DETROIT – Richard Rodgers didn’t do what he was supposed to.
“It’s written in the playbook that my job is to box out, Davante (Adams) is supposed to jump and I’m supposed to wait for a tip,” Rodgers said, a few minutes after catching a 61-yard Hail Mary TD pass on the final play for a miracle 27-23 Packers win over the Lions on Thursday night at Ford Field.
“So I might get an MA (missed assignment) for that, but I’ll take it I guess.”
So will the Packers, whose first stroke of good fortune in a long time capped off a rally from a 20-0 deficit in a division battle they had to have to avoid losing for the fifth time in six weeks.
They got a shot at the Hail Mary only because Detroit defensive lineman Devin Taylor was called for a facemask tackling QB Aaron Rodgers on what was expected to be the final play. Richard Rodgers had tossed the ball back to the QB on a multi-lateral desperation play, drawing the ire of teammate Randall Cobb for throwing the ball so far backwards.
It worked out, though, as the 15-yard penalty put the ball on the Green Bay 39-yard line and gave the Packers one untimed down.
Talk about taking advantage of an opportunity. The Packers said they actually were practicing long heaves before the game because tracking high balls inside Ford Field was a little tricky.
Another good thing, it turned out.
“Unbelievable,” Cobb said. “The ball was in the air forever. Then it just dropped down. I was kind of in between – do I jump for it? Do I wait for a tip? I waited for the tip and I saw Rich catch it, and I was the one who tackled him in the end zone.”
A pig pile ensued, the type of backyard celebration that symbolized the kind of backyard football the Packers have needed to play far too often the past two months. This time, it paid off, and the jubilation amongst the players on the field was a scene to behold.
“I couldn’t breathe down there,” Rodgers said of being on the bottom of said pig pile. The catch finished off a career night for the second-year tight end, who had eight catches for 146 yards. “I thought I was going to die for a second.”
The celebration continued into the locker room with looks of disbelief on several players’ faces.
“I’m still in shock,” left tackle David Bakhtiari said. “I can’t believe what just happened.
“This has been a tough stretch. To get a win like that from all the adversity, we said it was going to test a lot of our character. A little bit of luck. I’m speechless. A little bit of a loss for words.”
The Packers were at a loss for offensive linemen at one point in the game. Down two starters with Don Barclay filling in at right tackle and Lane Taylor at right guard, the Packers also had to insert JC Tretter at center for Corey Linsley when Linsley re-injured his ankle.
Bakhtiari even had to step out briefly when his troublesome knee began bothering him, leading to an appearance by undrafted rookie Josh Walker at left tackle.
Bakhtiari would return, and he even joked that in all the running around after the final play, he forgot that his knee was even bothering him.
“We have full confidence in the room,” he said. “You have to tip your hat to all the offensive linemen. We have a great bunch. We’re real close. To come out and play the game they played, it’s amazing.”
The storybook finish capped a recovery from an abysmal first half in which the Packers had just 78 yards of offense, no third-down conversions and no points. Their first score in the third quarter was the result of Cobb recovering a fumble in the end zone by running back James Starks.
“I think bad is an understatement. We played terrible,” Cobb said of the first half. “We’re very fortunate to come away with this win.”
They’ll take it, though, with no apologies. Not after a missed field goal and a failed four-play goal-to-go series cost them two division wins in the previous three games.
This one was the most improbable of the three to pull out of the fire, and now the only question is whether it will heat up the Packers for the stretch run.
“You can’t write that. You honestly can’t,” Bakhtiari said. “If you do, you’re crazy. That’s what this game is. Crazy.
“That’s a story you say, ‘I played in that game. I was there.’”
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