MIKE O'HARA

O'Hara: The close of Sunday's game said everything about the Lions, Packers

Posted Nov 18, 2012

All that counts is the record and how it sank another notch to 4-6 with Sunday's 24-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field.

Break out all the clichés - how the Lions got a jump on the Thanksgiving holiday by being kind to visitors, or that the offense left early to get a jump on traffic heading out of town.

They've all been heard before, along with the old refrains that stings the most: "same old Lions."

Sick of hearing that last one? So are the Lions.

None of those words matter now.

All that counts is the record and how it sank another notch to 4-6 with Sunday's 24-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field.

When the game was on the line to be won or lost, a Packers team that is used to winning took command against a Lions team that has made winning a novelty.

The game was decided in the last 5:21, when the Lions had 1st-and-goal at the Packers' 10-yard line with a 17-14 lead. A touchdown would have made it a two-possession game in the Lions' favor.

It was a time for the Lions to step up and beat a team that has been their nemesis for two decades. Instead of stepping up, they fell back, and the Packers left town with their superiority intact.

The narrative on that last 5:21 is as familiar as the National Anthem.

Field goal for the Lions and a 20-14 lead.

Touchdown drive for the Packers to go ahead 21-20.

Four plays and out - not even a first down - on the Lions' next possession.

Lead-strangling field goal by the Packers with 24 seconds left to end any realistic hope of a comeback.

End of game - Packers heading home with a five-game winning streak for a 7-3 record, and the Lions at home in the dumps after the game.

It was especially grim because of the impact of the loss on the Lions' flickering playoff hopes.

There were other signs that indicated some fissures in the team's harmony. The Fox network cameras caught a heated exchange late in the game between offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson.

Starting receiver Titus Young, who seemed out of sync all game, was on the bench for the last possession.

Coach Jim Schwartz did not address what had transpired between Linehan and Jefferson.

"I'd rather not go into it," Schwartz said. "Everybody was disappointed in not being able to score a touchdown on that last drive."

Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who had his shakiest game since his rookie season, had no real answer for either situation.

"I don't know," he said when asked about the Linehan-Jefferson matter.

What about Young being benched?

"It's not my decision," he said. "I have no idea."

It was not a good game for Stafford. He completed 17-of-39 passes for 266 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He also lost a fumble when stripped from behind on a second-quarter scramble.

The second pick came on a ball thrown high and slightly behind tight end Tony Scheffler midway through the third quarter. Packers safety M.D. Jennings returned it 72 yards for a score and a 14-10 Packers lead.

That was a body blow, but not a mortal wound. The Lions came back to take leads of 17-14 and 20-14, but they couldn't hold the advantage.

The last 5:21 told the story of the game, and said everything about the two teams.

With 1st-and-goal at the 10, the Lions had a chance to put their foot on the Packers' windpipe and take command. Instead, they attacked with ballet slippers - two runs by Mikel Leshoure for a three-yard gain and a two-yard loss.

On third down, Young could not get free in the end zone to catch a pass from Stafford that sailed harmlessly to the turf to his left.

After Jason Hanson's 27-yard field goal extended the lead to 20-14, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers took over. It took only six plays to go 82 yards. The drive ended on a 22-yard pass to second-year receiver Randall Cobb, who caught the ball behind a flailing Jacob Lacey and before Ricardo Silva could get over in time to make a play.

There was one more chance for the Lions.

They had first down at their 25, with 1:55 left and needing only a field goal to get the lead.

Four straight incomplete passes - one to Scheffler, two to Young and a final deep ball meant for Scheffler - turned the ball back over to the Packers at the 20.

Mason Crosby's field goal with 19 seconds left widened the lead to four points, but really couldn't have meant less if he had kicked it in pre-game warm-ups.

The result was academic.

So were the words.

Both were all too familiar.