Stafford leads Lions past depleted Packers
DETROIT -- Jim Caldwell’s job probably wasn’t saved by the Detroit Lions’ performance on Sunday. The Lions did save their most entertaining play of a disappointing season until the finale.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford caught a two-point conversion pass during the fourth quarter of a 35-11 romp over the depleted Green Bay Packers at Ford Field. Wide receiver Golden Tate threw it to Stafford after running back Ameer Abdullah took the snap and pitched it to Tate on the trick play. Stafford was wide open in the end zone.
“We practiced it a bunch,” Stafford said. “I‘m just happy (offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter) called it. Guys were fired up in the huddle that he called it. It’s a fun way to end it.”
Before he turned into a receiver, Stafford overwhelmed the injury-riddled Packers with his rocket arm. He threw three touchdown passes and completed three passes of over 50 yards. Overall he went 20 of 29 through the air for 323 yards.
It was a bittersweet day for the Lions, who were eliminated from playoff contention with a loss at Cincinnati the previous week.
“We won’t be in the playoffs, but we had some things to play for,” Stafford said. “We had a chance to sweep the Packers. We had a chance to finish 5-1 in our division. We had a chance to finish with a winning record. We work really hard at this and I‘m proud of the way our guys showed up and played.”
Tate caught seven passes for 104 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown reception. Marvin Jones Jr. hauled in four passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. Both receivers exceeded the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
Kenny Golladay had a 54-yard touchdown catch for the Lions (9-7) in what may have been Caldwell’s final game as head coach. There has been heavy speculation that Caldwell will not be retained for a fifth season.
Asked if he would be around the Lions’ offices tomorrow, he responded, “I have no idea.”
If it was his last hurrah, the team gave him a nice sendoff.
“This is a group that has shown that they can deal with anything,” he said. “They focus together and play well together. They’ll be fine. You can tell the guys have a great sense of one another, when they come together and play in a game like this and play well.”
Ziggy Ansah led the Lions defense with three sacks.
Brett Hundley completed 14-of-24 passes for 172 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for Green Bay (7-9), which finished the season on a three-game losing streak. Jamaal Williams gained 82 yards rushing and caught three passes for 31 yards.
“We didn’t make the playoffs, we didn’t finish strong, we didn’t win our last two, we finished 7-9,” Hundley said. “That’s not what you want and that’s not what we wanted, so from here we’ve just got to regroup and figure some stuff out and go from there.”
Along with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was placed on injured reserve prior to last week’s shutout loss to Minnesota, Green Bay played without a large chunk of its top offensive players. Receivers Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams, running back Aaron Jones, guard Jahri Evans and tight end Richard Rodgers were all inactive.
“We didn’t come out to play today, then the results showed,” Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said. “We didn’t come out to play today and that’s the end of it.”
The Lions led 20-3 at halftime with the aid of three Packers turnovers.
Mason Crosby’s 41-yard field goal gave Green Bay the early lead, but Detroit dominated the remainder of the half.
Stafford’s longest completion of the season made it 27-3 late in the third quarter. He connected with Tate along the left sideline. Tate eluded cornerback Davon House near the 10-yard line to complete the 71-yard play.
NOTES: The Lions swept the season series with the Packers for the first time since the 1991 season. ... The Packers finished the season 3-5 on the road. It’s the first losing road record since they went 3-5 in 2010. ... Detroit posted back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1994-95. ... Lions CB Nevin Lawson sat out the game due to a concussion. S Don Carey left the game in the first quarter with a knee injury. ... Green Bay placed LB Nick Perry (ankle, shoulder) on injured reserve Saturday.