GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers' beleaguered secondary is suddenly super, and rookie Darren Sharper is a one of the reasons.
Led by Sharper's 50-yard interception return for a touchdown, the defending Super Bowl champion Packers defeated the Detroit Lions, 20-10, Sunday night to stay atop the NFC Central with Minnesota at 7-2.
"I knew from the beginning of the week I was going to be put out there," Sharper said after only his second game as Green Bay's nickel cornerback. "Hopefully I can make a big play happen. It's funny how you can visualize those things. It just so happened it did happen."
The Packers had struggled since losing starting cornerback Craig Newsome to a knee injury in their opener, but made four interceptions against Scott Mitchell, who completed only 21 of 47 passes for 158 yards.
"That's really a fine defensive effort against a team with some fine offensive weapons," Packer Coach Mike Holmgren said.
Barry Sanders gained 105 yards in 23 carries for his career-high seventh consecutive 100-yard game. It was also his seventh consecutive 100-yard rushing game on the road, tying the NFL record held by Marcus Allen.
But the Lions (4-5) couldn't take advantage of an ineffective Green Bay offensive performance, and the Packers avoided getting swept by the Lions for the first time since 1991, while running their home winning streak to 23.
"We weren't able to do some of the things we wanted to do offensively," Sanders said.
Mitchell, hounded all game by a relentless pass rush, was sacked four times and avoided several more with throwaways.
"He's the type of guy if you can get the pressure on him, you can really rattle him," Packer defensive end Reggie White said.
With Brett Favre bothered by a toe injury and having an ordinary performance (15 of 28 for 181 yards), the Packers relied on their defense, which had its second consecutive dominant performance after being mostly sub-par in the first seven games.
Sharper, a second-round draft selection out of William & Mary, gave Green Bay the lead for good at 14-7 with his interception return.
"Darren's play was wonderful. He looked like he belonged there," said Packer strong safety LeRoy Butler, who had two interceptions.