Packers and Lions: A Rivalry Renewed

After years of dominance by the Packers, the Packers and Lions rivalry has come to prominence once again in recent years.

The NFC North is loaded with historic rivalries and the Green Bay Packers have rightfully been the focal point for all three divisional opponents throughout the division’s history.  From the perspective of the Packers and their fanbase, the hatred runs deep for the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings from both a geographical and a historical perspective.  While easy to overlook, the rivalry between the Packers and Lions has a rich history as well and this rivalry comes to the forefront in their week five matchup this Sunday.

For a lot of Packers fans today, the modern renewal of the rivalry between the Packers and Lions started in 1994 when the teams met in consecutive years in the NFC playoffs.  In January of 1994, after losing the division-clinching game the week prior against the Lions, Brett Favre led the Packers into the Silverdome and beat the Lions in dramatic fashion with a final minute touchdown pass to Sterling Sharpe.  The following season, the Packers hosted the Lions in a December playoff game where the Packers prevailed by holding the legendary Barry Sanders to -1 rushing yard on the day.

In the years that followed the January 1994 playoff game through the end of the 2012 season, the Packers completely dominated the Lions to the tune of a 31-9 record.  A huge part of the dominance came at Lambeau Field, where the Lions went winless from the 1992 season until the streak was snapped in 2015.  Because of the sheer control the Packers had in the series for so long and the fact that the Lions had minimal playoff appearances during that stretch, the rivalry had faded to a mere twice per year divisional matchup.

As all good things come to an end, so did the Packers dominance of the Lions at the end of the 2012 season.  Since 2013, the Packers and Lions have split their head to head record at five wins apiece and the Lions have slowly climbed back into legitimacy as a contender in the NFC North.  While skeptics can point to the fact that three of the Lions five wins have come with somebody other than Aaron Rodgers under center for the Packers, the reality is that the Packers have played .500 ball against the Lions for the past five years and it is time to set the rivalry straight again.

Some great games have taken place in the last five years in this renewed rivalry and most notable on each side are the “Miracle in Motown” Hail Mary at the end of regulation in 2015 sealing a Packers win and the Lions securing their first win on Wisconsin soil since 1991 during the 2015 season.  But a big reason for the emergence of the Lions in this series in recent years is the elevated level of play from quarterback Matthew Stafford.  While having his struggles after being the first overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft, Stafford’s emergence prompted the Lions organization to give him a then record-breaking contract at the beginning of the 2017 season.  The contract solidified Stafford’s future in Detroit and was a call to arms to the now veteran quarterback that it was his time to take over the NFC North from Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

But with a 9-7 record to start his campaign as one of the top paid quarterbacks in the league, the first season of the new deal surely didn’t pay off for Stafford and the Lions.  If winning both matchups against a Brett Hundley led offense is any consolation last year, Stafford has to be feeling the urgency early in the season this year.  The Lions enter this weekend’s game with a 1-3 record and desperately looking for a win against the Packers to salvage their season.  With the Lions defense struggling mightily, the need to win on Sunday rests heavily on Stafford’s shoulders.  I expect the Lions offense to come out of gates with guns blazing and with the Packers offense looking to find a groove yet in 2018, the Packers defense may need to prepare for a dogfight come Sunday to come out victorious.  Wanting nothing more than to make the Lions their little brother again in the NFC North, I expect nothing less from Mike Pettine and the Packers defense.

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Ryan Brunner is an avid Packers fan hailing from Chippewa Falls, WI.  He is a firm believer that punters are NFL players too!  Follow him on Twitter @brunwardo

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Comments (13)

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CJ Bauckham's picture

October 02, 2018 at 11:29 am

Big game for the Lions.. they won't be pulling any punches.

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GBPDAN1's picture

October 02, 2018 at 11:56 am

I personally feel that this game against the Lions is a big test for the Packers. By no means am I saying that the Lions are world beaters and the Packers should beat them. But the Packers need to prove they can beat a decent QB on the road ans also prove they can put a solid 4 quarters of football together.

Between the ass kicking the Pack took on the road against Washington, the out of sync offense performance in the 2nd half against the Bills, the defense's inconsistency (aside from against a terrible Bill's offense) so far this year, the Packers need to put it all together against the Lions and get this season kick started. It would be nice if they made a statement this Sunday.

Another bad performance on the road against the Lions will give me no comfort regarding up coming road games against the Rams, Patriots, Vikings and Bears. It's time to get going!

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splitpea1's picture

October 02, 2018 at 12:52 pm

I always thought it was a damn shame we had to play this team on a regular basis. Look up the word "sluggish" and you will find a picture of the Detroit Lions. They've never been any fun to watch, play in a dreary dome, and their uniform colors don't match. The big thing is that they've only managed to win one playoff game in the last six decades (and there was no question that they were going to get steamrolled by the Redskins in the ensuing conference championship game), which is one of the most incredible statistics in major league sports. I think I might have seen a couple fans wearing Lions jerseys in the past, but it could've been my imagination.

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dobber's picture

October 02, 2018 at 01:06 pm

Periodically, the Lions' offense will play like gangbusters for a stretch, but they're not a good football team. They go as Stafford goes and he runs hot and cold even within games. Still, they have weapons on the perimeter and they can run the ball a little bit now. If they can protect Stafford this will be a one-score game. It will just come down to whether the Packers can turn Stafford over.

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Razer's picture

October 02, 2018 at 01:16 pm

The Lions have talent and they have always played us tough. If Stafford has time to throw AND our offense stays stuck in the mud we will not win this game. The Lions are also sprouting a run game, which gives their offense much needed dimension.

Whether it is Detroit, Chicago or Minnesota, these division games are increasingly a 50/50 proposition. I use to think that Aaron Rodgers and company had a big advantage but not so much lately. Our slow start and sloppy football need to end this weekend in Detroit.

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PAPackerbacker's picture

October 02, 2018 at 10:51 pm

I agree. A divisional game is not to be taken lightly, regardless if you're in first or last place. A slow start against the Lions and the Packers will be playing catch up football again. A slow finish can give the losing team a chance to come from behind to even the score or win the game. Any team must be prepared to play hard, smash mouth, in your face, football for 60 minutes. No drive killing penalties, or fumbles and/or interceptions to switch momentum in favor of your opponent. No dropped passes. And run the ball more. Keep the defense off balance. Quit worrying about future opponents and the second half of the season and stay focused on the next game on the schedule, one game at a time. Go! Pack! Go!

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TarynsEyes's picture

October 02, 2018 at 01:32 pm

The Achilles Heel for the Packers over the last 6 seasons has been the defense and it would be hard for anyone to deny such,except hard core kool-aid drinkers. Last weeks most recent display of defensive prowl, though easily abetted by the oppositions offense, now has many boasting of the new ranking which is a facade of illusion in of itself,notwithstanding the placing of the Packers in the top entries.

They have been behind in what defenses were becoming and now it appears the defense may have caught up slightly but the offense has certainly fallen behind at a faster speed then did the defense.

The playbook of this offense appears so dusty compared to those of the new gen offenses,the Packers must spend half the week simply trying to separate the pages carefully so to protect the archival integrity for the museums.

What is more relevant and by far, the most ignored, is the team is at best average and fans boast of a ranking stat that has more holes in it's real relevance to truth than the number of holes in a slice of Swiss cheese.

It took a lot from the offense of Buf to make the defense look worthy but very little from the Buf defense to make the Packer offense look,not horrible, but very far behind the new wave that is here and growing.

If the Packers have any real hope for post season play, they better have some new offense and the defense better be what some think they are after one game against possibly the most inferior offense in the NFL...Buffalo.

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Razer's picture

October 02, 2018 at 01:59 pm

...It took a lot from the offense of Buf to make the defense look worthy but very little from the Buf defense to make the Packer offense look,not horrible, but very far behind the new wave that is here and growing...

Well said. We'll get a better gauge on the defense against a good QB in Matt Stafford. The defense needs more talent at safety, linebacker and D-line. That is a year out at best.

As for the offense, I agree with you

...The playbook of this offense appears so dusty compared to those of the new gen offenses...

I don't think we fool anybody with our formations, routes or play calling and rely entirely on Rodger's arm. I'll add that our use of personnel is suspect as well. Mike seems to get locked into a plans that fail to include his personnel effectively.

I am glad that we beat Buffalo - we should have. The effort and execution was probably the same against Washington the previous week and we all know how that ended.

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Royalty Free GM's picture

October 02, 2018 at 02:53 pm

The thing is that we have used so many years our top draft picks on defense.

And by doing so, we have ignored to help our offense. The ugly truth is that we don’t have enough offense weapons right now to compete.

Good offense is something we have taken for granted.

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porupack's picture

October 03, 2018 at 02:56 am

Disagree. Each draft presents talent value at all levels of the draft order. To say we didn't get offensive weapons is too simplistic. Agreed that TT did not find it sufficiently. Gute (IMHO) found talent late in the draft with 3 very good prospects, after getting good value d prospects in upper rounds. There is good talent on O. The rookie WRs will emerge and become a force to reckon with. They also invested heavily in FA TEs (mixed results).
If anything, I would agree with you that there was not enough investment on Oline (plus some bad luck with Spriggs and CMadison till now). I feel that the Oline has severely limited the Offense, not giving Rodgers enough time.

There is enough talent. There is poor usage, poor execution, many mistakes. Before blaming talent, blame the coaches. If/when the problems remain despite infusion of talent, then you can generally assume the fault lies with coaches. If/when the offense elevates with a couple new faces, then we can conclude it is an issue of talent.
So I believe the Offensive sluggishness has persisted for 5 years+ (since 2012), despite significant new players. Thus, its on the coaches my friend. Its on the coaches to get more out of the talent than individuals.

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Bearmeat's picture

October 02, 2018 at 02:56 pm

We should be Detroit. But this is a tough game - on the road in the division against a team with some talent. If we play the game we're capable of, we'll be talking about a 10 point win. If not, well....

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PatrickGB's picture

October 02, 2018 at 05:05 pm

MM has stated that offensive game planes are all based on certain formations. He said that it’s the variations on the formations that change. So, why not try some? But for all I know, he has but Rodgers has changed them at the line or in the planning stages of pregame practices. The Lions will be a good test of the defense and Rodgers complaints about the offense will be either ignored or acted upon. On Sunday Adams faced a good CB but the other receivers did not. Also Allison may not be available this Sunday after he left the game. Our rookies at WR are not yet NFL ready. This should be interesting. If this offense is not motivated, I expect another poor outing from the offense.

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dobber's picture

October 02, 2018 at 08:31 pm

It's long been known that #12 doesn't like pre-snap motion. What kinds of things do you lose from play calls based on that, alone?

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