NOAH TRISTER,AP Sports Writer
DETROIT (AP) — Matthew Stafford scrambled to his right and had little choice but to heave a desperate pass down the field toward Tony Scheffler.
Like so many of the Detroit quarterback’s throws on the day, this one didn’t make it to its intended target.
Stafford’s fourth-down throw fell incomplete, and the Lions went on to lose 24-20 to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Detroit remains in last place in the NFC North, its playoff hopes dwindling further with each setback.
The dynamic passing game that lifted the Lions to the postseason in 2011? Nowhere to be found Sunday.
Stafford went 17 of 39 for 266 yards with two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown in the third quarter.
“I didn’t play my best, we didn’t play our best as an offense,” Stafford said. “Getting too many opportunities, turning the ball over too many times.”
Aaron Rodgers threw two touchdown passes, including a 22-yarder to Randall Cobb with 1:55 left that put the Packers ahead 21-20. When Scheffler couldn’t come down with Stafford’s long pass, Green Bay was on the verge of its fifth straight win.
Mason Crosby added a 39-yard field goal with 19 seconds to go after missing two kicks earlier in the game.
“The season is not over, man. We’ve got six games left,” Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson said. “I don’t know what the picture looks like, you know, but that’s what we’re fighting for. We’re fighting for our lives.”
Johnson caught five passes for 143 yards and a touchdown, but nobody else emerged as a consistent receiving threat. Stafford targeted Scheffler 10 times, but their timing seemed off all day. The tight end ended up with only two catches for 22 yards.
Stafford’s pass toward Scheffler in the third quarter was a bit high and behind him, deflecting off his hands before being picked off by M.D. Jennings and returned 72 yards for a touchdown and a 14-10 Green Bay lead.
Stafford threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns last season. He’s on pace to finish with about 4,800 yards this season, but through 10 games he’s only thrown for 12 TDs. Detroit settled for field goals twice after driving inside the Green Bay 10. A 27-yarder by Jason Hanson with 4:25 to play gave the Lions a 20-14 lead, but they’d wasted a chance to extend their advantage.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow right now,” Detroit center Dominic Raiola said. “We turned the ball over at key times. When we get the ball down there, we’ve got to punch it in. We could have made that a two-score game. It’s hard to swallow right now, it’s hard to talk about.”
Stafford also lost a fumble.
Green Bay (7-3) moved a half-game behind first-place Chicago in the NFC North. The Bears play at San Francisco on Monday night.
Detroit (4-6) has dropped two in a row, making its goal of playing in consecutive postseasons very difficult.
Rodgers was 19 of 27 for 236 yards with two TDs, the first of which was a 20-yard connection with wide open Jermichael Finley early in the second quarter to give Green Bay its first lead at 7-3. He also threw an interception.
Cobb had nine catches for 74 yards and the game-winning TD, a twisting grab in the end zone. Finley had three receptions for 66 yards and a score.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We’re a good team. I thought we grew as a team today.”
Stafford’s 25-yard TD pass to Johnson put Detroit ahead 17-14 late in the third, but the Lions couldn’t hold on.
“Our passing game definitely wasn’t clicking,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. “I’ll give some credit to the Packers — they play a lot of tight match coverage.”
Mikel Leshoure had 84 yards rushing and a 1-yard TD run that gave Detroit a 10-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
If Green Bay had lost, Crosby would’ve gotten a lot of the blame for staying in a funk in which he missed seven of 12 field goals. He missed a 50-yard field goal at the end of the first half — failing to take advantage of a second chance after Detroit called a timeout to rattle him — and missed a 38-yard kick midway through the fourth with the Packers down three.
NOTES: Detroit OT Jeff Backus left the game with a hamstring injury. The veteran lineman, who was making his 186th consecutive start, appeared to hurt his right leg.
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