Three days after Christmas, the Green Bay Packers received a welcome gift: a visit from the Detroit Lions.
There's a reason why the Lions became the first team in NFL history to finish a season 0-16. Detroit's defense has been the worst in the league all season and played up to par on a cold and blustery day at Lambeau Field.
In its 31-21 victory in the season finale, Green Bay's offense did something unmatched in NFL history. With Aaron Rodgers throwing for 308 yards, Ryan Grant and DeShawn Wynn each rushing for 106 yards, and Donald Driver (111) and Greg Jennings (101) each topping 100 receiving yards, the Packers became the first team with a 300-yard passer, two 100-yard rushers and two 100-yard receivers in the same game.
Leave it to Detroit to be on the wrong end of history twice on the same day. The Lions entered the game as the league's worst defense in terms of scoring (they fell 17 points short of allowing the most points in NFL history) and yards allowed. The league's worst run defense yielded 211 yards – including a 73-yard touchdown to a guy who spent half of the season on the practice squad and had one carry all year -- to a team that shuffled its offensive line this week, then lost center Scott Wells and guard Allen Barbre to injuries.
All in all, it was a fitting conclusion to trumping the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who went 0-14 as an expansion team.
"I think the record speaks for itself," Lions coach Rod Marinelli said after watching his team's 16-loss history. "We tried hard all year. I felt they gave it their best. I felt I gave it my best, but sometimes, your best isn't good enough, and it wasn't good enough this year. The team has done an incredible job of staying focused and keeping the locker room together. No competitor wants to go through something like this. We have nobody to point a finger at other than ourselves."
Rodgers was brilliant on a day when the wind was a big factor. He completed 21-of-31 passes, and of those incompletions, about six of those were drops. He compiled a passer rating of 132.2, with three touchdowns and no interceptions against a team that had intercepted just four interceptions all season. Yes, that, too, is a record for a 16-game season.
The biggest completion came midway through the fourth quarter. The Lions had just pulled within 24-21, and the 70,000-plus in attendance and no doubt a few players on the Packers' sideline had to be considering the unthinkable of losing to arguably the worst team in NFL history.
But, instead of coughing up yet another fourth-quarter lead, the Packers made the kind of big play that has proven so elusive all season. Driver turned his out into a go, and Rodgers delivered a 71-yard touchdown pass. Packers 31, Lions 21. Whew.
"We didn't want to lose. No we didn't," Rodgers said. "But really, it's not on your mind once the game starts. I didn't even think about it until the fans started chanting in the fourth quarter."
Jennings, however, said there "definitely" was a feeling the pressure was on.
"There was a sense of urgency as an offense that we needed to go out there as an offense and put some more points up on the board and make a statement," Jennings said. "We knew what they were playing for, but at the same time, we were playing for pretty much the same thing. We hadn't had a win in over a month, and we wanted to taste a win just as badly as they wanted to taste a win. Throwing out the 0-16 history-in-the-making thing, throwing that whole thing out the window, we just knew we needed to get a win."
Packers coach Mike McCarthy, with enough of his own issues to worry about after going from the NFC championship game to just 6-10, danced around a question about the Lions' futility.
"I really don't have a thought about that," he said. "I understand. I'm politely trying to avoid the injury. It's a tough deal."
Marinelli, who almost certainly will be a casualty after his team etched its name in NFL infamy, tried to put things in perspective. With the nationwide economy suffering, especially in the Detroit area, 0-16 isn't exactly the end of the world.
"No competitor wants to go through something like this," Marinelli said. "This is not fun to go through, obviously. But there's people going through a lot worse than this."
Bill Huber is the publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lions, Packers make history
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