Aaron Rodgers called it a character win.
Green Bay’s dramatic 23-22 victory over Detroit Monday evening on Mason Crosby’s 23-yard field goal as time expired featured a little bit of everything.
From big plays and questionable calls to fourth-quarter heroics and an assisted Lambeau Leap.
“It was a character win,” Rodgers said in his post-game press conference. “That’s what I said in the locker room. What that means is it revealed a lot about our squad.
“A lot of resilience with our guys. Matt (head coach) talks about a no-blink mentality, and that means you just move on to the next play. You have a short memory, that’s important in this business. We’re a very confident group. Even though we got punched in the mouth a little bit to start the game, I think we responded the right way.”
The Packers trailed the entire game until the final kick by Crosby, the franchise’s all-time scoring leader who performed the first Lambeau Leap of his career in the south end zone. There was one catch: the 35-year-old kicker got a leg up from long-snapper Hunter Bradley to make it over the wall and into the arms of delirious Packers fans.
Head coach Matt LaFleur saw his team battle back twice from deficits—13-0 in the second quarter and 22-13 in the fourth—to earn an improbable and emotional victory over Detroit to stay atop the NFC North standings with a 5-1 record. The Lions fell to 2-2-1 and in last place behind the 4-2 Minnesota Vikings and 3-2 Chicago Bears.
It’s the first time since 2012 that Green Bay has started division play with a 3-0 record. “This division is going to be a dogfight,” said former Chicago head coach Mike Ditka. “No one is running away with it. It could be the best division from top to bottom in the NFL.”
Detroit won the turnover battle—3-0—but the Green Bay defense continued to do what it has all season: bend, but not break. Coordinator Mike Pettine’s unit allowed just one touchdown and held quarterback Matt Stafford and the Lions to five field goals, as the Smiths—Za’Darius and Preston—accounted for 2.5 sacks and nine total tackles.
Stafford (18 of 23, 265 yards) was on fire to start the game, burning the Packers defense on a 66-yard flea-flicker on the first play of the game and a 58-yard bomb on their next series as the Lions scored on their first three possessions.
Lions kicker Matt Prater had a brilliant 5-for-5 performance, blasting field goals from 26, 22, 41, 51, and 54 yards. But Crosby booted 23 and 48 yarders before kicking his game-winner in walk-off fashion.
“If you can keep the opponent out of the end zone, you’re always going to have a chance,” LaFleur said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of a team where we lose the turnover battle by three and came out on top. That’s rare. It doesn’t happen in this league very often.”
It may not have been Aaron Rodgers’ best statistical performance, but the veteran quarterback preserved despite several drops—including two potential touchdown passes—by his receivers and directed the game-winning drive over the final 6:46 of the contest. Rodgers completed 24 of 39 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns and one interception for a 90.0 quarterback rating.