This was a familiar site for Green Bay players, fans…and Golden Tate. A hail mary to decide the game in a primetime game. This time, the Packers come out on top.
Have you ever seen anything like it? On excitement level, this is up there with the Randall Cobb Week 17 touchdown against Chicago for the NFC North. Not quite the same circumstance but a loss at Detroit this week would have made a 5th straight division title that much harder to obtain. Instead, Green Bay is looking at a chance to regain first place in the division but it will require the Packers and their fans to do something they probably could never seem themselves doing – rooting for Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks. A Seattle win over Minnesota puts Green Bay first in the division and control of their own destiny.
After watching 59:59 of this game at Ford Field, there is no chance in hell I would expect that to be the scenario. One miracle play later, it is.
The last three losses (at Carolina, Chicago, at Detroit) have all come down to the final play with the offense and Mason Crosby unable to execute well enough to score. It only made sense that their fourth loss in five games would come down to almost the exact same situation. A missed deep ball to Jared Abbrederis that had defensive pass interference potential left :06 and one play before the panic button was mashed. A short sequence of lateral passes ended with a facemask that gave the offense one more play from their own 39-yard line. Then, Rodgers happened.
Both of them, in fact. Richard Rodgers was the only player capable of making plays tonight and he made the biggest play of the night. Aaron Rodgers unleashed a 61-yard bomb that probably reached the Milky Way before coming down to Earth and gently falling into the plush hands of the second year tight end from Cal. Green Bay wins, 27-23.
Green Bay deserved that. Aaron Rodgers deserved that. Packers fans deserved that. It has been a hair-pulling, voice-straining, fist-clenching month of football in Wisconsin. For all parties involved. This Green Bay team that has taken the field in recent weeks is unidentifiable. Yes, Green Bay fans are spoiled. Green Bay fans take for granted a 7-4 record (now 8-4), but these are the expectations when you have an MVP quarterback and the city is nicknamed “Titletown”.
A Character Win
Gritty. There’s no other way to describe the win. From the start of the game Green Bay was without their entire right side of the offensive line, as TJ Lang and Bryan Bulaga were replaced by backups Don Barclay and Lane Taylor. The game saw the Packers use every eligible linemen they had when Corey Linsley and David Bakhtiari went down for durations of time.
John Crockett, the running back you didn’t recognize, was just promoted from the practice squad and had the most rushing yards out of any Packers running back (although he rushed for just 22 yards). He made impact plays that helped move the ball downfield, showing great lateral movement and jump cut ability.
Down 20-0 halfway through the third quarter, there was little hope for a comeback. In the most 2015 Packers way possible, Randall Cobb scores a touchdown when he recovered a James Starks fumble bounced into the end zone. Then, Julius Peppers finally made a play when Green Bay needed it most. His strip-sack on Stafford led to Davante Adams’ first touchdown of the season on the following play.
This minute and a half of gameplay completely turned this game around. The defense made played well enough to win, especially considering the Lions were coming off their best offensive performance on Thanksgiving against the Eagles. An Aaron Rodgers 17-yard touchdown run brought the score to 23-21 and gave Green Bay just enough of a chance to do the impossible.
Moving Forward: Work to be Done
Back to reality. The first half was without a doubt the worst half of football I have ever seen a Green Bay team play in a long time. Everything you didn’t want to have happen, happened. How many weeks in are we with the ‘wide receivers can’t get open’ rhetoroic? And how many more weeks will it continue? It was much of the same all game as poor route running and failure to create separation left Rodgers running for the hills on every other play. Aaron Rodgers uncharacteristically made an errant throw that Glover Quin gladly intercepted.
For the first time in 57 games, Green Bay didn’t score a point in the first half. Eddie Lacy and the rest of the run game was ineffective. How many times must a shotgun draw handoff go for negative yards before Tom Clements calls something else? John Crockett, as mentioned before, was a spark plug but it showed how desperate the offense was for yards.
It wasn’t perfect. In fact, most of it was painful. Detroit had not swept a season series against Green Bay in 24 years. There has been a lot of frustration inside and outside the Packers locker room. This team needed a win more than they could imagine. Thankfully, they got it. It took a miraculous finish but the joy and jubilation in Aaron Rodgers’ voice during the post game press conference shows how much relief they felt after this win.
Next week? A rematch against the Dallas Cowboys and “The Catch That Wasn’t” playoff game. Buckle up, Packers fans. The season is just beginning.
Richard Rodgers – 8 receptions, 146 yards, 1 game-winning hail mary TD. The only reliable target all night came up clutch on the final play of the game.
Time of Possession: GB 26:56 / DET 33:04
Penalties: GB 7-55 / DET 9-108
Turnovers: GB 1 / DET 1
3rd Down Efficiency: GB 3-12 / DET 6-16
Hail Mary Completions: GB 1 / DET 0