October 3rd, 2010 * Lambeau Field * Green Bay, Wisconsin
3 weeks into the 2010 season, the Green Bay Packers were 2-1 but had yet to put together any type of performance that would separate them from the rest of the NFC. So, in hushed tones in some corners and out loud in others, the questions were being asked as to whether the Packers really had what it took to be a contender.
On a gorgeous fall afternoon at Lambeau Field, the Packers could have gone a long way toward providing at least a few answers against the winless, but improving, Detroit Lions.
Everything was on the Packers’ side, including a remarkable streak in which the Packers had not lost to the Lions in Wisconsin since 1991—a span of 19 straight games—but when the game was over, the questions continued to swirl.
“Mike [McCarthy] had to remind us twice in the locker room that we did get a win,” fullback John Kuhn said after the game.
Indeed, the Packers seemed well in control of the contest early in the 3rd quarter when cornerback Charles Woodson did what he’s always done best—intercepting a Shaun Hill pass :36 seconds into the 2nd half and returning it 48 yards for a touchdown and a 28-14 Packers’ lead. However, that would be it for the Packers on the scoreboard.
A stiffening Lions defense and a sputtering Packers offense allowed Detroit to battle its way back into the game and make it a lot tighter than it had any right to be. After Woodsons interception, the Packers went into hibernation offensively and it wasn’t helped by the fact Aaron Rodgers threw 2 costly interceptions.
Meanwhile the Lions, behind backup QB Shaun Hill, moved the ball at will on the Packers defense. However, when they should’ve scored touchdowns, they could only manage field goals and that was the difference in the game.
Veteran kicker Jason Hanson, who has been a “Packer Killer” over the years, drilled kicks of 39, 52, 49 and 24 yards in the 2nd half to close the gap to 2 points. Yet when the Packers offense needed to hang onto the ball the most, they finally managed to do so. The Packers did it the way no one really expected—by running it!
Holding onto the slim lead and watching the young Lions growing in confidence on both sides of the ball, the Packers took over on their own 13 yard line with 6:32 to play. We call it the “4-minute offense.” From there, the Packers proceeded to run 12 plays, 10 of them on the ground and featuring—of all people—the burly, largely unknown fullback Kuhn.
Green Bay never had to deal with a 3rd down on the drive until: 55 seconds remaining to play and facing a 3rd & 7 from the Lions 22, Kuhn ran for 8 yards, allowing the Packers to finally breathe a sigh of relief. Kuhn was never expected to be a featured back but McCarthy was learning to work with what he had on the roster. As a result, on that final drive Kuhn carried 7 times for 34 yards.
In truth, the Lions outplayed the Packers, gaining 431 yards to Green Bay’s 261 yards. Rodgers continued his erratic play, completing just 12 of 17 passes for 181 yards & 3 touchdowns. However, Rodgers also threw those 2, costly, second-half interceptions that kept the Lions alive.
On the positive side, after committing 18 penalties the previous week against the Bears, Green Bay was called for just 3 penalties against the Lions. However, despite a 3-1 record, no one was really happy.
“Doesn’t feel like it, does it?” McCarthy said after the game when asked about the team’s record.
Rodgers echoed that sentiment. “It’s a win, so we’re happy about that,” he said. “Offensively, we’ve got to find our identity again.”
The grizzled veteran Charles Woodson was left to put it in perspective. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a good-looking game, an ugly game. It doesn’t matter” he said. “As long as you win, that’s the main point.” You’re right Charles, an ugly win is much better than a pretty loss.