Led by a nearly flawless performance from veteran quarterback Brett Favre, the Packers overcame a handful of defensive mistakes and a lackluster running attack and gave rookie head coach Mike McCarthy his first victory when they outlasted Detroit, 31-24, Sunday at Ford Field.
So much for the 0-16 talk and guaranteed No. 1 pick in the draft. Favre, who threw his 400th touchdown pass in the first quarter, probably ended a lot of the trade rumor talk today, too, although Chris Simms’ likely season-ending spleen injury in Tampa could keep it percolating for awhile.
Here is our weekly recap from the Barcalounger:
For the second straight week, Fox has assigned Ron Pitts and Terry Donahue to call the action. Nothing against these fine gentlemen, but don’t you wish the Packers were just a little more hapless so that Fox would assign Milwaukee favorite Matt Vasgersian to a game? Next week, the Packers get the full-force of the Worldwide Leader spotlight as they play on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”
The Packers win the coin toss and a chance to establish early offensive momentum.
In case you missed the memo, Brett Favre needs one touchdown pass to reach 400 for his career. Dan Marino (420) is the only other player above 400.
15:00 -- Koren Robinson returns the opening kick 30 yards. Word is that he’ll get some snaps as a receiver today, too. If the guy’s off-field demons don’t resurface, he’s going to help the cause.
14:53 -- On the first play from scrimmage, Brett Favre hits Donald Driver for seven yards. Driver has been the Packers’ best player so far this season.
14:12 -- Driver just dropped a pass and it seems shocking. It’s hard to imagine the Packers winning if he doesn’t have a big day.
14:07 -- An incomplete pass to Driver completes a three-and-out. So much for establishing the running game.
14:05 -- The Packers punt and Detroit’s Shawn Bryson is whistled for an illegal block. Crummy teams make penalties like that a lot. The team that commits fewer penalties today will have a big edge.
13:53 -- Jon Kitna hits Kevin Jones for 13 yards. Brady Poppinga was on the coverage. Packers fans have seen that play before this season.
Random thought: How about Ross Verba starting at tackle for Detroit? The Packers had him once and could have had him again this off-season.
12:40 -- Kitna completes another screen to Jones for 12 yards. That begs a question while we reach for a Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat (delicious with an orange slice): Why is that screens seem to work so well against the Packers? And why can’t the Packers utilize that play as well as they did in the Holmgren era?
10:31 -- A sack by Corey Williams on first down. Those are the plays that ruin drives.
8:48 -- The Lions punt. Charles Woodson, a former Michigan star who probably has a few fans in the crowd, lets it sail into the end zone.
8:40 -- Ahman Green tries the left side. No gain, but at least the Packers ran the ball.
8:00 -- Robert Ferguson catches a pass for five yards. I’m not a Ferguson fan. He seems to be a great athlete, but doesn’t produce and sometimes doesn’t seem to be giving his all, unlike Driver.
7:18 -- Favre hits Greg Jennings for 75 yards and a touchdown, number 400 of his career. (Jennings ran four about 65 of the yards). That had to be a big moment for Jennings, who grew up in Kalamazoo and played in college at Western Michigan. Favre runs around like a rookie after the play. Packers 7, Lions 0.
6:26 -- Poppinga is called for pass interference. The Lions are at midfield and seem intent on answering that first score.
3:58 -- Detroit answers. With Charles Woodson blitzing, Kitna flips a pass to Bryson, who jukes Marquand Manuel in the middle of the field and scores a 37-yard touchdown. Packers 7, Lions 7.
2:12 -- After a Packers punt, Kitna tries to throw to former Packers receiver Corey Bradford. Ahmad Carroll, perilously close to interference, deflects the ball to Manuel, who waltzes in for a touchdown. Manuel should be even after his whiff on Bryson a few minutes ago, but Pitts and Co. just informed us that it was his first interception as a pro. Say what? Didn’t the Packers pay this guy good money? Couldn’t they have found a guy who had INTERCEPTED A PASS at some point? Packers 14, Lions 7.
:51 -- Kitna hits a wide-open tight end Dan Campbell for 25 yards. How did Campbell get so open? He fell down.
:03 -- Rather than wait for the changeover, the Lions try a play. Good move. Roy Williams hauls in a 42-yard touchdown pass from Kitna in the corner of the end zone, torching Nick Collins in the process. Collins apparently missed the day in Pop Warner ball when they told the safeties not to let players behind them. That play is especially painful because the ball was in the air forever. Packers 14, Lions 14.
13:30 -- Bubba Franks, the goat of last week’s loss to New Orleans, catches a 12-yard pass from Favre. On the next play, Vernand Morency is stuffed for no gain. So much for the "change of pace." The Packers look like they’ll have trouble running the ball no matter who is carrying. Minutes later, Franks catches a pass to move the ball and advances to the Detroit 12.
8:01 -- On third and four, Favre fumbles a shotgun snap from Scott Wells and then recovers in time to throw the ball away.
7:54 -- Dave Rayner hits a 24-yard field goal. Packers 17, Lions 14.
1:57 -- After a Detroit punt, the Packers put together an impressive sequence, that gets a boost when Green catches a screen and follows a good lead block from Wells. That makes me think of Mike Flanagan, who was hurt last year and unable to do much damage in the open field.
:59 -- The drive fall apart when Noah Herron fumbles at the Detroit 7. That’s the second fumble of the season for Herron and it’s a crusher. The Packers aren’t good enough to give up points.
Halftime: Packers 17, Lions 14.
12:17 -- Former Wisconsin star Brian Calhoun catches a pass over the middle, but he’s short of the first down. The Lions punt.
10:13 -- McCarthy does like some trick plays. The Packers try a flea-flicker, but it doesn’t work.
10:00 -- A personal foul call on the Lions tacks 15 yards onto a nice gain by Green. Kalmiba Edwards hit Favre out of bounds. On third and 7, Robinson makes a diving catch to keep the drive alive.
6:52 -- Favre hits Driver for a five-yard touchdown. Driver did well to get open. Packers 24, Lions 14.
6:04 -- Kitna scampers for nine yards on a quarterback draw. Random thought: Kitna’s cousin is former Brewers outfielder Chris Magruder. When Kitna was with the Bengals, he used to take batting practice with Milwaukee in Cincinnati.
3:28 -- Kevin Jones scores on a five-yard run. Eddie Drummond’s kickoff return set up the seven-play drive, which included a bad play and penalty by Packers cornerback Al Harris. Manuel’s interception aside, the Packers’ defensive backs aren’t looking great this year. Journal Sentinel columnist Bob McGinn ripped position coach Kurt Schottenheimer just this morning. He may be ahead of the curve. Packers 24, Lions 21.
13:33 -- Favre has the mojo working today. He hits Donald Lee for 32 yards to the Detroit 10.
12:25 -- Favre hits Green on a screen for a 10-yard touchdown. Green won’t be running for 100 yards today, but he’s catching a lot of passes. Maybe McCarthy figures it’s the same thing. Packers 31, Saints 21.
Overtime -- Lame commercial of the day: AT &T’s "The World According to..." campaign. It stinks so much that we’ll stop ripping Coors Light for those dumb fake press conference spots. Could it be more obvious that Vermeil isn’t in the same room as the donkey’s with the cooler case?
5:28 -- After a trade of punts, the Lions maneuver for a 40-yard field goal by Jason Hansen. Packers 31, Lions 24.
2:00 -- Facing fourth and 2 at their own 39, the Lions see Kitna sacked. Game over.
1:03 -- Maybe it’s not over. Green just fumbled. It’s hard to argue with giving him the ball after gaining three yards on third and 8. The Packers could have taken a knee, but decided to run the ball. The fumble is probably better than an interception, but it gives the Lions hope.
:08 -- Hope extinguished. The Hail Mary is broken up, though almost caught. Packers 31, Lions 24.
Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at OnMilwaukee.com. Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.