For a third consecutive year, the Packers season came to a screeching halt late in the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field.
In 2020, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady pulled out a win in the NFC Championship game on the frozen tundra. In 2021, it was Jimmy Garappolo and the San Francisco 49ers in an NFC Divisional playoff contest. Sunday it was Jared Goff and the Lions in a win-and-you’re-in the playoffs contest before a national viewing audience on Sunday night.
Detroit played the role of spoiler in dramatic fashion, going for it on 4th-and-1 at the Packers’ 15 with 75 seconds left to clinch a 20-16 victory with Goff’s 9-yard strike to DJ Clark, who waved goodbye to Packers fans in the south end zone.
Green Bay’s four-game winning streak is history—and so is their season.
Detroit knew their postseason fate with Seattle’s overtime victory over the Los Angeles Rams in a 3:25 p.m., and the Lions’ win allowed the Seahawks to back into the playoffs as the conference No. 7 seed.
Head coach Matt LaFleur wore the disappointment on his face in his post-game press conference.
“To have an opportunity to go to the playoffs at home and not being able to get it done in that fashion is extremely disappointing,” LaFleur said. “I do commend our locker room and the guys for their ability to overcome adversity throughout the course of the season, but I think ultimately we dug ourselves in too big of a hole and the margin for error in this league is so small. . . If you don’t capitalize on opportunities and you make mistakes, then you’re going to lose. Especially against quality football teams. You’ve got to give Detroit a ton of credit. They came in here and they beat us tonight.”
Familiar themes from throughout the roller-coaster 2022 season came back to haunt the Packers: blown chances in the red zone and on third down, penalties, mental errors, and turnovers. Add to that getting beat in the trenches on both sides of the ball against physical Lions linemen.
“Didn’t take advantage of opportunities,” LaFleur said. “To be able to move the ball in the first half and have nine points or whatever it was. You know, basically had two turnovers. The fourth down we didn’t convert. We put our defense in a really tough situation and they were able to hold them to three and then also had a fumble. You can’t do those types of things in this type of game.”
Detroit, 9-8, outplayed the Packers, 8-9, at Lambeau Field in the second half. And Goff, who hasn’t thrown an interception in nine games, outdueled reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers in this game.
Goff completed 23 of 34 passes for 224 yards with no touchdowns or picks, and former Packer Jamaal Williams rushed 16 times for 72 yards and two touchdowns.
Rodgers finished with 17 completions in 27 attempts for 205 yards and one touchdown with one interception (83.1 passer rating). It was a costly pick intended for rookie speedster Christian Watson with 3:37 remaining, and Detroit did what playoff-caliber teams do: don’t relinquish the ball and run out the clock.
Green Bay was without rookie linebacker Quay Walker, who shoved a Lions trainer during a timeout for injury on the field with 7:55 left in the game—his second disqualification this season.
“I felt like I was about to get rocked and just tried to lay one up to Christian and didn’t get enough on it,” said Rodgers, who offensive line struggled all game to establish the run or protect the quarterback. “We had four drives inside their territory and just didn’t come up with enough points.
A promising 10-play drive just before halftime was halted by Jones’ fumble that was recovered by Detroit at their 15-yard line with 1:16 left.
Detroit capitalized on the turnover, capping a 10-play, 70-yard drive with a 33-yard Michael Badgley field goal as time expired in the half to cut the Packers lead to 9-6.
“That fumble, we probably go up two scores going into half, it’s a little different story,” Rodgers said.
The Packers started fast before a home crowd on 78,191, with the intent to get Christian Watson involved early and often.
Rodgers marched the Packers down the field, highlighted by a 46-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Jerry Jacobs which set Green Bay at the Lions’ 5. Rushes by Jones and Dillon netted a yard and Rodgers’ scramble and inaccurate pass went inside Dillon in the end zone.
Mason Crosby’s 22-yard field gave Green Bay a 3-0 lead, which was matched by Jack Fox from 37-yards at 7-minute mark of the quarter after Green Bay failed to convert a 4 down-and-1 at its own 31-yard line on a questionable play call with receiver Allen Lazard running the Allen Lazard.
The Packers offense continued to struggle on its next two possessions, reaching the 31- and 24-yard lines before settling for Crosby field goals after Aidan Hutchinson sacks on third down pushed them back. Crosby’s 49- and 48-yard blasts made it 9-3 with 12:56 remaining in the half.
On the ensuing possession, a 66-yard Lions touchdown was nullified by a holding penalty. The Lions then drove to the Packers 27, but Michael Badgley missed wide left from 46 yards and Green Bay took over at its own 36 with 6:13 left and turned the ball over on Jones’ fumble.
The Lions received the second half kickoff and took the lead 13-9 on Jamaal Willaims’ 1-yard touchdown run, set up by a 43-yard pass from Goff to Kalif Raymond just short of the goal line.
The Packers responded, finishing a 9-play, 83-yard drive with Rodgers’ 13-yard touchdown pass to Lazard for 16-13 lead with 3:22 left in the third quarter before Detroit retook the lead with 5:57 left in the contest on Williams’ second 1-yard run of the half to seal Green Bay’s fate.
When the final gun sounded, several Lions players ran around part of stadium high fiving their fans in Lambeau Field. Detroit players celebrated in the visitor’s locker room, while the Packers locker room was subdued and quiet.
All Jaire Alexander wanted to do was go home. The Packers normally loquacious cornerback had few words to share with the media after the disappointing defeat. And now the offseason process begins of evaluating every aspect of the team and the annual ritual of Rodgers contemplating his future. Veterans such as Mason Crosby, David Bakhtiari, Randall Cobb, and Marcedes Lewis could be part of a roster turnover, which averages 20% per NFL team each year.
Rodgers had this to say about the possibility of returning and on retirement:
“It’s a feeling, do I feel like I have anything left to prove to myself? Do I want to go back and gear up for another grind? Or is it time? Is it time to step away? Is it time for another voice to be leading this team? I think I need to get away and contemplate those things, and those are real to me, and I have a lot of pride in what I’ve accomplished in this league, but I’m also a realist and I understand where we’re at as a team. We’re a young team. There could be some changes with some of the older guys and it could be time to step away. But I could take some time and say, ‘Hell no, I need to get back out there and go on another run.’ But I’ll have to see what it feels like once I’m away from it.
“At some point the carousel comes to a stop and it’s time to get off, and I think you kind of know when that is. And that’s what needs to be contemplated, you know, is it time? Also, what’s the organization doing? That’s part of it as well. But the competitive fire is always going to be there. I don’t think it ever goes away. Sometimes it gets transferred I think to other things that might not ever fill that large void, but like I said, I feel good about what I’ve accomplished in this league and wouldn’t have any regrets walking away. But I’ve got to see what it feels like once I get away from this.”
The team went through its normal end-of-season routine, including Lions game film review, cleaning out lockers, and meeting with coaches before departing for their off-season homes.
“It’s going to be a big offseason for us obviously to make sure that we all improve,” LaFleur said. “We’ve all got to look inward and figure out what it is that we’ve got to do to get better, because I know that the expectations here are very high and they should be. Just really disappointed right now.”