GREEN BAY, Wis. — Draft position be damned, the Detroit Lions are going out winners in 2018.
Zach Zenner had a career-high 123 yards from scrimmage and Matthew Stafford and kicker Matt Prater each threw touchdown passes as the Lions beat the Packers for the fourth straight time, 31-0, at Lambeau Field.
The Lions, who pitched their first shutout since the 1996 season, dominated from the start a game that looked a lot like a preseason finale in terms of the personnel available on each side.
Both the Lions and Packers played without their leading rusher, receiver and a large chunk of their defensive line, and the Packers lost quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a concussion in the game’s first quarter.
The Lions, who scored their most points since a Week 7 win over the Miami Dolphins and tied for second most on the season, finished Matt Patricia’s first year as head coach with a disappointing 6-10 record and last-place finish in the NFC North.
Patricia is expected to get a second season as head coach – general manager Bob Quinn will make that announcement official next week – and the Lions should have a top-10 pick in April’s NFL draft, though they lost some positioning with Sunday’s win.
The Lions entered the week fifth in the projected draft order, and currently project to have the seventh pick. The Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-1) are both currently losing, while the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants and both on their way to their sixth wins of the year and would stand behind the Lions in draft order based on strength of schedule.
Scoreboard watching aside, the Lions played well in all aspects of the game Sunday.
Zenner ran for 93 yards on 21 carries and scored on a 13-yard touchdown run, Brandon Powell had six catches for 103 yards in the most extensive action of his career, and the Lions defense forced three three-and-outs when Rodgers was in the game and got a well-executed trick play on special teams.
Stafford, playing with a brace on his left knee, opened the scoring with a 5-yard touchdown pass to TJ Jones late in the first quarter, converting three third downs on the 12-play, 56-yard drive.
The Lions scored touchdowns on their next two possessions and led, 21-0, at halftime. Prater threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Levine Toilolo when the Lions lined up for a field goal early in the second quarter.
Toilolo trotted to the sideline as if he was headed for the bench, and Prater took a direct snap from Don Muhlbach and lofted an easy pass to Toilolo in the end zone.
Zenner, whose previous career-high of 69 yards rushing came against the Packers in Week 17 of the 2016 season, scored with 1:11 left in the first half.
Lions running back Zach Zenner scores a touchdown against Packers cornerback Tony Brown during the first half on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Green Bay, Wis. (Photo: Benny Sieu USA TODAY Sports)
He added 30 yards receiving for the Lions, who were potentially playing their last game with offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter calling plays.
Stafford finished 20 of 32 passing for 266 yards and threw two touchdowns, his second to Jones midway through the fourth quarter.
Playing without top wide receiver Kenny Golladay (and with Marvin Jones, Bruce Ellington and running back Kerryon Johnson on injured reserve), Stafford had his best passing day in nearly two months, since he threw for 274 yards in a Week 10 loss to the Chicago Bears.
DeShone Kizer played the final three quarters in place of Rodgers and completed 16 of 35 passes for 132 yards with one interception for the Packers (6-9-1).
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