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Stafford's score on bootleg gives Detroit 7-0 lead

Sunday - 12/9/2012, 10:21pm  ET

Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford reacts after running for a touchdown against Green Bay Packers' Brad Jones (59) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

NANCY ARMOUR
AP National Writer

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Mike Daniels returned a fumble 43 yards and the Green Bay Packers have cut Detroit's lead to 14-10 at halftime Sunday night.

Snow fell in Green Bay for much of the day, and the ball simply slipped out of Matthew Stafford's hand as he brought his arm back. The rookie defensive end pounced on it and rumbled in for the score, his second fumble recovery of the season and first to be returned for a touchdown.

The Packers had a chance to take the lead when cornerback Sam Shields, who had missed the last six games with an ankle injury, picked off Stafford on the next drive. The 32-yard interception return gave Green Bay the ball at its 45, but a false start call backed up the Packers and they were forced to punt.

Stafford is 13 of 16 for 101 yards and a touchdown. He also had a 4-yard touchdown run on the first drive of the game.

While Packers coach Mike McCarthy likes to say that all division games are big, this one got even bigger with Chicago's loss to Minnesota earlier in the day. If Green Bay wins Sunday night and then beats the Bears next week in Chicago, the Packers would clinch the NFC North.

Beating the Lions may have seemed like the easy part, considering Detroit hasn't won a game in Wisconsin since 1991. The 21-game winning streak -- it includes one playoff game -- is the longest in the NFL. Detroit had also lost its last four, the last three by a total of nine points.

But the Packers were playing with only four defensive linemen with Mike Neal and C.J. Wilson both inactive, and Detroit wasted no time taking advantage of it. Bringing in big tackle Riley Reiff as another blocker, the Lions rushed for 117 yards in the first half, including Stafford's 4-yard bootleg that gave the Lions a 7-0 lead after the game's first drive.

The Packers looked as if they'd match the Lions, getting to the Detroit 12 when Aaron Rodgers threw a 21-yard pass to Randall Cobb as he fell. But two plays later, Lawrence Jackson sacked Rodgers and forced a fumble. Jackson recovered it, and Stafford connected with Kris Durham for a 27-yard catch to set up his 3-yard TD pass to Tony Scheffler two plays later that gave Detroit a 14-0 lead.

The Packers finally found their groove, however. Rodgers hit No. 1 receiver Greg Jennings, playing in just his second game after surgery to repair a torn muscle in his abdomen, for a 27-yard gain that put the Packers at the Detroit 35. A holding call backed them up, and Rodgers overthrew John Kuhn on third-and-6 from the Detroit 31. Mason Crosby showed more signs he is finally coming out of his slump, making a 49-yard field goal to cut Detroit's lead to 14-3.

It was his longest field goal since he made a 48-yarder at St. Louis back on Oct. 21. He'd had two misses from 50 yards and beyond since then.

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