Matt Flynn … holy cow.
The Green Bay Packers’ backup quarterback’s name will forever be linked with that latter phrase, not only in Packers Nation, but across the NFL.
In fact, his six touchdown passes today will not only be admired by Packers coaches, players and fans, but it no doubt will lead to a big payday in the coming months. That said, it most likely will not be with the Green Bay Packers.
So, what about the game?
Well, to say the Packers’ 45-41 win over the Detroit Lions on this first day of 2012 was a shootout is a vast understatement. Flynn and Matthew Stafford, quarterback of the playoff-bound Detroit Lions, went toe-to-toe in this one, punching and counterpunching all day long, matching touchdown for touchdown.
In the end, they combined for 1,000 passing yards and 11 touchdowns – an NFL record.
With those numbers, the impression was there was no defense in this one. You could certainly argue that, but in siding with the Packers, they played without linebacker Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson as coach Mike McCarthy reached deep into his bench on that side of the ball to give his starters time to rest and to give the backups some much-needed game experience.
The game started inauspiciously for the Packers when returner Patrick Lee muffed the opening kickoff in the end zone, the Packers stumbled in their first possession and the Lions came right back with a scoring drive to go up 7-0 within the first five minutes.
Things got even worse for the Packers and Lee on the ensuing kickoff.
The ball bounced off Lee’s knee, rolled out of the end zone while he tried to gather it in. His body remained in the end zone and after picking the ball up, he took a knee and was subsequently called for a safety, giving the Lions a quick 9-0 lead.
However, Flynn was just getting started.
He led the Packers on two first quarter drives where he threw his first of six touchdowns (and the first of three to Jordy Nelson) and got the team close enough for a field goal as the Packers took a 10-9 lead.
That start led to 24 points between the two teams in the second quarter. Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, who finished the day with 11 catches for 244 yards, scored the Lions’ second touchdown on a 13-yard pass from Stafford.
The Packers came right back three minutes later when he hit Ryan Grant on a screen pass that the running back took 80 yards for the score touchdown to put the Packers up 17-16.
The Lions went up 19-17 on a field goal of 30 yards by Jason Hanson, but Flynn drove the Packers again and capped their next drive with a 36-yard touchdown to Jordy Nelson on a free play when the Lions jumped offside. That gave the Packers a 24-19 lead at the half.
If there were any defensive adjustments made at halftime by either team, they didn’t work and things got going hot and heavy immediately.
Stafford hit Titus Young on a two-yard pass for a touchdown after the Lions went 60 yards on 7 plays to see-saw back into the lead at 26-24.
But if you blinked you missed the Packers coming right back when Flynn hit Nelson on an impressive 58-yard touchdown pass to make the score 31-26.
Stafford again led the Lions on an impressive 80-yard drive that culminated in a five-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Smith. Going for the two-point conversion, Stafford hit Tony Scheffler and the Lions jumped up on the Packers, 34-31.
And if you’ve grown fatigued just reading this, don’t go away because the day was far from over.
Flynn would come right back on a seven-play, 69-yard drive to hit a wide open Donald Driver over the middle for a 35-yard touchdown to put the Packers back up 38-34.
Two minutes and twenty-two seconds later Stafford would show why he has thrown for more than 5,000 yards this season when he threaded a pass over the middle to Scheffler for a touchdown and again the Lions were in the lead, 41-38.
But the Lions left way too much time on the clock and that was enough for Flynn. He led the Packers 80 yards in 1:29 and capped it with a four-yard pitch to tight end Jermichael Finley for the winning score.
Though there was still 1:10 on the clock, the collective breath of Packers fans was being held as Stafford once again started moving the Lions down the field. He completed passes to Jones, a Pettigrew and a Johnson before he overthrew a ball to the sideline inside of 30 seconds that was picked off by Packers cornerback Sam Shields to seal the win for Green Bay.
“What a great performance by our football team,” McCarthy said in his post-game press conference.
Though he said his coaching staff will go back to work and look at the defensive side of the ball, he said the win will go a long way in helping send his team into the playoffs with a positive outlook.
And he didn’t have enough words of praise for his backup quarterback.
“Matt [Flynn] got off to good start … I’m really proud of Matt,” McCarthy said.
He also said he thought sitting all-world quarterback Aaron Rodgers was the right decision, though he made sure his starting quarterback was involved in the game.
“… Rodgers was in safe mode,” McCarthy said, but also explained that “Aaron Rodgers called [plays] in the first half” and was especially involved when the Packers went with the no huddle.
What was most important for McCarthy, in addition to getting the win today, was to start looking ahead to the playoffs and to work on getting his team healthy … playing their best football when they hit the field at home with the start of the Packers’ playoff run.
Flynn, who broke just about every passing record in Packers’ annals, was clearly pleased with his performance after the game, but also downplayed his role on the team.
When asked if he was satisfied with having to take a seat again behind Rodgers when the playoffs start, Flynn said, “We’ve got the best quarterback in the NFL; he’s the leader of this team, so it’s easy to take a backseat to him.”
When asked about the future, Flynn said he wasn’t thinking at all about the fact that he will no doubt be in for a huge payday in the coming months.
“There’s so much ahead of this team … [Sunday's game] was … incredible and I’m thankful for the opportunity.”
When it was all said and done, Flynn set a franchise record with his six touchdown passes and 480 yards on 31-44 passing. He did throw one interception.
Nelson led Packers receivers with nine catches for 162 yards and three touchdowns, while Jermichael Finley had seven for 64 yards and James Jones caught six for 89, including a huge catch down the right sideline that led to the Packers game-winning touchdown to Finley.
For the Lions, Calvin Johnson led all receivers with his 244 yards, while Brandon Pettigrew had seven catches for 116 yards.
Topics: Aaron Rodgers, Brandon Pettigrew, Calvin Johnson, Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews, Detroit Lions, Donald Driver, Green Bay Packers, James Jones, Jason Hanson, Jermichael Finley, Jordy Nelson, Matthew Stafford, Mike McCarthy, NFC Playoffs, NFL, Patrick Lee, Ryan Grant, Sam Shields, Titus Young