GREEN BAY, Wis. — For all their talent and high expectations, the Green Bay Packers still haven't turned in the kind of performance that proves they can play like one of the NFL's elite teams for a full game.
The Packers appeared ready to rout the Detroit Lions when Charles Woodson returned an interception 48 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter Sunday. Instead, they let the Lions back in the game and barely held on for a 28-26 victory.
Green Bay is 3-1, but the Packers weren't in the mood to celebrate.
“Doesn't feel like it, does it?” Packers coach Mike McCarthy asked.
If Sunday's game didn't feel like a satisfying win for the Packers, it also didn't feel like anything approaching a moral victory for the Lions (0-4).
It was the franchise's 20th straight loss to the Packers in the state of Wisconsin, a streak that began in 1992. The Lions showed that they're more dangerous than they have been in the recent past, but it wasn't enough to win.
“This team doesn't need me to stand up here and say how close we are,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “I think it's obvious to anybody that watches our game, anybody that follows us, the people in the locker room, everyone else. It's our job to get over the hump. We're right on it, we just can't get over the hump.”
The Packers led 28-14 after Woodson scored early in the third quarter, but the Lions rallied for four straight Jason Hanson field goals to cut the lead to two points. A final drive by the Packers ran out the clock.
Aaron Rodgers threw for 181 yards with three touchdowns but also threw a pair of interceptions for the Packers, who were coming off a sloppy performance in a loss at Chicago on Monday night.
“It's a win, so we're happy about that,” Rodgers said. “Offensively, we've got to find our identity again.”
Rodgers hinted that he would have liked to see Packers coaches use more multiple-receiver formations to spread the Lions out.
“We've got to make sure we get our best players on the field at all times, and find ways to get them the ball,” Rodgers said.
Detroit again was without injured quarterback Matthew Stafford, but backup Shaun Hill looked poised. Hill threw for 331 yards and two touchdowns to Calvin Johnson for the Lions, who made the game close despite committing 13 penalties.
“Guys fought hard today, they fought so hard,” Hill said. “We deserved that win, we deserved to get the feeling of a win in this locker room. We really do. I just feel terrible that we haven't got that yet.”
Woodson wasn't worried about style points.
“It was a tough game,” Woodson said. “It doesn't matter if it's a good-looking game, an ugly game, it don't matter. As long as you win, that's the main point.”
With Detroit facing second-and-10 at its own 38 early in the third quarter, Woodson picked off a pass intended for Johnson, got up off the ground and raced to the end zone, leaping the final few yards and stretching his arms out with the ball for the score.
The Lions challenged the play, but it was upheld and the Packers led 28-14.
The Lions didn't roll over, driving for a field goal on their next possession to cut the Packers' lead to 28-17. Cornerback Chris Houston then picked off a Rodgers pass at the Lions' 7 to stop a Packers scoring drive.
Hill's 40-yard scramble then set up a 52-yard field goal by Hanson, the Packers went three-and out and the Lions drove again, and Hanson hit a 49-yarder to bring the Lions within five points.
Then Green Bay's Jordy Nelson fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, giving the ball back to the Lions at the Green Bay 18. The Packers made a defensive stand and forced a 24-yard Hanson field goal, cutting Green Bay's lead to 2 with 11:51 left.
Rodgers threw deep for Greg Jennings on the first play of the Packers' next possession — but cornerback Alphonso Smith wrestled the ball away for an interception. Detroit drove to the Green Bay 37, but the defense held.
“When we're rolling, I think we're one of the best offenses in the league,” running back Jahvid Best said. “[We've] just got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot with either penalties or mistakes. It's just self-inflicted wounds.”
The Packers and converted fullback John Kuhn finally were able to establish a running game on their last possession, successfully running out the clock.
“Mike had to remind us twice in the locker room that we did get a win,” Kuhn said.
NOTES: Green Bay played much of the game without rookie safety Morgan Burnett, who left the game in the first half to get his knee X-rayed and was replaced by Derrick Martin. Burnett's injury was classified as a sprain. ... Hill was the Lions' leading rusher with 53 yards. ... The Packers' streak of 20 straight home wins against the Lions includes a 1994 playoff game.
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