DETROIT (AP) – Aaron Rodgers shrugged off Detroit’s powerful pass rush and helped the Green Bay Packers stay perfect.
This year, it was Ndamukong Suh who didn’t finish the game.
Rodgers threw two touchdown passes, and Green Bay took advantage of Suh’s third-quarter ejection, pulling away for a 27-15 victory over the Lions on Thursday. It was a much better day for the Packers than their previous visit to Ford Field, when Rodgers was knocked out of the game with a concussion in a 7-3 loss last December.
“I felt it was an excellent character win for our football team, something we talked about at halftime.” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. “I’m very proud of our football team to fight through adversity.”
Detroit is now facing serious adversity of its own. The Lions (7-4) have lost four of six since a 5-0 start, and three defensive backs were hurt Thursday. Detroit will also have to wait and see what kind of discipline could await Suh, who was dismissed after tangling with Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith.
After being pushed off Dietrich-Smith, Suh stepped down hard with his right foot, appearing to make contact with Dietrich-Smith’s right arm. Suh said he was trying to keep his balance while freeing himself from the brief scuffle.
“My intention was not to kick anybody, as I did not, removing myself,” he said. “I was on top of a guy, being pulled down, and trying to get up off the ground – and why you see me pushing his helmet down, because I’m trying to remove myself from the situation, and as I’m getting up, I’m getting pushed, so I’m getting myself on balance.”
In less than two seasons as a pro, Suh has established himself as one of the game’s strongest and most athletic defensive linemen, but he’s also received his share of fines.
Suh requested and received a meeting earlier this season with Commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss his play. He said that dialogue was helpful, but now the league will have to decide whether more punishment – be it a fine, a suspension or both – is merited in this case.
“I can’t speak on that,” Suh said. “I don’t have a decision in that.”
In 2006, Albert Haynesworth, who was then with the Tennessee Titans, was suspended five games after swiping his cleats across the head of a helmetless Dallas player. Suh’s stomp wasn’t toward Dietrich-Smith’s head, and the Green Bay player didn’t seem too much worse for wear.
Suh’s penalty helped turn a close game into a rout. It came on third down when the Lions appeared to have forced Green Bay to settle for a short field goal. Instead, the Packers scored a touchdown moments later, taking a 14-0 lead on John Kuhn’s 1-yard run.
“We kept things between the whistles,” Rodgers said. “That’s how we’ve been coached, and we stayed disciplined.” The Packers now lead San Francisco by two games in the race for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The defending Super Bowl champions are 11-0 for the first time in franchise history and have won 17 straight games, including the playoffs.
“We’re at 11 wins,” McCarthy said. “Once you get to 11 or 12, you start focusing on winning your division. After that comes home-field advantage, and after that comes winning the Super Bowl. Those are always the three goals in Green Bay.
If a bonus goal comes up along the way, we’ll deal with it, but those are the three we care about.” Rodgers was 22 of 32 for 307 yards. He threw a 3-yard TD pass to Greg Jennings with 4:51 left in the first half to break a scoreless tie, and a 65-yarder to James Jones in the third for a 21-0 lead.
Detroit dropped its eighth straight Thanksgiving game.
The Lions lost two starting defensive backs early on, when cornerback Chris Houston and safety Louis Delmas left with knee injuries. Cornerback Brandon McDonald was also helped off in the second half.
Kevin Smith, who had given the Detroit running game a much-needed boost last weekend when he ran for 140 yards against Carolina, went down with a right ankle injury. He said an X-ray was negative.
Green Bay also had its share of injuries, to players like running back James Starks (ankle) and linebackers A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop (calves). But the situation become so dire for the Lions that wide receiver Rashied Davis was playing in the defensive backfield toward the end.
The Lions committed 11 penalties for 82 yards, including three important ones when they were in Green Bay territory early on. Matthew Stafford threw for 276 yards and a touchdown, but he was also intercepted three times.
Detroit’s Keiland Williams scored on a 16-yard run, and Stafford threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson with 11 seconds left in the game.