DETROIT — Matthew Stafford and Reggie Bush did their part to keep the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers in the game.
Stafford turned the ball over a few times and Bush did once.
Instead of crumbling and losing confidence, both players bounced back and helped the Detroit Lions put together a dominant performance after an awful start.
Stafford threw three touchdown passes, including one to Calvin Johnson, Bush had 182 yards of offense and scored, and Detroit scored 37 straight points to rout Green Bay 40-10 on Thursday.
“When we get out of our own way, we can be pretty special,” Bush said.
Early on, it looked as if the Lions were going to find another way to waste chances to win a game and take control of the NFC North.
“It’s easy when you lose a couple games in a row, particularly the fashion that we lost, for people to say, ‘Here we go again,’” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. “I’m sure there were some people that were saying that, but they weren’t on our sideline.”
The Lions (7-5) had lost their last two games, five consecutive against Green Bay and a franchise-record nine straight in their annual showcase on Thanksgiving.
“It’s a step in the right direction for us,” Stafford said. “I’m sure the turkey will taste better.”
The Packers (5-6-1) have a five-game winless streak for the first time since 2008.
“We’re not used to anything like this — not on this team,” Green Bay linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “This is something that is going to make a lot of guys on this team think, and that’s good. We need to find some answers because they just ran the ball down our throats.”
Bush responded from fumbling deep in Green Bay territory to score a 1-yard TD run that gave Detroit a 17-10 lead late in the first half. He finished with 117 yards rushing and 65 yards receiving. Bush’ backup, Joique Bell, ran for a career-high 94 yards and a score.
The Packers, painfully, are finding out how valuable Rodgers is for the franchise. Rodgers has missed four-plus games since fracturing his left collarbone. Green Bay has tied one and lost four without him.
“We’re a wounded team that got drilled by a good football team,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
Matt Flynn became the fourth starting quarterback for Green Bay this year and was sacked seven times, once by Ndamukong Suh for a safety.
Flynn didn’t fare as well as he did in his last start for Green Bay against the same opponent.
He was 10 of 20 for 139 yards with an interception and two fumbles. In the last game of the 2011 regular season, while Rodgers rested for the playoffs, Flynn threw for 480 yards and six TDs in a 45-41 win over Detroit.
“They might have a lot of the same guys, but I can say they’re a different defense,” Flynn said. “They’re flying around, creating havoc.”
The Packers have been leaning on rookie running back Eddie Lacy lately, but he was limited to 16 yards on 10 carries against one of the NFL’s best defenses against the run.
Detroit was balanced on offense.
Johnson had six receptions for 101 yards and a 20-yard TD to put the Lions up 24-10 early in the third quarter. He has 4,944 yards receiving in two-plus seasons, breaking Jerry Rice’s NFL record for yards receiving in a three-year stretch. Rice had 4,850 yards receiving from 1993 to 1995.
Stafford was 22 of 35 for 330 yards with two interceptions and a fumble that was returned by Morgan Burnett to put the Packers up 10-3 early in the second quarter.
After that, Detroit did whatever it wanted on both sides of the ball. And if the Lions didn’t start the game so poorly, the score could’ve been even more lopsided.
Detroit gained 561 yards and gave up just 126.
Green Bay didn’t have more than 100 yards of offense until Flynn threw a 56-yard pass to Jordy Nelson with a little more than a minute left. Flynn then fumbled in a fitting end for a game that he and his team would like to forget.
Packers guard Josh Sitton might’ve fired up the Lions, saying they were “dirtbags,” a couple days before the game, but didn’t seem to regret his choice of words.
“I don’t take back anything I said,” Sitton said. “But I don’t want to stand here and discuss it again.”
NOTES: Green Bay C Evan Dietrich-Smith, two years after he was stomped on by Suh, left the game with knee injury and didn’t return. ... Packers TE Ryan Taylor was knocked out of the game and was evaluated for a concussion after a crunching hit by Detroit’s DeAndre Levy, who made his NFL-leading sixth interception during the game. ... Lions CB Chris Houston was inactive with a foot injury and was replaced by rookie Darius Slay.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
Follow Larry Lage on Twitter: http://twitter.com/larrylage