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O'HARA'S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: Lions turn to defense to secure win over Packers

Dan Campbell has been on the losing side of close games so often in his brief tenure as head coach of the Detroit Lions that being on the winning side didn't make him want to celebrate.

Make no mistake, Campbell could not have felt much better about how the Lions hung in from start to finish in Sunday's 15-9 win over the Green Bay Packers.

Struggling through a five-game losing streak that the Lions snapped Sunday was a heavy weight to carry on his back, especially with all the scrutiny that coaches go through when their team isn't winning.

"I'll be honest with you," Campbell said when asked how it felt to win a game – especially in the fashion the Lions dispatched the Packers.

"I'm exhausted. I just want to go home, put my feet up – have a beer."

This week's Monday Countdown looks at how the Lions turned to their defense to win the game, with the emphasis on how they made future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers look less than ordinary while the Lions leaned on their running game on offense to control the tempo.

There's also some young players who made major contributions, takeaways on offense, defense and special teams, what's trending and and the bottom line.

We start with the defense.

1. Picking on Rodgers:

The Lions did something they hadn't earlier – get turnovers. And they did something to Rodgers that has seldom been done in his stellar career by intercepting three of his passes.

That ties the most interceptions Rodgers has had in one game in his career, and the three picks were the most he has had against an opponent in the NFC North.

But more important was how the defense foiled Rodgers at key times.

"Our defense was insane," said left tackle Taylor Decker, who watched from the sidelines between offensive possessions.

All three interceptions were from players drafted in 2022.

Defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson, drafted second overall, had one interception on a deflection. Safety Kerby Joseph, a third-round pick, had two interceptions before going out with a hard hit that put him in the concussion protocol.

In the end, the Lions closed out the game with a defensive stand. Rodgers threw four straight incomplete passes when the Packers had first down at the Lions' 17-yard line on their last possession.

"I'm proud of our guys," Campbell said. "They just don't go away. They think they can win every game. We made one more play today.

"We made one more play than they did."

2. Turmoil: It was a tough week for the Lions off the field. Campbell fired defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant, and tight end T.J. Hockenson was traded to the Vikings on Tuesday.

Pleasant and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn had a close relationship from working together earlier in their career.

"I gave the game ball to AG," Campbell said. "He coaches his heart out."

Campbell likes the results he got from the defense.

"We made them go the hard way," he said. "To go down to the wire our defense made the last stop. I think that's critical."

3. Tight ends, good hands: The trade of Hockenson opened the door for someone to take advantage of the opportunity, and two young tight ends did just that.

Shane Zylstra caught a one-yard pass from Jared Goff with 15 seconds left in the first game to give the Lions their first touchdown. And James Mitchell, a fifth-round pick from Virginia Tech, caught a three-yard pass in the first minute of the fourth quarter for the Lions' other TD.

4. Takeaways, offense:

  • On the run: The numbers weren't big – 31 total carries for 117 yards with Jamaal Williams getting 81 yards on 24 carries – but they let the Lions control the game. The defense had to do its part, of course, and it did just that.
  • Protection: Goff completed 14 of 24 passes with only one sack – which was wiped out by the Packers.
  • Missing the points: The Lions have scored 48 points in the last four games – three more than they scored in a 48-45 loss to Seattle in Week 4.

5. Takeaways, defense:

  • On the ball: Hutchinson played Rodgers' pass into the end zone like he was the intended receiver. It was a tackle eligible play, and Rodgers' throw was short. Hutchinson read the play and made a leaping interception.
  • On the ball, too: Joseph's two interceptions stood out, but they didn't overshadow his 10 tackles – five solo, five assisted – and two passes defended.
  • Return: Cornerback Jerry Jacobs is picking up the pace in his return from knee surgery. He had three tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass defended.

6. Takeaways, special teams:

  • Awareness: Wide receiver Brandon Zylstra showed it in fielding a line drive kickoff for a 19-yard return.
  • Punts: Jack Fox averaged 45.3 yards on three punts with a net of 42 yards. He had one punt downed at the one-yard line. Good punt by Fox. Good work by the coverage team.

7. Trending:

  • Up: Lions' defense. They were good all day, forcing turnovers and closing the door on the Packers at the end.
  • Down: Offense. Only 15 points is barely subsistence level in the modern NFL.
  • Even: Persistence. Maybe it's because they have so many young players, but the Lions come back for more every week. Win or lose, they play hard. That's gotten some attention from the national media. They'd get more if they won more.

8. Bottom line: Any time the Lions beat the Packers and Rodgers it's an accomplishment. The Lions beat the Packers in the final game at Ford field last year. Rodgers did not play the second half. There are no asterisks in pro football. The Lions have a two-game win streak over the Packers.

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