Packers 45, Lions 41
The number: 11 -- The lead changed hands 11 times, with the Packers trailing 9-0, 16-10, 19-17, 26-24, 34-31 and 41-38. Matt Flynn continually had the answer. The Lions kicked off six times following scores. The first was the inexplicable safety by Pat Lee. On the other five, Flynn led the Packers to touchdown drives of 80, 79, 80 and 80 yards, with just one punt. That, maybe more than anything, will give Flynn a big free-agent payday in a couple months.
The moment: The Packers trailed 41-38 when they took possession at their 20-yard line with 2:39 remaining. Flynn looked like a seasoned veteran with the game on the line. His 40-yard deep pass to James Jones was a thing of beauty. That put the ball on the Lions' 6, and Flynn followed with his team-record sixth touchdown pass to Jermichael Finley to win the game. "That was a big play, obviously," Flynn said of the throw to Jones. "It got us into position where we could go for the touchdown now instead of trying to set up a field goal to go to overtime. It was a double move and he ran a great route and got on top of him. And I threw it up there to him and he did what he's supposed to do, catch the ball over the outside shoulder and that's what happened. It set us up very nicely to try and go for the win."
The player: Who else but Flynn? What he accomplished (see the Extra Points below) is practically unprecedented in NFL history. Don't forget about Jordy Nelson, though. Nelson scored three touchdowns, showing off a complete skill-set from strength (his overpowering stiff-arm of Alphonso Smith for a 7-yard touchdown), savvy (his leaping 36-yard touchdown catch late in the first half) and speed (he got behind the Lions' secondary for a 58-yarder, showing strong hands to snatch the underthrown pass).
The key: Flynn really was set up for failure. On the Packers' inactives list were receivers Greg Jennings and Randall Cobb, along with top rusher James Starks and right tackle Bryan Bulaga. The Packers had nothing to play for and an aggressive Lions defense was motivated. Plus, the wind was 20 mph at kickoff with gusts stronger than 30. However, after the Packers' first drive ended in a sack-strip and the second drive never got off the ground after Lee downed a muffed kick in the end zone for a safety, Flynn got on a roll of preposterous proportions. On a franchise that has had Bart Starr, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers at quarterbacks, Flynn set team records with 480 yards and six touchdowns. His name is now etched in the NFL record book alongside guys like Dan Marino and Joe Montana.
Packers said: "Yeah, it was an easy call. It was more important for Aaron to go through the week to prepare for the Lions because there is the potential to play the Lions in the playoffs. Aaron did that. Actually, we went no-huddle exclusively in the first half and Aaron Rodgers called it over the headset the whole first half because I wanted him mentally into this game; prepared to be able to operate as if he was playing. I was pleased the way the week went leading up to this and what we accomplished here today." – coach Mike McCarthy, making Aaron Rodgers one of his seven gameday inactives.
Lions said: "We're going to use this as motivation. As a team, understanding that we had a chance, didn't get it done, so we've got to go out there and start making it happen. We've got to get on a run here. That's what it's all about in the playoffs, playing hot, and hopefully we can get that going." – quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Extra points: Flynn, who started the Week 15 game at New England last season in place of Rodgers (concussion), joined Marino and Warner as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for three-plus touchdowns in each of their first two starts (among quarterbacks whose careers started since 1970), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. … Not impressive enough? Flynn, Y.A. Tittle (Oct. 28, 1962), Joe Namath (Sept. 24, 1972) and Montana (Oct. 14, 1990) are the only quarterback in NFL history with 475-plus yards and six touchdowns. … According to STATS LLC, this was the first time opposing quarterbacks each threw for at least 400 yards and five touchdowns. … The teams' 971 net passing yards obliterated the record of 906, set by New England and Miami in Week 1 of this season. … Nelson's 15 touchdown catches are the most by a Packer since Sterling Sharpe's 18 in 1994. Sharpe, Hall of Famer Don Hutson and Nelson are the only Packers with at least 15 touchdown catches. … Mason Crosby's 649 points are the most by a player through five seasons in NFL history. … Punter Tim Masthay set team record for punting average (45.6) and net average (38.6; a stat tracked since 1976). … Rodgers finished with a passer rating of 122.5, breaking Peyton Manning's record of 121.1, which he set in 2004. For the record, Manning played one series in his season finale, completing 1-of-2 pases. … For the first time since the NFL went to a divisional format in 1967, the Packers posted a perfect division record. … The Packers finished with 560 points, second-most in NFL history behind the 2007 Patriots' (589). Plus, they set a record with their sixth game of 42-plus points. … Moreover, the Packers set team records for points per game (35.0), points at home (321), points per home game (40.1), touchdowns (70), giveaways (14), interceptions (31; tied with 1962 team) and fewest penalties (76) and penalty yards (591) in a 16-game season.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.