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By CHRIS HAVEL
Packers’ 27-23 victory at Detroit lifts Green Bay to 8-4 record, buys time to fix offensive woes
Last Friday Packers fans woke up wishing the dreadful Thanksgiving loss to Chicago was just a bad dream.
Today, they arose wondering, “Did the Packers really win? Did they find a way to wipe out that 20-point second half deficit? Did they really hit a 61-yard Aaron Rodgers-to-Richard Rodgers ‘Hail Mary’ on an untimed play with 0:00 on the clock?”
Indeed, they did all of that and then some in a clutch 27-23 victory over the Lions Thursday night at Ford Field.
On what would have been the Packers’ final play – a desperate game of hot potato that was going nowhere – the Lions’ Devin Taylor was flagged for a facemask penalty on Rodgers.
Just like that the football gods had granted Green Bay one final untimed play from its own 39-yard line. Trailing 23-21 the Packers made the most of it. Detroit (4-8) rushed three and dropped eight in pass coverage. That was the Lions’ first mistake. They could’ve rushed four or five and Rodgers never would’ve had time to get the pass off.
The Lions also placed two defenders on the hash marks at the 15-yard line, which took both out of the play. Detroit also should’ve put receiver Calvin Johnson and perhaps tight end Eric Ebron into the game to help defend on the Hail Mary. Instead, Rodgers rolled left to draw in the Lions’ trio of pass rushers. Then he circled back to his right to buy enough time to make a 70-something yard heave that almost brought rain.
“I knew I was going to have to buy some time to allow (his receivers) to get into the end zone,” Aaron Rodgers said. “I knew once I got outside on the right that I was going to be able to set up and throw.”
Richard Rodgers, who was hanging out at the 3-yard line, located his quarterback’s moon shot of a pass, backed into the pile of players that was forming 5 yards into the end zone, and made a sensational two-handed grab to win the game.
Green Bay’s win buys head coach Mike McCarthy time to fix what is ailing the offense. The Packers (8-4) couldn’t have been much worse offensively in the first half. They were shut out by a Lions defense that stuffed the run, collapsed the pocket and built a 17-0 first quarter lead.
Matthew Stafford’s two first half touchdown passes, coupled with a Mason Crosby miss from 41 yards, put the Lions in the driver’s seat. The lead grew to 20-0 after a Detroit field goal on the first drive of the second half.
Still, the Packers hung in. Green Bay’s James Starks fumbled at the Detroit 4 but the Packers recovered it for a touchdown to make it 20-7. On the next series, Julius Peppers’ sack-and-fumble recovery led to a short Rodgers-to-Davante Adams touchdown strike. That made it 20-14 and the Lions began to tighten up.
Detroit’s offense sputtered and the Packers seized the opportunity. Rodgers’ 17-yard touchdown run capped a sweet drive to make it 23-21 with 3:04 to play.
The Packers’ final drive began at their 21-yard line with just 23 seconds to play. After two incomplete passes, Rodgers hooked up with James Jones, who threw a lateral to Richard Rodgers, who then tossed it to Aaron Rodgers, who drew the face mask.
“I’ve never had a completed Hail Mary before,” Aaron Rodgers told reporters after the game.
Rodgers finished 24 of 36 for 289 yards and two touchdowns, but it came after an awful first half showing.
Furthermore, it appears Eddie Lacy is in McCarthy’s doghouse. The Packers’ head coach elected to go with John Crockett, fresh off the practice squad, rather than Lacy in the second half.
Stafford was 23 of 35 for 220 yards and two touchdowns. He looked physically ill when the Packers’ prayer was answered.
Now, the Packers have 10 days to prepare for the Dallas Cowboys, who are without Tony Romo and struggling mightily. If they can get the offense in gear – and it showed some signs of life in the second half – the Packers still have a chance to go deep into the postseason.
Green Bay’s improbable win at Detroit set the stage.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.