It spiraled through the air – soaring, soaring, soaring until Donald Driver stopped, jumped and pulled the down the ball for a 68-yard gain. The ball traveled a stunning 70 yards in the air, the mighty heave turning a third-and-11 into first-and-goal, silencing the optimistic home crowd, turning the momentum and leading to the tying touchdown.
"If I had thrown a perfect spiral, I think I could have gotten maybe another yard or two," Rodgers said with a smile from the bowels of Ford Field.
The big play was one of many by Rodgers, who did what he usually does to the Lions: carve them apart like a Thanksgiving turkey.
Rodgers completed 28-of-39 passes for 348 yards and three touchdowns, leading Lions safety Louis Delmas to compare Rodgers to the Colts' Peyton Manning. In four career games against Detroit, he's topped 300 each time with 11 touchdowns and one interception.
While it turned out to be just another day at the office against the Lions, it didn't start that way. The Packers fell into a quick 7-0 hole after Jordy Nelson fumbled the opening kickoff, and the Packers misfired on a field goal on the next drive. With Detroit one third-down stop from getting back the ball and trying to capitalize on their momentum, Rodgers went deep. Really deep.
"I was a little worried at the snap that they might be bringing seven guys, so I made a quick check and they ended up dropping off and only bringing four," Rodgers said. "The line did a great job so I went through my whole progression. The right side, I went through (Donald) Driver and Jermichael (Finley), and came back to Greg (Jennings) and I felt like my time clock was (expiring) so I had to get the ball out. I surveyed what was going on and my line did a great job. That was about as far as I could throw it on that one, and (Driver) made a great play and going up and high-pointing it."
"Oh, no, no, no, no, not at all. He has an arm," Driver said when asked if he was surprised Rodgers could throw it that far. "We say he throws one of the prettiest deep balls in the National Football League. I just kept running. He gave me like five different routes to run. The last one, I took count of and it was a ‘go' so I just kept running and kept running and I guess he found me down field."
Cornerback Marvin White had locked up Driver for most of the play before losing touch with Driver about 45 yards down the field.
"I guess he thought I couldn't run by him. I think that's what the thing was," Driver said. "I just kept running, and the next thing you know, I saw Aaron cock that arm back and I knew it was coming to me."
That play ended the quarter, and on the next snap, Rodgers hit Donald Lee for the game-tying touchdown. A couple of field goals gave the Packers a 13-7 edge at halftime, and Rodgers put the game away in the third quarter.
Rodgers drove the Packers 90 yards in nine plays early in the third quarter, a drive highlighted by a 45-yard deep strike to Driver and a 7-yard touchdown pass to Driver on third-and-5. Rodgers sensed the Lions bringing more rushers than the Packers had blockers. He thought about dumping it to fullback Korey Hall but didn't think that would get the necessary yardage. So, he put his trust in Driver to make the on-the-fly adjustment.
"I had to hang in there a little bit and hope that Donald would turn inside, and he did," Rodgers said. "It shows when two guys who have been playing together for a couple years now. It's nice to be on the same page."
The second touchdown of the third quarter came when the Lions bluffed an all-out blitz and dropped into coverage. Rodgers bought time and James Jones kept the play alive for a 21-yard touchdown.
"James was kind of covered up at first," Rodgers recalled. "I moved to the right and he moved to his right, which was to my left, and made a nice catch and had a good run after the catch. It's what we do so well is yards after the catch. I think the guys for sure were well over 100 today again. I can just throw the ball quickly, give it to Greg (Jennings) or Donald or James or Jordy or even Jermichael (Finley), those guys make some big plays with yards after the catch."
Rodgers also credited his offensive line. Entering the game having been sacked a league-high 43 times, Rodgers was dropped only once and had to scramble only once. Lions coach Jim Schwartz lamented that his front four couldn't get to Rodgers – imagine hearing that from an opposing coach -- which forced him into blitzing. The line, along with running backs Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson, handled the blitzes to give Rodgers the time he needed.
"There were a couple of times where I held the ball for four or five seconds -- maybe more," Rodgers said. "When you have that kind of time with the kind of players that we have in our receiving corps we feel like we're going to make plays."