NFL: Packers 34, Lions 12
By Jim O’Connell
DETROIT ó The Detroit Lions used to take a lot of pride in playing on Thanksgiving.
Lately, the Lions have been getting embarrassed when the nation tunes in to watch them.
Aaron Rodgers matched a career high with three touchdown passes and Charles Woodson grabbed two of his team’s four interceptions, giving the Green Bay Packers a 34-12 win over Detroit.
The Lions have lost six straight games on the holiday, setting a franchise record, by an average of 23.2 points and eight of nine in the showcase game. The latest loss was an emotional setback for Detroit (2-9) four days after Matthew Stafford’s gutsy play capped its biggest comeback win since 1957.
“It’s a different feeling in this locker room ó especially on national television to come out like that,” Detroit center Dominic Raiola said.
Before its recent slide, Detroit won four straight and nine of 12 on Thanksgiving before ex-general manager Matt Millen arrived in 2001 and made a lackluster franchise awful.
Green Bay (7-4) has won three straight since losing to Tampa Bay to improve its postseason prospects.
“We can’t talk about the playoffs yet,” Packers receiver Donald Driver said.
Stafford, playing with a sore non-throwing shoulder, threw one touchdown pass and four interceptions. He threw five TD passes in Sunday’s win over Cleveland after trailing by 21.
“When you’ve got to throw the ball every down to try to get back into it when you’re behind, guys are going to be all over it,” Stafford said.
Kevin Smith’s longest run was 6 yards and he finished with 43 on 18 carries for the Lions.
“This is the type of game that you hit your head on a wall about,” Smith said.
The Lions looked as if they were building off their rare momentum by recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff and with Stafford’s TD pass to Calvin Johnson.
But the Packers scored 27 unanswered points in the second and third quarters to turn the game into a familiar rout.
“We had to dig deep,” Rodgers said. “There’s a lot of resolve in this team and I’m confident in our team moving forward.”
The Packers have won nine straight against the Lions overall, and coach Mike McCarthy is 8-0 against them.
Woodson returned his second interception for a score late in the game and struck a Heisman Trophy pose in the end zone. Woodson won the award in 1997 while leading Michigan to a national championship.
“Being here in Michigan with all the fans I know I still have here,” Woodson said. “I just wanted to remind those guys what it was like back when I was in school.”
Woodson also forced and recovered a fumble and had a sack, capping an afternoon that included an announcement of his $2 million gift to the new University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital.
“It was a good day,” Woodson said with a grin.
It was for Rodgers, too, as usual against the Lions.
Rodgers was 28 of 39 for 348 yards and connected with Driver, Donald Lee and James Jones for scores. He has played Detroit four times and those passing totals rank among the top eight in his career.
Driver had seven receptions for 142 yards, including a 68-yard catch, and a TD that gave the Packers a 20-7 lead midway through the third quarter.
Rodgers and Driver both credited their much-maligned offensive line.
“There were a couple times when I held the ball for 4 or 5 seconds ó maybe more,” Rodgers said. “When you have that kind of time with the kind of players that we have, we feel like we’re going to make plays.”
Green Bay played without cornerback Al Harris and linebacker Aaron Kampman, both of whom had season-ending knee injuries in last week’s win.
“Our defense was huge,” McCarthy said. “That was the No. 1 factor in our success.”
Stafford was only 20 of 43 yards for 213 yards, and his four interceptions were one fewer than he had earlier this season. He was listed as doubtful for the game because of his shoulder injury, but his decision-making seemed to be more of a problem than his health.
“I don’t think (the injured shoulder) was a factor at all,” Stafford said.
Johnson, who was questionable with hand and knee injuries, only had a 9-yard catch to go with his 1-yard score.
In Detroit’s last game, Stafford broke an NFL rookie record with 422 yards passing, became the youngest player to throw five TD passes in a game and drew praise for playing with a dislocated, non-throwing shoulder on the final untimed play.
“I told him after the game, ‘Around the league, we respect a guy who will come in hurt,”‘ Woodson said.
NOTES: Detroit rookie TE Brandon Pettigrew, a first-round pick, hurt his left knee on the first drive and did not return. .. Green Bay OT Chad Clifton (hamstring) and Jordy Nelson (shoulder) were injured during the game. … Stafford joined Dan Marino, Dave Krieg and Vince Ferragamo as the four QBs who have thrown four INTs a game after throwing at least five TDs since 1970, according to STATS, LLC. … The Lions are 33-35-2 on Thanksgiving.