Sure, the Lions could have scored some more touchdowns Monday night. Their offense started hot, with a neat flea-flicker for a 66-yard gain on the first drive, and a 58-yard Matthew Stafford bomb to wideout Marvin Hall on the second. For all the opportunities in the red zone, they couldn’t get the job done. The momentum slowly slipped away; the Lions settled for five field goals. Convert one of those and the game ends differently, no question. They also could have not made the exceedingly boneheaded move of lining up with twelve men on a Green Bay field goal attempt in the second quarter and gifting the Packers a fresh set of downs; that cost them four points.
But for all their miscues on offense, the Lions probably would have left Green Bay with a win, had it not been for a pair of awful late penalties that helped the Packers seal up a 23-22 victory on a walk-off field goal.
The first came on the Packers’ second-to-last offensive possession in the fourth quarter, the Lions leading 22-13. Defensive tackle Kevin Strong sacked Aaron Rodgers for what would have been an 11-yard loss on third-and-10, but an illegal hands to the face call on Lions defensive end Trey Flowers kept the drive alive. The replay pretty clearly shows Flowers’s hands on the left shoulder pad of a Packers offensive lineman, not far up enough to be near his face. In any case, it was first down, Green Bay. Three plays later, Rodgers connected with Allen Lazard for a touchdown, and the Lions’ lead was cut to two.
On the last Packers possession at third-and-4, refs called another hands to the face on Flowers to give Green Bay a new set of downs in the red zone and an opportunity to burn the final 1:36 off the clock before kicking their game-winning field goal. Flowers, again, seemed like he only had his hands on offensive tackle David Bakhtiari’s shoulder pads. (In fact, Bakhtiari probably could have been called for grabbing Flowers’s facemask.) Barry Sanders was beside himself.
So, Detroit got close and was swiftly denied. What’s new? As Green Bay drove down the field in the final few minutes of the game, the Packers only down by two, the dread began to sink in. If you’ve had the misfortune of watching enough Lions football, it was a familiar feeling. You knew they didn’t stand a chance.