Wounded Aaron Rodgers leads Packers to fourth straight NFC North title as Packers defeat Lions 30-20
~ GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers is limping into the playoffs with a smile.
Green Bay’s franchise quarterback threw two touchdown passes to Randall Cobb, Eddie Lacy gashed Detroit’s defense for 100 yards and the Packers claimed a fourth straight NFC North title with 30-20 victory Sunday.
Maligned by a left calf injury, Rodgers will appreciate a week off after the win, as the Packers (12-4) earned a bye. Detroit (11-5) will start the postseason at Dallas next week.
Rodgers was carted to the locker room after tossing his first score to Cobb late in the second quarter.
He hobbled back on to the field in the third quarter with the game tied at 14. He led Green Bay on a seven-play, 60-yard drive that ended with a 13-yard score to Cobb with 3:33 left in the quarter. The Packers didn’t look back from there.
Rodgers plunged forward across the goal line from 1 yard out with 8:45 left to help Green Bay regain a two-touchdown lead. “MVP! MVP” chanted adoring fans while light snow dusted Lambeau Field.
Rodgers finished 17 of 22 for 226 yards. He was out of the game for about a 7-minute stretch between the second and third quarters. In between, receiver Calvin Johnson had touchdown catches of 4 and 20 yards on consecutive drives to help the Lions roar back from a 14-0 deficit.
Detroit hasn’t won a division title since 1993. It hasn’t won a road game against the Packers since 1991. For a few moments while Rodgers was out, it looked like both those streaks might come to an end.
Instead the Packers were celebrating again at Lambeau Field. They finished the regular season 8-0 at home.
The Lions did draw to within 30-20 with 1:45 left after Matthew Stafford connected with Theo Riddick for a 6-yard touchdown pass. But Riddick’s 2-point conversion run failed, Tramon Williams recovered the ensuing onside kick and Green Bay ran out the clock.
Stafford finished 20 of 41 for 217 yards, while Johnson had four catches for 39 yards.
The Lions head home at least with the comfort that they had clinched playoff berth regardless of Sunday’s outcome. It’s just the second playoff appearance since 2000 for the often-forlorn franchise.
They could have accomplished so much more if not for some painful mistakes.
After blocking Mason Crosby’s 52-yard field goal attempt, the Lions lost the ball when Stafford fumbled on what looked like an aborted handoff to Joique Bell. Morgan Burnett recovered at the Detroit 42 with 13:28 left in the game.
The Packers cashed in with Rodgers’ 1-yard sneak into the end zone on their next drive.
Rodgers felt more pain later in the quarter after Detroit’s 305-pound defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh, stumbled back and stepped on Rodgers’ left ankle while the quarterback was on the ground at the end of a play. There was no penalty, and Rodgers tried to shove Suh back as the defender walked away.
The Packers ended up walking away with another division title. They tacked on a safety after Stafford was whistled for intentional grounding in the end zone after being pressured by end Datone Jones late in the fourth quarter.
The miscues came early, too, for Detroit.
The Lions stuffed Lacy on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the first quarter. They forced Lacy to fumble early in the second quarter deep in Detroit territory.
But five penalties maligned the Lions in the first half, when their average drive started on their own 14. The short field worked to Green Bay’s advantage when Micah Hyde returned a punt 55 yards to the end zone with 4:49 left in the first quarter to open the scoring.
ESPN story here