GREEN BAY, Wis. -- They’ve seen this over and over again throughout the past decade or so -- more so throughout the past five years when the Detroit Lions have flirted again and again with picking up a program-changing win.
And then they’ve seen Green Bay Packers' quarterback, Aaron Rodgers -- the quarterback whom, when it matters, they just cannot vanquish. They saw it in 2014 and 2015, then again in 2016 and on Monday night in Green Bay in a 23-22 Packers win on a last-second field goal.
Detroit continues to get close. Then Rodgers says: No, not tonight. As Rodgers drove down the field in the final six minutes, his team trailing by two, there was little feeling Detroit would hang on.
Rodgers was being Rodgers again, finding receivers when he needed to and taking off for crucial yards when he had to.
“One of the fiercest competitors with just this calmness about him,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said of Rodgers earlier this week. “That’s pretty amazing.”
Maybe it’s why Patricia admitted that, although he had success against Rodgers in the past, success maybe made him more nervous going against Rodgers because of how competitive the QB is. And Rodgers was competitive enough to completely annihilate the Lions' plans. Again.
There was the untimed Hail Mary play in 2015 that essentially knocked a rejuvenated Detroit out of playoff contention. Wins in Green Bay in 2014 and Detroit in 2016, where a Lions' win would have meant a long-awaited Detroit divisional title. Rodgers has been the architect of it all.
And then on Monday, with the Lions coming to Lambeau Field looking to beat Rodgers and the Packers and looking like contenders in the division, the Lions lost again. After leading 13-0. After seeing multiple special-teams gaffes and penalties called (although some, including a late hands-to-the-face against Trey Flowers, were questionable).
It all gave Rodgers just enough to continue driving down the field -- even when the Lions looked like they had a stop to force a field goal, but (again, questionable) penalties on Detroit to keep the drive going.
The Packers kept moving. And as Mason Crosby’s 23-yard field goal sailed through the uprights with no time left, the Lions saw what they have all too often as they've pushed to become an NFC contender.
Aaron Rodgers. At the end. Beating them again.
Describe the game in two words: Matt Prater. The Lions' accurate, reliable kicker made all five of his field goals and an extra point. He was a large reason the Lions were competitive and almost pulled out the win.
Troubling trend: The Lions' run defense continues to be porous even with Damon Harrison on the field. For the fifth straight week, Detroit allowed more than 100 yards rushing -- and did that in the first half on the way to 170 for the game. It brings back memories of the pre-Harrison Lions defense last season, which was susceptible to the run. Between struggles in getting pass pressure (although to be fair, Detroit typically doesn’t blitz) and the issues stopping the run, the front seven need to find a way to be better.
QB breakdown: Matthew Stafford was once again efficient, completing 56.3% of his passes while being adept on big shots and play-action work. He hit two big plays early, a 66-yard flea flicker to Kenny Golladay on the first play of the night and a 58-yard reception to Marvin Hall on a play-action pass on the first play of the second possession. It showed Detroit’s aggression early in the game trying to take advantage of the Packers’ defense, something the Lions pulled away from later in the game. But Stafford had another game in a stretch that has been among the best of his career, completing 18 of 32 passes for 265 yards.