GREEN BAY – Burning questions: Offense driving, defense stopping, key plays going the Detroit Lions' way and other issues in their 30-17 victory over the Green Bay Packers in a crucial game Monday night:
Question: Was it really a "must win" game, and what does winning mean for the Lions?
Answer: Mathematically it wasn't a must win because there were eight games left, win or lose. A lot can happen in those games. But realistically, it was a game the Lions had to win to stay in the playoff race and have any thought of being a serious contender for the NFC North title.
Q. The Lions' performance: Rate it.
A. It wasn't their most artistic performance in recent seasons, but it was coldly efficient. The end result was that they did what they had to do – win a game to get their record to 4-4 at the halfway point so they can make a run to their third playoff appearance in four seasons under head coach Jim Caldwell.
Bottom line: The Lions had an answer for every challenge by the Packers, who were handicapped by having to play with backup quarterback Brett Hundley. Whenever they faced a threat of Green Bay getting back in the game, the Lions came up with something on offense or defense to keep control.
Q. NFC North race: How does it shape up now?
A. Minnesota is still the team to beat with a 6-2 record. The Lions and Packers are tied for second at 4-4, but the Lions' edge is that they have beaten the Vikings and Packers on the road and will play both teams again at Ford Field.
The race is on – for now, and football season is fun in Detroit. It would have been doom with a loss.
**Q. Fourth and go, stop: One of the key plays was early in the fourth quarter, when the Packers had fourth and two at the 50 and went for it. Right call by Packers head coach Mike McCarthy? And what happened to stop the play?
A. Right call by McCarthy with his team behind, 17-3. They had to make something happen there. What happened to stop the play is Glover Quin happened.
The Packers tried a misdirection run by Randall Cobb, and Quin was not fooled. He's one of the smartest players in the league, and he read it perfectly, throwing Cobb for a three-yard loss.
The Lions did not cash in immediately, but that play turned the ball over to the offense and let the Lions eat up time until they eventually put the game away.
Q. Aaron Rodgers, missing man: The Packers were without their star quarterback, and he likely will miss the rest of the season because of a broken collarbone. Any sympathy for the Packers for not having one of the NFL's biggest stars?
A. I don't like to see anybody get hurt, but that is one of the hazards of the NFL. Injuries happen. The Lions went 0-16 in 2008 playing with backup quarterbacks, and nobody gave them a break.
It's hard to feel sorry for a franchise that has been blessed to have the lineage of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers playing quarterback for 27 seasons – from 1992-2007 with Favre starting and from 2008 through this season with Rodgers.
*Q. Weird stat: What was the strangest stat of the first half? *
A. Easy choice. The Packers had nine first downs in the half. Five were on their first possession, which ended with a missed field-goal attempt caused in part by a bad snap. Four were on their last possession, that ended in a field goal.
They didn't gain a first down on any other possessions in the half.
Q. A downer: Did it leave a sour taste that the Packers were able to kick a field goal on the last play of the first half to cut the deficit to 14-3?
A. A little bit, yes. It didn't ruin the first half, but it put a little tarnish on it. And it wasn't so much that the Packers finally scored. It was the fact that they made a couple plays at the start of the possession that kept the Lions from having a chance to add to the lead before halftime.
Q. Third-down downer: There was a little play at the start of the Packers' last possession of the half that made a difference. What was it?
A. The Lions really were in good shape to get the ball back and add to their lead when the Packers faced a third and three at their 22 with 2:04 left in the half. The Packers gained eight yards on a run by Ty Montgomery on a draw play for the first down.
If the Lions had stopped the run, they would have gotten the ball back around their 25 or 30 after the two-minute warning.
That didn't happen, though.
There was a bright side. The Lions were receiving the second-half kickoff, which gave them a chance to add to their lead.
They did that, with a field goal to make the lead 17-3 – with more to come by the Lions in a critical game that they dominated.