But the Green Bay Packers' third-year backup quarterback couldn't deliver when his team was desperate for some kind of offensive spark. And so, with the team's playoff life potentially hanging in the balance, Flynn and the offense fell short in a stunningly inept 7-3 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.
To be sure, Flynn didn't lose the game. The offensive line was manhandled and the playmakers didn't make any plays, two factors that will conspire against quarterbacks 10 times out of 10. But Flynn missed on several opportunities to make key plays.
Flynn finished 15-of-26 passing for 177 yards, with no touchdowns and a killer interception. He led the offense to three first downs and three points on the first series of the second half, but it would have been a touchdown had his third-and-3 pass to Greg Jennings flown another 6 inches. Instead, Jennings' diving attempt came up empty and Mason Crosby kicked a 42-yard field goal.
With the next possession starting at the 10-yard line, Flynn scrambled for 12 yards to convert a third-and-10 and stretched the Lions' defense with a 32-yard completion to Jennings. An 18-yard connection to Jordy Nelson set up first-and-goal at the 9, but Flynn again couldn't make the key play. After a mistimed slant to Jennings, he said he didn't see middle linebacker DeAndre Levy dropping into coverage to take away a skinny post in the end zone to Donald Driver. The interception prevented the Packers from, at worst, taking a 6-0 lead.
On the next drive, with it still a 3-0 game, the Packers had a third-and-1 from near midfield. Given the timeout between the third and fourth quarters to get organized, Flynn went the wrong way on a running play to ruin another potential scoring drive.
"I made a check because of their defense and I just turned the wrong way," Flynn said. "That was a big play in the game, third-and-short, and that's something that I can't do, obviously."
The Lions took the ensuing possession 80 yards for the touchdown and a 7-3 lead. Flynn had no chance to provide an immediate answer, with Detroit's defensive line mounting instant pressure three times. The Packers' defense, however, forced a punt, giving Flynn a final shot from his 10-yard line and 3:58 to go.
Flynn converted a third-and-11 with an 18-yard completion to James Jones, then pushed the ball to the Lions' 32-yard line by completing four more passes in a row. On third-and-1 from the 31, Driver broke open across the middle but the ball sailed on Flynn for an incompletion that was almost picked off.
"I felt I was getting pressure and I kind of rushed the throw," he said. "I was trying to get it out real quick, and it slipped out and I was just trying to push it as hard as I can."
"My eyes got big and I know his eyes got big, as well," Driver said. "We just didn't connect on that play. That was an opportunity probably could have gone all the way."
On fourth down, the Packers got what they wanted, with Jennings matched up against Nathan Vasher. Vasher used to play for the Bears, and this had the look of Rodgers' game-winning touchdown against Vasher in the 2009 opener at Lambeau Field. Just like that game, Jennings ran past Vasher. This time, however, the ball was just out of Jennings' reach in the end zone.
"When it came off my hand, I thought it came out well and thought it was going to be a good ball, but obviously it wasn't," Flynn said.
Jennings was the No. 1 option, even though the Packers needed 1 yard to keep the drive alive. In retrospect, coach Mike McCarthy said he regretted putting Flynn in that position but the matchup he envisioned – and got – was just too inviting.
"If he's out there, he's got to be the guy," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said of the decision to go to Jennings. "It's easier to sit back now and say he should have gone to this guy or that guy."
If Flynn gets the start at New England next Sunday night, he'll obviously be much better prepared in terms of practice reps, and he'll be much more experienced given what unfolded on Sunday.
"Yeah absolutely," Flynn said when asked about positives. "I think anytime you can get in there with live bullets coming, it's going to help you, especially at the quarterback position. I got my feet wet a little this year, and I think I can take all the positive things and go forward and improve on those and obviously the mental problems, those aren't going to happen again."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.