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Lions thump Packers, 30-17; NFC North title now within grasp

Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Football

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- With their three-game losing streak now in the rear-view mirror, the Lions enter the second half of the season with a decent chance of winning their first division title since 1993.

The Lions didn't squander their opportunity to get back in the division race after defeating the Green Bay Packers, 30-17, on Monday night.

No one's saying it's a lock, and the Minnesota Vikings (6-2) are still the favorites, but given the Lions (4-4) already have a win over the Vikings in Minnesota, and that they play just one team with a winning record the rest of the season -- the Vikings at Ford Field on Thanksgiving -- there's no reason they shouldn't have a home playoff game come January.

The Lions haven't looked very good against the best teams on their schedule -- the Saints, Steelers, Panthers and Falcons -- but if they can beat the Vikings later this month and scrounge up wins against Browns, Bears, Buccaneers and the like, they could win the division.

After a rough October in which he threw five touchdown passes and committed six turnovers, all Matthew Stafford needed was a game against the NFL's 23rd-ranked defense to get back on track. Stafford played maybe his best game of the season Monday, completing 26-for-33 passes for 361 yards and two touchdowns.

On the receiving end of those touchdowns was Marvin Jones. Jones had his second straight big game Monday, catching seven passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns. He now has 18 catches for 388 yards and four scores in three games against the Packers as a Lion. Golden Tate was good as well, finishing with seven catches for 113 yards.

The Lions scored on their first red-zone possession, when they handed the ball to Ameer Abdullah three straight times, but they showed in the fourth quarter that their red-zone offense -- particularly their running game -- is still an issue.

The Lions opened the fourth with first-and-goal from the 1-yard line and failed to gain a yard on three consecutive plays. Abdullah was topped for no gain and fumbled -- Rick Wagner recovered -- on first down. Theo Riddick was stopped for no gain on second down. And Stafford was stuffed on a quarterback sneak on third down. Later in the game, Dwayne Washington lost 6 yards on a goal-line toss play.

The Lions did struggle running the ball in short-yardage situations. Their offensive line is a big part of the problem, and it's something general manager Bob Quinn must address this offseason.

One other negative for the night: Abdullah, who had fumble problems in college and as a rookie, had two fumbles Monday and spent the fourth quarter, after that goal-line possession, on the bench. Given that Abdullah is the Lions' only remotely serviceable every-down back, they need to solve that problem quickly.

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