GREEN BAY, Wis. – There wasn't the jubilation of 2015, when the Detroit Lions sprinted onto the field with fingers raised and running up and down the sideline as the clock ticked down.
None of that was needed this time. There were no streaks to break. There was no surprise or baited breath or end-of-game excitement. No, the Lions' 30-17 win over Green Bay on Monday night was methodical. It was thorough.
And it left Lambeau Field with pockets of empty seats by the two-minute warning, fans ready to head home after watching Detroit win in Green Bay for the second time in three seasons. It was a game the Lions had to have and, in a rarity for this franchise, a game it followed through on.
The 2015 win in Lambeau Field was unexpected and came off a complete shift at the top of the organization that led to the Lions hiring Rod Wood as team president and Bob Quinn as general manager.
This win Monday night was different. For Detroit, despite its horrific record in Wisconsin over the past quarter-century, this was expected. The Lions were favored. The Lions -- for a rare time in the past two decades of this series -- had the better quarterback in Matthew Stafford because Brett Favre is retired and Aaron Rodgers is injured.
And the Lions were the team that was supposed to be the franchise capable of taking the next step from mediocrity into something else this season, especially after a 3-1 start.
"We went into this game just thinking this game needs to be a statement game," receiver Golden Tate said. "We need to click collectively from all parameters and I think that's what we did for the most part, which was very important. So it felt good to just have things rolling, especially on the road in a very, very tough environment. We dealt with weather for the first time this year and I think we handled it well."
Monday night doesn't exactly do that -- the Lions are still a .500 team -- but this win was one Detroit had to have if it wanted to realistically stay in the playoff chase in a tight NFC, where the Lions are already in a tough position to get a wild-card berth.
They accomplished that in a way that has been unlike so many of their games this season. It was a fairly dominant Detroit win -- one in which the offense moved well and the defense was sharp. It was also a game in which the Lions, surprisingly, played with a lead almost the entire time.
After three straight games in which the Lions started off slow and had to try to come back in the second half, Detroit didn't have to do that against Green Bay. The Lions scored on their first drive for the first time all season. They had one of their better first halves of the season, with efficiency on offense -- two touchdowns on three drives and each drive going across the 50-yard-line. Defensively, the Lions flustered Green Bay, keeping Brett Hundley to less than 100 yards passing and the Packers to 57 yards rushing.
More important, the Lions didn't allow a first-half touchdown.
Detroit got a clinical performance from Stafford -- 26-of-33 passing for 361 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. It's the type of performance the Lions are used to facing instead of administering to Green Bay. Against the blitz, Stafford was 12-of-18 for 252 yards and a touchdown, the best any quarterback in the league has done against the blitz this season.
Was it Stafford's best-ever game? Not totally clear. He has had other big games, but this was on a big stage.
"He's had some really good ones," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "It's hard to distinguish. He had a string of them there a couple years ago that were pretty strong and last year, too. But this one, well, you don't get a whole lot better than this."
And it came at a time when Detroit had to have it. Most of the Lions didn't want to call Monday night a must-win game, but they understood the importance of it. They understood that a three-game losing streak turning into four could severely impact their season.
Instead, Detroit erased all that and now faces one team with a record above .500 over the final eight games of the season -- Minnesota on Thanksgiving. And if Detroit plays like it did Monday night, it could end up leading to a playoff spot.
"I was telling my coach it was the most important game because it was the next game but we really needed this win, you know -- kind of catapult us into the last half of the season," Marvin Jones Jr. said. "So it was a big win for us and obviously it was a division game so we needed to get it."