Packers squeak out win over Lions to secure needed playoff bye

DETROIT -- The Green Bay Packers have a week off to get ready for their first playoff game, and by the looks of things at Ford Field on Sunday, they're going to need it.

A week after they looked like a Super Bowl contender, the Packers played like a team unworthy of a first-round bye for a good part of the afternoon.

Their 13th win of the season -- 23-20 on Mason Crosby's last-second, 33-yard field goal -- was one of their ugliest, and that's saying something considering they've been winning that way for the better part of December.

After they squeaked out a win over the Redskins in Week 14, Rodgers said he "wouldn't mind winning ugly all the way to the Super Bowl."

At least the Packers' road to Miami got easier.

They secured a first-round bye and will host a divisional-round playoff game at Lambeau Field on the second weekend of January. Win that game, and they will play for the NFC championship and a berth in the Super Bowl.

A loss to the Lions would have dropped the Packers to the No. 3 seed, which would have forced them to play on wild-card weekend with that game possibly being their only home playoff game.

Still, Sunday's performance was hardly the convincing win that was the Packers' Monday night victory in Minnesota six days earlier.

Those who have thought Rodgers is on the decline had plenty of supporting evidence. Rodgers was an overthrow machine: In the first half alone, he overthrew eight of his 12 incompletions. He had 16 overthrows for incompletions total. Not only was that a career high, but it's the most by a quarterback in a game since ESPN began tracking them in 2006.

“Too many missed throws,” Rodgers said. “Felt good about the throws, that’s the crazy thing. Felt good about some of those I overthrew by a couple yards. Just a little bit off at times. But when we had to make some plays we made some plays.

“I think right from the first play we were a little bit off the entire first half, but we came back with some simpler stuff in the second half. Still didn’t connect on some ones we had chances to, but no, just a little bit off today.”

Rodgers' cast of receivers, outside of Davante Adams, did little to help him, but Rodgers rarely adjusted well enough to put the ball on the money. On his first throw of the second half, Rodgers sailed one over an open Allen Lazard on a deep post.

The game turned late in the third quarter when Rodgers finally put a deep throw on the money to Adams for a 20-yard touchdown on a ball thrown across the field.

That seemed to dial Rodgers in. He led Lazard to the goal line on a 28-yard touchdown pass down to the seam to tie the game at 20 with 5:19 to play, and then Aaron Jones slithered for 31 yards on a screen to set up Crosby's winning kick.

Rodgers finished 27-of-55 for 323 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

The Packers avoided a loss as a 13-point favorite against a Lions team (3-12-1) that had not won in more than two months. According to ELIAS, it's only the second time in NFL history a team went 2-0 against an opponent despite not holding a lead in regulation. The other instance was the 1977 49ers over the Saints. Crosby made the game winner at the end of regulation in the Packers’ Week 6 win over the Lions.

“We haven’t always made it easy, we haven’t always made it pretty, but for the most part we’ve found a way pretty much every game,” Adams said.

Biggest hole in the game plan: Where was the short passing game to get Rodgers in a rhythm, and where was the pressure on a rookie backup quarterback? Yes, Rodgers played his worst half of the season, but Packers coach Matt LaFleur didn't appear to help him with many short-to-intermediate throws. Rodgers was 1-for-7 in the first quarter, his second-worst completion percentage in an opening quarter in his career behind only his 0-for-2 first quarter against the Lions in Week 17 of the 2014 season, according to ESPN Stats & Info. This Lions pass defense came in ranked last in the NFL. Through three quarters, the Packers managed only one hit on Blough.

Promising trend: Jones eclipsed the 1,000-yard-rushing mark for the first time in his career, and he's under contract for one more season on his rookie deal. Jones came into the game needing just 16 yards to reach that mark and finished with 100 yards on 25 carries along with two catches for 43 yards. He avoided an injury scare in the second quarter when he got his right hand stepped on, but he returned to the game after a brief medical exam. The only thing missing was a score. He finished on 19 touchdowns -- one short of the Packers' single-season record.

Promising trend II: Adams missed another 1,000-yard season by 3 yards. It's the second time in his career he's finished a year at 997, but his seven-catch, 93-yard, one-touchdown game has him headed into the postseason on a roll. He had games with 116 and 103 yards the previous two weeks.

Troubling trend: Healthy for most of the season, the Packers suffered two injuries to the offensive line. Center Corey Linsley dropped out of the game in the first half with a back injury, and Lucas Patrick finished the game. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga came out in the second half to be evaluated for a concussion, and Jared Veldheer replaced him for his first action of the season.