By Dave Birkett Detroit Free Press
DETROIT — They walked out of the tunnel together for pregame introductions, a show of solidarity after Josh Sitton took aim at their collective souls.
They came after Matt Flynn in droves, sacking him seven times — once for a safety — and stifling the Green Bay Packers’ offense like nobody’s done in years.
And when it was over, The Scumbags — the name Sitton derisively gave the Lions’ ultra-aggressive, ultra-motivated defensive line in a Milwaukee radio interview earlier this week — celebrated their spot alone atop the NFC North standings and their first Thanksgiving Day win in 10 years.
Running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell combined for 310 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns and the Lions held the Packers to just 126 yards of total offense in a thorough and dominant 40-10 beatdown at Ford Field.
“We didn’t really even talk about (Sitton’s comments),” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said after the game. “Made a little fun of it last night in the meeting and it was just light-hearted and we just go play. A lot worse has been said about us.
“If that motivated our guys, than I’m glad it happened. But I think I said (Wednesday) when I did some radio, this game was going to be won by some actions on the field, it wasn’t going to be won by talk, and our team was the team that played well and actions speak louder than words.”
The Lions, coming off back-to-back losses for the first time this year, spoke volumes with their play Thursday.
They turned the ball over on three of their first four possessions, missed a chip-shot field goal just before halftime and gift-wrapped all 10 of Green Bay’s points in the first half, yet walked away with their biggest blowout of the season.
Bush and Bell did most of the heavy lifting on offense, with Bush rushing for 117 yards on 20 carries and scoring on a 1-yard run after fumbling on the game’s opening possession.
Bell added 94 yards rushing on 19 carries, Bush had 65 more yards receiving, and rookie defensive ends Ziggy Ansah and Devin Taylor had two sacks each as the Lions harassed Flynn all day.
Flynn, the third quarterback the Packers have started in the four weeks since Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone, completed just 10 of 20 passes for 139 yards as Green Bay crossed midfield just twice all game.
Mason Crosby made a 54-yard field goal on a possession where the Packers started at their own 40-yard line after a Sam Martin kickoff sailed out of bounds, and Green Bay reached the 7-yard line before fumbling on its final drive.
The Packers scored their only touchdown on Morgan Burnett’s 1-yard fumble return after Nick Perry’s strip-sack of Matthew Stafford.
“Defense gives up three points and a handful of first downs, it’s going to be a good day,” Stafford said. “We only punted one time on offense, and when we’re playing like that off each other and they’re getting the ball back for us and we’re scoring, and then we’re turning it over and they’re getting a stop for us, that’s the way football’s meant to be played. People are going to make mistakes, you’ve got to pick the other side up. That’s something we did a good job of this week.”
Stafford finished 22 of 35 passing for 330 yards and three touchdowns, but if not for two first-half interceptions and fumbles by him and Bush the game would have been an even bigger rout.
The Lions finished with 561 yards of offense, a season-high 30 first downs and moved the ball at will against a Packers team that’s 0-4-1 in its last five games and sits in third place in the NFC North with a month left in the regular season.
“It’s embarrassing,” Sitton said. “We got our (butt) beat. Plain and simple. They smacked us today. There is no doubt about it. We have been playing this game a long time and this is one of the worst beats I have ever been a part of. It’s embarrassing.”
Sitton said after the game he stood by comments he made Tuesday to Milwaukee radio station 1250 WSSP that the Lions are “a bunch of dirtbags, or scumbags” that take cheap shots at quarterbacks and take on the personality of their coach.
“A lot of people have their opinions,” said Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who sacked Flynn for a safety in the third quarter. “People got opinions about me. We just go out there and play. It really doesn’t mean anything to our defensive line let alone the rest of our team and our coaches. We just go out there and execute and we got the most important thing done, winning.”
If the Lions (7-5) keep on doing that, there’s nothing that can stop them from hosting their first playoff game in 20 years.
They lead the Chicago Bears (6-5) by a half-game in the NFC North standings, have the tie-breaking edge over the Bears by virtue of a season sweep and control their own playoff future with four games to play.
“It’s a step in the right direction for us,” Stafford said. “We got to continue on this path. I’m sure the turkey will taste better and all that. I’m just proud of our team, the way we played for four quarters. We didn’t let anything derail us. We got to keep doing that.”