(Reuters) - The Detroit Lions overcame a sloppy start to maul the Green Bay Packers 40-10 in a key National Football League clash on Thursday to kick off the traditional American Thanksgiving gridiron feast.
The Lions (7-5) have not won the NFC North division in 19 seasons and looked ready to serve up a holiday turkey for the home fans when they turned over the ball four times, including three in the opening half.
But they recovered to win easily and snap a two-game losing skid to remain at the top of the division while the Packers fell to (5-6-1).
After turning the ball over five times last Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including four interceptions by quarterback Matthew Stafford, the Lions were again their own worst enemy.
A fumble on their opening possession ending a scoring drive and was followed by another in the second quarter that resulted in Green Bay’s only touchdown.
Stafford ended the day with two interceptions but also tossed for three touchdowns, guiding a Detroit offense that piled up 561-yards compared to just 126 by the Packers.
“It was tough in the beginning, we had some turnovers and as an offense we pride ourselves on not turning the ball over, so we hurt our team a little bit,” said Lions running back Reggie Bush, who rushed for 117-yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
“But we were able to bounce back and I think that is the biggest thing we can take away from today,”
“We battled back, fought through adversity and came out with the win.”
The Packers, desperately trying to playoff hunt until starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers returns from a broken collarbone, could not generate much offense behind backup Matt Flynn, who was the Packers’ fourth starter in 25 days.
In the previous 22 years the Packers have had only four different starters.
Flynn completed just 10 of 20 passes for 139-yards turning the ball over four times, two of them fumbles and an interception.
After fumbling on their opening possession, the Lions were still first on the scoreboard with Stafford working the ball down to the Green Bay nine before settling for a David Akers 27-yard field goal.
The Packers answered with a Mason Crosby 54-yard field goal and a few seconds later were in the end zone when Stafford was stripped of the ball and Morgan Burnett scooped up the fumble, returning it for a touchdown and a shock 10-3 lead.
Despite turnover problems the Lions came back to tie the game at 10-10, Stafford hooking up with Jeremy Ross on a five-yard touchdown strike to cap a clinical 85-yard drive.
Ross, a former Packer, set up the next Lions score, returning a punt 35-yards to the Green Bay 33 before Bush finished off with a one-yard touchdown to give the Lions a 17-10 lead going into the intermission.
The Lions offense showed its teeth in the second half, Stafford finding his favorite target Calvin Johnson and Kevin Ogletree with 20-yard touchdown strikes while Joique Bell bulled his way over from the one for another score.
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; editing by Julian Linden