DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Lions were hoping Matthew Stafford had one more fourth-quarter comeback this season.
Unfortunately for the Lions, he was in the locker room when the team had a chance to salvage Sunday’s 31-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers
Stafford sustained a rib injury while diving for a first down at the Packers 5 with 7:07 to play. He stayed in the game long enough to hand off to Kerryon Johnson for a touchdown on the next play, cutting Green Bay’s lead to 28-21, but was with the Lions medical staff when he reached the sideline.
With Chase Daniel warming up, Stafford went into the locker room for treatment. He briefly re-emerged to attempt a few sideline throws, but quickly gave up.
“He was in a lot of pain,” Daniel said. “He got bent over backwards and sideways on that hit, but that play was the reason we scored on that drive. He’s one of the toughest guys and competitors I’ve ever been on a team with, so he was trying to work through everything. He was going to try.”
Stafford ended up in the X-ray room, which meant after Mason Crosby’s 57-yard field goal made it 31-21 with 3:35 to play, it was Daniel trying to pull off the comeback.
Jamal Agnew’s 71-yard kickoff return gave the veteran a short field, but a scramble into the end zone was called back by a holding penalty. Matt Prater’s field goal made it 31-24, but the ensuing onside kick went out of bounds and Green Bay ran out the clock.
Lions interim coach Darrell Bevell said he doesn’t know Stafford’s status for next Sunday or the rest of the season.
“We will know more tomorrow, but we all know what kind of competitor Matthew has been for his whole career,” Bevell said. “It’s going to have to be something drastic to keep him off the field.”
Stafford played well when he was on the field, completing 24 of 34 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown, but Detroit’s defense couldn’t stop Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers went 26 for 33 for 290 yards and three touchdowns to improve to 17-5 against the Lions. He also scored on a 6-yard run.
“We knew this was going to be a dogfight, because we were facing one of the best quarterbacks to ever suit up in this league,” Bevell said. “I’m proud of our team — we fought hard and we were within one possession at the end.”
The game was tied at 14 at the half, but Green Bay dominated the third quarter. The Packers started the quarter with a 14-play, 90-yard scoring drive capped off by Rodgers’ rushing touchdown. After a three-and-out for the Lions, Rodgers led a 12-play, 79-yard drive that ended on a 4-yard touchdown pass to Robert Tonyan early in the fourth quarter.
“They came out for the second half and went on the long scoring drive,” Bevell said. “At that point, we need to respond on the offensive side of the ball and give our defense a chance to rest. We didn’t do that — we put them right back out there.
“That was a big swing in the game.”
The Lions might have still had a chance had a challenged call gone their way with 9:08 to play. Marvin Jones twisted to make a leaping catch at the goal line, but it was ruled he had come down out of bounds. After a long review, the officials shocked Jones by upholding the ruling.
“When I caught the ball, my feet were down,” he said. “So when they said it was incomplete, it threw me for a loop, especially after seeing it on the big screen, I don’t know if I can say too much more without getting in trouble.”
Detroit did score on the drive, but it took another 2:31 and Stafford’s injury to do it.
“I thought Marvin made a really good attempt on the ball and came down with it in his hands,” Bevell said. “That’s a play worth challenging.”