Thursday, August 21, 2014

Packers stay in playoff hunt

DETROIT—M.D. Jennings caught the deflected pass—and there was no doubt about this interception.
Then it simply was a matter of how far he could return it.

“The ball was tipped and I was in the right position to make a play on the ball,” the Green Bay defensive back noted.
“I saw a bunch of offensive lineman,” he added. “I was like, ‘Man, I can’t let an offensive lineman tackle me.’”
Jennings went 72 yards to the end zone in the third quarter and Packers went on to beat the Detroit Lions 24-20 yesterday—moving a step closer to solidifying their playoff chances in the NFC.
It was Jennings who had both hands on the ball in the end zone at the end of a game at Seattle earlier this season, but replacement officials ruled simultaneous possession by him and receiver Golden Tate, giving the Seahawks the winning touchdown.
Green Bay (7-3) has won six-of-seven since then, including five in a row.
The Lions took back the lead after Jennings’ touchdown, but they couldn’t hold on. Aaron Rodgers threw two touchdown passes on the day, including a 22-yarder to Randall Cobb with 1:55 left that gave the Packers a 21-20 lead.
Mason Crosby added a 39-yard field goal with 19 seconds to go after missing two kicks earlier in the game.
Detroit (4-6), meanwhile, has dropped two in a row and remains in last place in the NFC North.
The Packers moved to a half-game behind first-place Chicago in the division. The Bears play at San Francisco tonight.
Calvin Johnson caught five passes for 143 yards and a touchdown for the Lions, but nobody else emerged as a consistent receiving threat.
Matthew Stafford went 17-of-39 for 266 yards, with two interceptions.
His pass in the third quarter toward Tony Scheffler was high and behind the tight end, deflecting off his hands before being picked off by Jennings and returned for a touchdown.
“Obviously I have to play better to give us a chance to win,” said Stafford, who also lost a fumble yesterday.
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.
“I had a corner route and the defender jumped outside at the inside release,” Cobb recalled.
“Aaron stuck with me,” he added. “He gave me a chance.
“He threw it up and I just had to make a play for it.”
Stafford’s 25-yard TD pass to Johnson put Detroit up 17-14 late in the third, but the Lions couldn’t hold on.
“Our passing game definitely wasn’t clicking,” noted Detroit coach Jim Schwartz.
“I’ll give some credit to the Packers—they play a lot of tight match coverage.”
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 wasted a chance to extend their advantage.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow right now,” admitted Detroit centre Dominic Raiola. “We turned the ball over at key times.
“When we get the ball down there [red zone], we’ve got to punch it in,” he stressed. “We could have made that a two-score game.
“It’s hard to swallow right now, it’s hard to talk about.”
The Lions also had some drama on the sideline with receivers’ coach Shawn Jefferson screaming in the direction of offensive co-ordinator Scott Linehan late in the game.
After Green Bay took the lead, Detroit turned the ball over on downs when Stafford’s desperation heave toward Scheffler fell incomplete.
“I’d rather not go into it,” Schwartz said.
“Everybody was disappointed in not being able to score a touchdown on that last drive.”
Elsewhere in the NFL, New England bombed Indianapolis 59-24, Dallas edged Cleveland 23-20 (OT), the N.Y. Jets beat St. Louis 27-13, Houston topped Jacksonville 43-37 (OT), Cincinnati dumped Kansas City 28-6, and Washington crushed Philadelphia 31-6.
Arizona beat Atlanta 23-19, Tampa Bay shaded Carolina 27-21 (OT), New Orleans dumped Oakland 38-17, Denver downed San Diego 30-23, and Baltimore edged Pittsburgh 13-10.

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