Brett Favre earned his first win against a division opponent as the Green Bay Packers defeated the Detroit Lions 27-13 in a Week 8 clash at the Pontiac Silverdome.
Favre completed 22-of-37 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns but it was the Green Bay defense that came up big in this game, holding Detroit to nine first downs and 190 total net yards for the entire game.
The defense held future Hall of Famer Barry Sanders to just 38 yards on 12 carries and his long run for the game was just nine yards.
“Nobody can stop Barry Sanders. But anytime you can hold him down as well as we did, that’s a great job,” said Packers coach Mike Holmgren.
The Packers defense played a strong all-around game. Tony Bennett and Bryce Paup had 1.5 sacks each while Burnell Dent added another and linebacker Johnny Holland intercepted Lions quarterback Rodney Peete.
“This was just a terrible, terrible game,” Lions coach Wayne Fontes exclaimed after it was over. “This is the worst game I’ve been associated with since I’ve been here. We didn’t block anybody. We didn’t tackle anybody. We didn’t stop anybody. We’re hurting at a lot of positions.”
This was a physical game and while the Lions only managed two sacks on Favre, he was hit often after releasing the football. At one point, Favre thought he had suffered a broken leg which would have ended his season.
“I was thinking Joe Theismann’s break, but obviously it wasn’t,” Favre said. “This is the hardest game I ever played and the sorest I’ve ever been. That’s why I think it was the toughest game I’ve played.”
The game didn’t start well for the Packers. They lost a fumble on their first drive which the Lions were able to convert into a 32-yard field goal by Jason Hanson.
“The way this game started, I thought it was going to be another typical Green Bay Sunday,” Favre admitted. “We got the ball, fumbled, and they kicked a field goal. But we came right back.”
The Packers responded with a drive capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by veteran fullback Harry Sydney. It was his first touchdown as a Packer.
Chris Jacke increased the Packers lead when he booted a 53-yard field goal in the second quarter which was a new career-long for him. He also set a new franchise record with his sixth field goal of 50 or more yards in his career.
The Packers struck again just before the half when Favre found tight end Jackie Harris for a 14-yard touchdown pass that gave Green Bay a 17-3 lead at the break.
After the teams traded third quarter field goals, the Lions got back into the game with a big play on special teams. Punter Paul McJuilen’s kick from deep in his own territory was blocked and scooped up by Bennie Blades of Detroit who ran it back seven yards for a touchdown. The Green Bay lead was cut to 20-13.
But Favre and company answered in the fourth quarter. Favre found his favorite target, Sterling Sharpe, open deep downfield for a potential big gain but Sharpe suffered a rare drop. Sharpe apologized to his quarterback in the huddle. “He said: ‘Just throw it to me again and I’ll make up for it,’” Favre said.
Later in the drive, the Lions blitzed, and Favre found Sharpe on a slant that went 30 yards for the game-clinching touchdown. “It was a good enough throw to let Sterling do what he does best. That’s making people miss,” Favre said.
The Packers were able to run the football in this game, gaining 145 yards on 34 carries including 101 yards by Vince Workman. That made him the first Packers runner to go over 100 yards in a game since Keith Woodside did it against the Bears three years earlier.
The key to the running game was to run away from nose tackle Jerry Ball. “Any time you run against the Lions, everything is predicated on (Lions nose tackle) Jerry Ball,” Holmgren said after the game. “If he’d shade the right, we’d run left and vice versa.”
The win improved the Packers record to 3-5 as they learned to win under a first-year head coach and in Favre’s first season as starter.
“A great win for us,” Holmgren said. “We overcame the disasters of the fumble and the blocked punt. I was really proud of the way we responded…What happened today hasn’t happened before. We battled back when I thought we were coming unglued.”
The Packers finished the season with a 9-7 record and made the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade the following year. Brett Favre led the Packers to a lot of divisional wins during his 16 seasons with the Packers, but this one was the first.
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