By Jeff O'Brien

Aaron Rodgers has played for the NFC championship four times without having his cleats in the turf at Lambeau Field once.

He hopes to change that fact next month.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) scores a touchdown during the first second of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Michigan USA, on Sunday, December 13, 2020. (Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Rodgers ran for a tiebreaking score in the third quarter and threw three touchdown passes, lifting the Green Bay Packers to a 31-24 win over the Detroit Lions to clinch the NFC North title.

The Packers (10-3) also moved into the top spot in the NFC. That gives them a shot to have home-field advantage on a potential path to the conference’s only bye in the NFL’s pandemic-altered postseason format — and maybe to the Super Bowl.

“To have the whole thing come through Green Bay is something we’ve talked about for a long time,” Rodgers said. “That would definitely be in our favor with the weather that we have in Green Bay.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – DECEMBER 13: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass to Robert Tonyan #85 during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 13, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

“That’s definitely in play now.”

The New Orleans Saints lost to Philadelphia to fall back into a tie with Green Bay atop the NFC, and they would lose a potential tiebreaker because they lost to the Packers earlier this season. Green Bay repeated as division champion with its win and Minnesota’s loss to Tampa Bay earlier in the day.

The Lions (5-8) lost Matthew Stafford in the fourth quarter with a rib injury, but their latest setback was tied to their inability to stop Rodgers.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – DECEMBER 13: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions grabs his side after being tackled during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field on December 13, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

The two-time MVP and one-time Super Bowl champion completed his first eight passes for 119 yards and two scores. Rodgers finished 26 of 33 for 290 yards, three TDs, and did not throw an interception for a third straight game.

“He should be the front-runner for the MVP,” Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur said.

Rodgers ran 6 yards untouched to put the Packers ahead 21-14 for his 30th career rushing TD to break Tobin Rote’s team record for a quarterback.

Green Bay receiver Davante Adams also broke a franchise record.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – DECEMBER 13: Davante Adams #17 of the Green Bay Packers runs with the ball during the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 13, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

He extended his touchdown reception streak to eight games, turning a short pass from Rodgers into a 56-yard touchdown to pull into a 7-7 tie in the first quarter. Adams broke the franchise record set by Hall of Famer Don Hutson, who had a pair of seven-game streaks in the 1940s. He finished with seven catches for 115 yards.

“He’s such a difference-maker and commands so much respect and dictates coverage,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers also threw a 14-yard TD pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s back shoulder to put the Packers ahead 14-7 in the opening minute of the second quarter. Tight end Robert Tonyan made his ninth TD reception early in the fourth quarter.

Stafford went toward the team’s locker room in the fourth period, returned to the field to throw some passes, then retreated out of view again. Lions interim coach Darrell Bevell said it was too early to know how significant Stafford’s injury was, adding the team would know more Monday after X-rays.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – DECEMBER 13: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions walks off the field after being defeated by the Green Bay Packers 31-24 at Ford Field on December 13, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

“He’s one of the toughest kids in this league,” Bevell said.

Stafford was 24 of 34 for 244 yards with a 1-yard TD pass to T.J. Hockenson to cap the opening drive.

Chase Daniel replaced Stafford and led a drive that ended with Matt Prater’s 32-yard field goal with 1:49 left to pull the Lions within seven points. The Lions’ comeback hopes were dashed when the ensuing onside kick didn’t go 10 yards and Rodgers completed a pass to convert a third down on his final possession.

PIVOT POINT

Rodgers directed a 14-play, 8:49 possession and took advantage of penalties to open the second half and his 6-yard run gave Green Bay a 21-14 lead. The Packers ran 21 plays in the third period for 143 yards, while the Lions had just three snaps on offense and gained just 4 yards.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – DECEMBER 13: Mike Ford #38 of the Detroit Lions attempts to tackle Aaron Jones #33 of the Green Bay Packers during the second half at Ford Field on December 13, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

“That’s a really tough spot for our defense,” Daniel said.

JUST KICKING IT

Green Bay made it a two-score game with 3:30 remaining on Mason Crosby’s 57-yard field goal and celebrated with him in a place where he hasn’t always had success. Mason missed four field goals and an extra point in a 31-23 loss at Detroit in 2018.

“He hasn’t kicked the way he wants to in this building,” Adams said. “It says a lot about him and the mindset to move past what happened before. We obviously needed that. It was big.

INJURIES

Packers: CB Chandon Sullivan (hip) was hurt during the game and LaFleur said DE Rashan Gary, who had one sack, had his playing time limited because of an undisclosed injury.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – DECEMBER 13: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions reacts during the second half against the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field on December 13, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Lions: Stafford hurt his ribs and CB Darryl Roberts left with a hip injury in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Packers: host the Carolina Panthers (4-9) on Saturday night.

Lions: play at the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans (9-4).

 

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