Barry Sanders mastered a frozen field and the Detroit Lions capitalized on three fourth-quarter turnovers to bury the Green Bay Packers' playoff hopes.
Sanders rushed for 133 yards and scored the winning touchdown on a 6-yard run, and cornerback Ray Crockett came up with two big plays Saturday to fuel Detroit's 24-17 victory at frigid Lambeau Field."They tried to stop Barry; they had people up there at the line of scrimmage. He's just a great back," Lions Coach Wayne Fontes said.
Sanders rushed 19 times to take over the NFL rushing lead with 1,281 yards. He also caught four passes for 49 yards.
The outcome left both teams with 6-9 marks. The Packers lost their fourth straight, and saw their slim playoff hopes evaporate.
With temperatures at kickoff a mere two degrees above zero - minus 28 with the wind chill factor - the Packers would not lay the blame for the loss on the weather.
"The cold weather and wind chill did not really affect our performance today," Packers Coach Lindy Infante said.
"It was slippery for both sides," Fontes said.
"I've said all along that we are getting better as we go. We're learning how to win."
The weather conditions made it tough to hold the ball Saturday. There were seven turnovers committed, with Green Bay giving up four.
The three Packers' fourth-quarter turnovers were crucial.
Green Bay led 17-10 and had the ball early in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Blair Kiel completed a 12-yard pass to tight end Ed West, who fumbled as he lay on the ground. Crockett scooped up the ball out of the air and returned it 22 yards for the tying score with 10:42 left.
The Packers then drove into Detroit territory before linebacker Chris Spielman recovered a Michael Haddix fumble at the Lions 26. Detroit drove the length of the field in eight plays, with Rodney Peete throwing completions of 13 yards to Aubrey Matthews and 11 to Robert Clark.
Sanders then burst through Green Bay's front for a 37-yard gain to the Packers 13, picked up 7 yards and then scored from the 6.
"The outside lane was there. It was just open," Sanders said of the winning TD run. "It was just a basic trap play."
Crockett sealed the victory by intercepting a Kiel pass for Charles Wilson at the Detroit goal-line in the final two minutes.
Green Bay capitalized on a turnover on the opening kickoff for a 7-0 lead 4:23 into the game. Chris Oldham fumbled the kickoff and the Packers recovered. Kiel threw a 17-yard pass to West and scored on a 3-yard quarterback draw. The Lions answered with Peete's 26-yard TD on a quarterback draw on their next possession for a 7-7 tie. Peete hit Richard Johnson for 38 yards in the drive.