Packers, limping Rodgers beat Lions 30-20 to win NFC North
GENARO C. ARMAS
Dec. 29, 2014
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — A heating pad wrapped around his sore left calf, Aaron Rodgers could only watch helplessly on television monitors in the locker room as the Detroit Lions surged closer to his Green Bay Packers.
There was only one place that he wanted to be — back on the turf with the rest of the Packers while they tried to secure a fourth straight NFC North title.
Green Bay's franchise quarterback is limping into the playoffs with a smile. Rodgers threw two touchdown passes to Randall Cobb, Eddie Lacy gashed Detroit's defense for 100 yards, and the Packers celebrated another division championship with a 30-20 victory Sunday.
Rodgers will appreciate a week off after the win, as the Packers (12-4) earned a bye. Detroit (11-5) starts the postseason at Dallas next Sunday. Green Bay will next play on the following Sunday.
"It's clearly an MVP performance — another MVP performance — by Aaron Rodgers," coach Mike McCarthy said. Rodgers won the award in 2011.
Rodgers was carted to the locker room after tossing his first score to Cobb late in the second quarter. He tweaked the calf during last week's win at Tampa Bay.
This injury came in a different spot in the calf, Rodgers said. He came up limping again.
In the locker room while getting treatment, Rodgers said he was thinking about "if I could finagle myself to go back in the game."
He hobbled back on to the field in the third quarter with the game tied at 14.
"I just felt like if I got in there, it might give us a little jolt," Rodgers said.
The jolt soon followed. A seven-play, 60-yard drive ended with a 13-yard score to Cobb for a 21-14 lead. The Packers didn't look back.
Rodgers plunged across the goal line from 1 yard 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 seven-minute stretch between the second and third quarters. In between, 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 end.
Instead the Packers were victorious again at Lambeau and finished the regular season 8-0 at home.
The Lions drew within 30-20 with 1:45 left after Matthew Stafford connected with Theo Riddick for a 6-yard touchdown. 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.
The Lions head home at least with the comfort that they had clinched a playoff berth regardless of Sunday's outcome — just the second playoff appearance since 2000.
"We're 11-5, and it's a new season," coach Jim Caldwell said. "None that stuff matters. We've got to look forward."
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. The Packers cashed in with Rodgers' 1-yard sneak.
"It was just on our part, self-inflicted wounds, and we know that," cornerback Rashean Mathis said. "But kudos to them, they did make plays — enough plays to win this ballgame."
Rodgers felt more pain after Detroit's 305-pound defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh, stumbled back and stepped on Rodgers' lower left leg 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.
Suh had cleared out of the locker room by the time reporters were allowed in after the game. Caldwell said he didn't think it was an intentional act.
Rodgers said referee Walt Anderson told him he thought Suh was blocked into the quarterback. McCarthy didn't see the play, but heard enough from others to be unhappy with Suh.
"There's no place for that," McCarthy said. "I don't understand it, frankly."
NOTES: Rodgers finished the season with a 112.2 passer rating and is the only player in NFL history to register a 100-plus rating in six consecutive seasons. ... WR Jordy Nelson had six catches for 86 yards, and set a franchise record with 1,519 yards for the season. ... Bell finished with 60 yards on 13 carries. ... The Lions allowed a season-worst 152 yards on the ground.
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