Packers broke out from a 14-14 halftime deadlock to take the game by the throat in the third quarter.
Green ran 20 plays and totaled 135 yards in dominating play for 12:39, wearing down the Lions defense, and took the lead on Rodgers’ 6-yard touchdown run with 6:11 left in the quarter. Matthew Stafford and the Detroit offense only ran three plays for four yards in an 81-second drive.
The lead ballooned to 28-14 early in the fourth as Rodgers hit tight end Robert Tonyan with a 4-yard scoring pass. Detroit made it a one-score game at 28-21, but kicker Mason Crosby delivered a huge blow with a career-long 57-yard field goal for a 31-21 cushion with 3:30 remaining.
Stafford was knocked out of the game with a rib injury on a hard tackle by Kenny Clark, and backup Chase Daniel led a drive the culminated with a 32-yard Matt Prater field goal to close within seven points with 1:49 left. The ensuing onside kick was ruled out of bounds and one first-down later the Packers were in victory formation.
Rodgers continued to ascend in league MVP conversations, running for one touchdown and throwing for three others in a stellar 26-of-33 performance for 290 yards. No interceptions, 133.6 quarterback rating.
His first touchdown pass was a 56-yarder to Davante Adams, who cut inside torched cornerback Amani Oruwariye and then outran the Lions secondary to the end zone. Adams is having a terrific season and broke Hall of Famer Don Hutson’s record by extending his touchdown reception streak to eight games.
Adams caught seven passes for 115 yards. “He’s such a difference-maker and commands so much respect and dictates coverage,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers’ second touchdown pass was a highlight-reel 14-yard back-shoulder strike to Valdes-Scantling, who was well-covered by Oruwariye. MVS snared the perfectly placed aerial at the 2-yard line and twisted his way to pay dirt for a 14-7 Green Bay lead in the second quarter.
After two games with no receptions and limited targets, Valdes-Scantling rebounded with six catches for 85 yards.
“To our guys’ credit, they stayed patient,” LaFleur said of the grinding third-quarter drives. “We’re always trying to hunt for explosives but they didn’t necessarily come to us. It takes a lot of discipline, especially from our quarterback being able to take whatever’s there. Our guys just stuck with it play after play.”
The play of Rodgers this season also received high praise from his head coach. “He should be the front-runner for the MVP,” LaFleur stated.