DETROIT — Jordan Love dropped back and threw deep on his first snap, taking advantage of what the Green Bay Packers thought the Detroit Lions defense would give them.
They were right.
Love set the tone with a 53-yard pass to Christian Watson on the game's first play and finished with a career-high-tying three touchdowns, leading Green Bay to a 29-22 win over the NFC North-leading Lions on Thursday.
“It was something we put in this week that we thought was going to work,” said Love, who had to reassure coach Matt LaFleur to stick with the first call when he had second thoughts about it on the morning of the game. “We were confident in it.”
The Packers (5-6) were in control of a game they never trailed, taking advantage of Jared Goff's career-high three fumbles — returning one for a score in the first quarter — and Dan Campbell's aggressiveness on fourth down.
The Lions (8-3) went for it five times on fourth down and only converted once on the final touchdown drive. One of the failed attempts was a risky decision to fake a punt with a run from their 23 in the third quarter down by nine points.
“That obviously was a very critical play in the game,” LaFleur said. “And, that translated into a touchdown.”
Three plays after the failed fake, Love threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Watson to give Green Bay a 29-14 lead. Campbell later lamented that decision.
“It’s a bad call,” Campbell said. “I shouldn’t have done that to those guys.”
Goff pulled Detroit within seven points with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Josh Reynolds and 2-point conversion pass to Sam La Porta with 41 seconds left, but couldn't get closer four days after rallying from a 12-point deficit in the last few minutes in a comeback win over Chicago.
The Lions were called for an illegal formation when they attempted an onside kick, a fitting end for them on an afternoon that started poorly and didn't get much better to deflate what was a fired-up crowd.
“I didn’t have my guys ready to go, bottom line,” Campbell said.
Love was 22 of 32 for 268 yards with three touchdowns, including two in the first quarter to rookies Jayden Reed and Tucker Kraft. He had a career-long 37-yard run on a read-option play on third down late in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
Rashan Gary led Green Bay's dominant performance on defense.
He forced a career-high two fumbles, recovering one of them, and tied a career high with three sacks and seven tackles on the same field where the former Michigan star tore a knee ligament last season.
Gary was in tears as LaFleur gave him a game ball in the locker room.
“Throughout this whole time, there’s been a lot of emotion,” Gary said. “I was praying, trying to keep my head cool.”
Goff finished 29 of 44 for 332 yards with two touchdowns, including one on a 7-yard pass to LaPorta on the Lions' first drive.
His three fumbles, though, doomed Detroit's chances.
Jonathan Owens returned one of Goff's turnovers 27 yards for a score that gave Green Bay a 20-6 lead in the opening quarter, getting some appreciation from his wife, Olympic gold-medal-winning gymnast Simone Biles, on social media.
In Detroit's previous game against Chicago, Goff threw three interceptions for the first time in three seasons with the franchise.
“Sometimes there is an answer, sometimes there isn’t,” he said. “Overall, it’s my job to take care of the football.”
LaFleur was running off the field at halftime when a Ford Field security guard was in his way and put two hands on him as they briefly collided.
“There might have been illegal contact,” he joked. “It wasn't a big deal.”
The Lions, who were booed by their fans at times, have lost seven straight games on Thanksgiving.
Packers: RB Aaron Jones (knee), CB Jaire Alexander (shoulder), LB De’Vondre Campbell (neck), S Rudy Ford (shoulder), Dontayvion Wicks (concussion, knee) TE Josiah Deguara (hip) were inactive.
Lions: Guard Jonah Jackson (wrist) was inactive for the fifth time in six games.
Packers: host Kansas City on Sunday night, Dec. 3.
Lions: at New Orleans on Dec. 3.
Follow Larry Lage at https://twitter.com/LarryLage