Lions-Packers Burning Questions: Interception opportunities making a difference, an early lead for the Lions and coaching decisions in a 23-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers in the final game of the season at Ford Field.
Question: What is the bottom line thought on the game?
Answer: It was a microcosm of the season. The Lions had the lead for the 14th time in 16 games and they wound up with their 12th loss for a 3-12-1 record.
The Lions gave it everything they had, but what they had wasn't good enough to beat a Packers team that is headed to the playoffs with a 13-3 record and the NFC North title.
There are decisions ahead for the Lions, but for this moment in time they can look at Sunday's game as one that was too much like so many others.
View photos from the Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers Week 17 game at Ford Field on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019 in Detroit.
Q. Pick time: What made the difference in the game?
A. Interceptions, and what the Lions and Packers did with them, made the difference.
The Packers got a fourth-quarter interception on a poor throw by rookie quarterback David Blough and used the opportunity to drive to a touchdown and a 17-17 tie.
The Lions stopped a go-ahead drive by the Packers with an interception late in the fourth quarter but went three and out and punted.
The Packers got the ball with 1:27 left and drove to the game-winning field goal as time ran out.
Q. First strike Lions, surprise? The Lions scored the first touchdown for a 7-0 lead on a trick play – wide receiver Danny Amendola's 19-yard pass to Blough. It caught the Packers flat-footed, but should they have been surprised?
A. No. The Lions tricked the Packers for a TD in the last game last year at Lambeau, and they did it in the first game at Lambeau in Week 6. Last year it was a pass from kicker Matt Prater to tight end Levine Toilolo out of the field goal formation, and in Week 6 this year it was a long pass to wide receiver Kenny Golladay on a flea flicker.
Three trick plays, and they all worked – for two TDs and a long gain that set up a field goal.
Q. Amendola's arm: He's known for having a strong arm – according to Danny, anyway. How had he done before the throw to Blough?
A. It was the third pass of his career, and now he's completed all three for 83 yards and two TDs. He had a 36-yard completion with New England in 2015 and a 28-yard completion for a touchdown for Miami last year.
Q. Challenge: Any doubt that head coach Matt Patricia knew he was going to win a challenge on a second-quarter pass that was ruled a completion for Packers wide receiver Davante Adams and a first down in Lions' territory?
A. No doubt. Patricia had the red challenge flag out and ready to throw it before the ball had stopped rolling. He was quicker on the trigger than Doc Holliday beating Johnny Ringo to the draw in "Tombstone."
The catch clearly was out of bounds, making it third down.
Q. Blitz, sack: What was your thought when rookie safety Will Harris sacked Rodgers on the next play, forcing the Packers to punt?
A. My first thought was, why hadn't they done that more often, given the lack of a pass rush most of the season?
Q. Fourth and go: Any surprise the Lions went for it on fourth and a foot instead of kicking a field goal to pad their lead to 10-0?
A. No, and right call by the coaching staff. The Lions were on a roll, with nothing to lose, and they had the Packers on their heels. Running back Kerryon Johnson blasted through a hole on the left side into the end zone to make it 14-0.
Q. First half key: What was the key overall to the Lions having a 17-3 lead at halftime?
A. For the Lions it was the running game – 117 yards – and defense. They had a 251-136 advantage in yards. For the Packers, it was the abysmal play by Rodgers. He completed six of 18 passes for 90 yards and he had to get hot at the end of the half to do that.
He hit on only two of his first 12 passes and was off target often, missing open receivers that he usually hits routinely.
Q. Second half key: What was it for the Lions?
A. Play steady, smart football in all phases. Make the Packers earn yards, first downs and points. They did that early in the third quarter, forcing the Packers to settle for a 51-yard field goal attempt that Mason Crosby missed.
That kept the score at 17-3 – with more work to do.
Q. Packers, tighten up: What was most disappointing about Adams' 20-yard TD catch on third and 10 that cut it to 17-10 with 3:10 left?
A. It was the explosion of cheers from Packers fans at the game. They didn't outnumber Lions fans, but the Lions had to keep them quiet. Cutting the lead to seven points – a touchdown – kept the Packers and their fans in the game, with a lot of time left.
Q. Prater time: Right call to go for a 56-yard field goal on fourth and two after the Packers had cut it to 17-13?
A. Yes. It's never wrong to go for a long field goal with Matt Prater kicking. He's the best long distance kicker in NFL history.
Go for it every time.
Unfortunately for the Lions, the Packers rallied to win.