GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP)—Packers coach Mike McCarthy had been so incensed with his players’ poor performance last week he considered making his starters play a full four quarters in an otherwise inconsequential regular-season finale.
McCarthy cooled off by Sunday, deciding to rest several top players for the playoffs. It turned out he didn’t really have to choose between playing it safe and playing to win in Green Bay’s 34-13 victory over Detroit.
The Packers (13-3) didn’t need their starters to beat the lowly Lions, tie a franchise record for victories in a season and rebound from an ugly loss in windy and cold conditions at Chicago.
“I think it punched us right in the mouth, and it was a good wake-up call,” McCarthy said of last week’s loss to the Bears. “The most important thing about a wake-up call, in my opinion, is how you respond to it.”
After allowing the Lions a field goal on their opening drive, Green Bay responded. Brett Favre drove the Packers to touchdowns on three straight possessions, then joined receivers Donald Driver and Greg Jennings and other prominent teammates on the sideline.
While the Packers already were locked in as the NFC’s No. 2 playoff seed, Favre said there’s no such thing as a meaningless game—especially after the Bears loss.
“Last week was in some respects a disaster,” Favre said. “You almost hate to say, ‘Now this game is meaningless.’ I feel like the game leading up to the playoffs is always important.”
The Lions (7-9) made it easy on the Packers, delivering an uninspired performance in what might have been their last game with Mike Martz as their offensive coordinator. Lions coach Rod Marinelli would not comment on multiple media reports that Martz would be fired. Martz was not available for comment.
“Whatever decision they make, that’s what they’re going to do,” Lions center Dominic Raiola said. “We’ve got to somehow move on. I’m really getting tired of changing coaches around here. Since I’ve been here, we’ve been changing coaches and there comes a point in time where it’s not the coaches anymore, you know what I’m saying? That’s really frustrating.”
Adding to Raiola’s frustration: The Lions couldn’t take advantage of the Packers playing their reserves for most of the game.
The Packers rested Driver, Jennings, cornerback Charles Woodson, defensive end Aaron Kampman, tight end Donald Lee and defensive tackle Ryan Pickett. The Packers are assured a first-round bye and one home playoff game.
Green Bay wasn’t able to completely avoid injuries Sunday, as running back Ryan Grant left the game with a stinger in the first quarter and cornerback/punt returner Will Blackmon was carted to the locker room with a foot injury just before halftime.
McCarthy said Grant could have returned if needed. The more serious injury appeared to be to Blackmon, who aggravated a foot injury that has cost him significant chunks of his first two NFL seasons.
Grant, who took over as the Packers’ main running back in the seventh game, finished just 44 yards shy of 1,000 yards rushing. The Packers’ running game didn’t slow down after he left, as rookie Brandon Jackson rushed for 113 yards on 20 carries.
Favre even made a rare contribution to the running game, scrambling for 21 yards on the Packers’ first possession to set up a 27-yard touchdown run by Grant.
“I’ve still got a little bit left,” Favre joked.
The fun didn’t stop there, as Favre threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Koren Robinson—Robinson’s first touchdown since serving a 1-year suspension under the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Favre celebrated enthusiastically in the end zone with Robinson, whom Favre has publicly supported all season. After the game, Favre called Robinson “a great guy with very good character who’s had some problems.”
Favre then threw a 4-yard touchdown to Bubba Franks on the Packers’ third possession. Desperate for someone to celebrate with, Favre ran into a bewildered official—and immediately slapped him five.
Favre’s celebrations came at the expense of the Lions, who lost seven of their last eight after starting 6-2. Detroit hasn’t won in Wisconsin since 1991.
Kitna said the season was a disappointment, but still better than finishing 3-13 last year.
“We played meaningful games in December and you can’t simulate that,” Kitna said. “And so, it’ll be something that guys can learn from. Like I said, in this locker room, there’s not a lot of guys that’ve done that.”
Notes: McCarthy said he didn’t have any additional information on injuries to two of the team’s guards. Jason Spitz left with a quadriceps injury in the first half and Junius Coston injured his calf in the second half. … Packers rookie kicker Mason Crosby finished the season leading the NFL with 141 points, the highest-scoring season by a kicker in franchise history and third-highest season point total by any Packers player.