GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- The Green Bay Packers beat the Detroit Lions for the 23rd consecutive game, downing their NFC North rivals 22-9 on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
The Lions, who started the day atop the division, were without receiver Calvin Johnson (knee), who was a surprise scratch after being limited at Friday's practice. Without arguably the NFL's best receiver, the Lions struggled to sustain anything against a defense that entered the day ranked 28th in yards allowed and 27th in points allowed.
The Packers couldn't take charge until the third quarter with Detroit's pass rush limiting Green Bay's prolific passing attack. With Green Bay nursing a 9-3 lead, quarterback Aaron Rodgers hit James Jones for an 83-yard touchdown with 3:12 to play in the third quarter. Jones ran right by top cornerback Chris Houston and caught the ball up the right sideline at about the 46, then broke back inside against a safety to race into the end zone.
Without Johnson, that 16-point deficit was too much to overcome.
It was a critical victory for the Packers, who improved to 2-2 and are 7-1 after their bye week under coach Mike McCarthy. The Lions dropped to 3-2 and lost out on a chance to sweep their first round of division games.
The Lions had 170 yards through three quarters. After Green Bay tacked on a field goal to make it 19-3, the Lions moved to the Packers' 30-yard line on the ensuing possession. However, that drive died when receiver Kris Durham fell on a fourth-and-3 pass.
The Packers put the game away on Mason Crosby's career-high fifth field goal of the day, a 45-yarder that made it 22-3 with 3:50 remaining. That play was set up by a 39-completion to Jones against Houston; a 27-yard touchdown to Jones against Houston was overruled by replay.
Green Bay's defense dominated in Johnson's absence. Matthew Stafford was sacked five times and Reggie Bush, who entered the game ranked second among running backs in total yards per game, was limited to 69 yards (44 rushing, 25 receiving).
Just before the two-minute warning, Stafford hit Durham for a 13-yard touchdown. Stafford finished 25-of-40 for 262 yards.
The Packers led 6-3 at halftime. Green Bay's opening drive spanned 15 plays and 7:50 -- both season highs -- but was limited to just a field goal. Detroit made a key play when Ezekiel Ansah sacked Rodgers on first-and-goal from the 4.
Green Bay scored another field goal on its second possession, settling for Crosby's 52-yard field goal after a harsh grader could have marked the Packers down for four dropped passes. The glaring gaffe came on second-and-9 from the 34, when Rodgers threaded a perfect pass to backup tight end Ryan Taylor for what might have been a touchdown.
Detroit scored late in the half. Green Bay looked poised to get one more crack with the ball but Stafford moved the chains with a 22-yard completion to Ryan Broyles on third-and-10 and a 25-yard completion to Brandon Pettigrew on another third-and-10. David Akers connected from 53 yards with 15 seconds to go in the half.
Green Bay extended its advantage to 9-3 in the third quarter. With the possession starting at its 11-yard line, receiver Randall Cobb lined up in the backfield, took a pitch to the left and raced 67 yards up the sideline. The drive stalled, however, and they had to settle for Crosby's 31-yard field goal.
NOTES: Also out for the Lions was receiver Nate Burleson, who broke his forearm in a car accident last month. Combined, Johnson and Burleson had 40 of the 50 receptions among Lions wide receivers. ... Johnson had missed just three of a possible 99 games entering the day. ... Cobb's 67-yard run was the Packers' longest since Brandon Jackson's 71-yarder vs. Washington on Oct. 10, 2010. ... Detroit entered the week tied for ninth in red-zone defense (38.5 percent touchdowns) and held the Packers to field goals on their first two possessions inside the 20. ... The Lions lost right tackle Jason Fox to a knee injury, the Packers lost starting inside linebacker Brad Jones and his backup, Robert Francois, to hamstring and ankle injuries, respectively. ... Crosby's five field goals tied a franchise record. He's 9-for-9 this season after having to fight for his job following a league-worst conversion rate in 2012. The Packers had gone 44 consecutive games without a 100-yard rusher until James Starks in Week 2 and Johnathan Franklin in Week 3. Eddie Lacy finished with 99.