DETROIT — The last time Aaron Rodgers and the Packers came to Detroit, they looked like anything but Super Bowl contenders.
Of course, the Green Bay quarterback has a perfectly valid explanation for why the Lions slowed him down.
“They gave me a concussion,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers recovered from that jarring December loss, leading the Packers to a Super Bowl title, but the way the Lions shut down their NFC North rivals still resonates. This trip to Detroit to face Ndamukong Suh on Thanksgiving could be the toughest remaining test of the regular season for the unbeaten Packers.
“Another game, another opportunity to get after another great team,” said Suh, Detroit’s imposing defensive tackle. “They’re a great offense, and one that’s very potent.”
It’s hard to imagine now, but the Packers were actually in danger of missing the playoffs after they lost 7-3 in Detroit last season. Rodgers left with a concussion toward the end of the second quarter, but Green Bay was sputtering even while he was in the game.
Rodgers missed the following week’s game, a loss to New England, but the Packers have won 16 in a row since. Green Bay (10-0) hasn’t been held under 21 points this season, and Rodgers has thrown 31 touchdown passes with only four interceptions.
The Lions (7-3) face a daunting task if they’re going to end their seven-game Thanksgiving losing streak. The last time they won their traditional holiday game was in 2003, when they intercepted Brett Favre three times in a 22-14 victory over Green Bay.
“We want to make sure that the players understand the tradition of this game, its importance to the city, its place in the history of the National Football League,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. “When you wake up downtown and they’re setting up for the parade, I mean, it’s not just a normal day. Thanksgiving in Detroit is different than other cities.”
This entire year has been different so far for the Lions. Their resurgence actually began with that victory over Green Bay, the start of a four-game winning streak to end last season. Detroit also won its first five games this season.
The Lions beat the Packers last year with third-string quarterback Drew Stanton. Now, starter Matthew Stafford is healthy. The former Georgia star has started every game this season and thrown 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Detroit had lost three of four and trailed 24-7 in the first half last weekend against Carolina, but Stafford rallied the Lions with five touchdown passes, and they won 49-35.