DETROIT (Reuters) - On the day when Americans count their blessings, the Detroit Lions were left to try and add up theirs after a 34-12 Thanksgiving Day thrashing by the Green Bay Packers on Thursday.
Aaron Rodgers tossed three touchdown passes and Charles Woodson returned an interception for another as the Packers improved to 7-4 to stay in the NFC wildcard chase while the Lions suffered their sixth consecutive Thanksgiving Day blowout.
“We needed to win this one,” Rodgers told reporters. “We knew the effort Detroit was going to bring but we stuck with our game plan and battled.”
With just two wins in 11 games this season, fans of the Lions have little to be thankful for this holiday but although the balance sheet makes grim reading it is two more victories than Detroit had all last season, offering hope for brighter days ahead.
These are still tough times in the Motor City where unemployment, foreclosures and crime are among the highest in the United States.
Burned out homes, boarded up store fronts and empty skyscrapers surround Ford Field but among the decay there are small signs things are getting better in Motown and the Lions are part of the rebuilding process.
Having put last year’s winless season behind them, the Lions are no longer the NFL’s worst team or the punch line for comedians’ jokes.
New uniforms, a new logo, new head coach Jim Schwartz and Matthew Stafford, a rifle-armed rookie quarterback, have helped put some bite back into the toothless Lions.
A year ago dejected Detroit fans arrived at Ford Field wearing paper bags on their heads as a debate raged over whether the team should give up the Thanksgiving Day stage they have played on for 70 seasons.
The paper bags were gone on Thursday and so was much of the talk of taking the Thanksgiving Day tradition out of the Motor City. But another one-sided defeat underscored the fact that, like Detroit itself, there is much work ahead.
Green Bay got the game off to a bumbling start when Jordy Nelson fumbled the opening kickoff and the Lions quickly pounced, Stafford hitting Calvin Johnson with a one-yard touchdown strike.
The Packers pulled level on the first play of the second quarter, Rodgers finding Donald Lee with a seven-yard touchdown pass set up by a 68-yard grab by Donald Driver.
Green Bay continued to move the ball in the second quarter, twice marching inside the Detroit 10 but settling for a pair of Mason Crosby field goals to take a 13-7 lead.
The Packers stormed out of the intermission, Rodgers hooking up with Driver on a seven-yard touchdown and James Jones on a 21-yard strike to go up 27-7.
A fourth-quarter safety by the Lions followed by a Jason Hanson field goal brought some life to a crowd of 57,383.
But Woodson snuffed out any thoughts of a comeback when he intercepted Stafford and returned to the end zone to seal the Packers’ third straight win.
After looking like the rookie of the year when passing for five touchdowns in a win over Cleveland last Sunday, Stafford looked every bit a first-year player against the Packers as he tossed four interceptions to go with his one major.
“It was tough,” said Stafford who was not expected to play against Green Bay because of a sore shoulder. “I don’t want to play like this.
“The only thing you can do is keep coming back, get to work and get ready for the next one.”
Editing by Tony Jimenez