DETROIT — The Detroit Lions desperately want to end some skids.
Detroit (6-5) has lost two straight games, blowing chances to take command of the NFC North.
The Lions have dropped five in a row against the Green Bay Packers (5-5-1) and a franchise-record nine straight on Thanksgiving. When they limp into their annual showcase on the holiday, a quarterback who cashed in by carving them up is playing in place of Aaron Rodgers.
Matt Flynn will start his first game for Green Bay since Jan. 1, 2012, when he threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns in a 45-41 win over Detroit. A couple months later, he signed a $26 million, three-year deal with Seattle. The Seahawks traded him in March to Oakland after he barely played last year. Then, the Raiders and Buffalo Bills both cut him in a one-month span earlier this season.
The Packers were happy to welcome him back two weeks ago because none of their backups took full advantage of a chance to play after Rodgers fractured his left collarbone Nov. 4 against Chicago. Rodgers was ruled out Wednesday and Flynn was made the starter.
“He’s obviously comfortable with their offense,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. “He stepped right in. Last week, they were down 16 points (to Minnesota), he led them back and they got a tie.”
Following are things to know about the 21st Packers-Lions game on Thanksgiving.
LOSING LATELY: Detroit has failed to make the most out of opportunities to put itself in a great position to earn a division title for the first time since 1993. It blew chances to beat Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh, teams with losing records, leaving the franchise relegated to a first-place tie with Chicago and a half-game lead over the Packers. Green Bay is 0-3-1 in its last four games, a span linked directly to Rodgers’ injury, in the franchise’s worst stretch since losing five straight toward the end of the 2008 season. “This whole team is overdue to get a win in general,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “But obviously with the injuries on this team and where we’re at, it’s time for the defense to step up.”
MOTOR CITY’S MEGATRON: The only thing that has stopped Calvin Johnson lately is himself. He coughed up a catch in the final minute of last week’s loss to the Buccaneers inside their 5, and that led to Matthew Stafford’s fourth interception. Johnson has the most yards receiving (861) over five games in NFL history and has 1,198 yards receiving and 11 TDs in 10 games. He missed one game this year, sitting out at Green Bay with an injured right knee. The Packers hope the return of cornerback Sam Shields, who missed the previous two games with a hamstring injury, will help their chances of slowing down Johnson.
HARSH WORDS: The Lions have developed a bad reputation on defense, led by tackle Ndamukong Suh. He infamously stomped on the right arm of Green Bay guard Evan Dietrich-Smith two years ago on Thanksgiving. Green Bay offensive guard Josh Sitton said if Rodgers was playing, the Lions would take a penalty and fine to put a hard hit on him. “Their entire defense takes cheap shots all the time,” Sitton said Tuesday in an interview with Milwaukee radio station WSSP 1250. “That’s what they do. That’s who they are. ... They’re a bunch of dirtbags ... that’s how they play, and that’s how they’re coached.”
LEANING ON LACY: Green Bay has leaned on rookie Eddie Lacy, handing off the ball to him an average of 23 times over the last eight games and getting 755 yards rushing and five TDs from the second-round pick. “He’s done a remarkable job of carrying that load,” Schwartz said. Lacy might have a tough time having success against the Lions. Detroit ranks fourth in the NFL against the run, giving up 88 yards a game. It has been even better lately, allowing an average of just 43.8 yards rushing over the last five games.
SHOWCASE SLUMP: The Lions have not won on Thanksgiving since beating Green Bay a decade ago. Detroit is coming off a competitive game for a change on the holiday. The Lions lost 34-31 to Houston in overtime. They might’ve won in regulation if Schwartz didn’t throw a challenge flag to negate an automatic review, which likely would’ve overturned an 81-yard TD run for the Texans.
Detroit lost the previous eight games on Thanksgiving by an average of 21.5 points.
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