Lions fall to Packers 27-23 on penalty, Hail Mary
DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Lions closed in on Aaron Rodgers, and there was nobody nearby he could lateral to. A simple tackle would end the game, but Devin Taylor swing his hand up around the Green Bay quarterback's neck, making contact with the facemask.
The penalty gave Rodgers a chance for one more untimed play and a Hail Mary to the end zone, and the Lions defended it poorly.
"We had plenty of guys in there, but we obviously didn't do what we needed to do," Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said. "We weren't in position to get our hands on it."
Rodgers threw a 61-yard touchdown pass with no time left to Richard Rodgers — who caught the ball amid surprisingly little resistance from the Detroit defenders — and the Lions fell to the Packers 27-23 on Thursday night. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for Detroit, which upset Green Bay at Lambeau Field last month.
The Lions (4-8) led 20-0 in the third quarter and 23-21 when they punted near midfield with under a minute remaining. There were 6 seconds left when Green Bay snapped the ball from its own 21. Aaron Rodgers threw to James Jones about 20 yards downfield, then the Packers began lateraling. The ball got all the way back to the quarterback near the original line of scrimmage, and for a split-second, the game appeared over.
Taylor, however, was flagged for a facemask.
"Didn't think it was, but that doesn't matter," Caldwell said.
With the ball moved up to the 39, Rodgers figured he could throw all the way to the end zone, but he needed to buy enough time for his receivers to make it down there. Detroit's tepid pass rush allowed him to roll out a bit to the right and throw from near his own 35.
The Lions, fearing the Packers (8-4) would again start lateraling and force Detroit to make a tackle, did not put 6-foot-5 Calvin Johnson in the game for defensive purposes.
"We have a couple ways we can go there, but we wanted to be careful about a play with them passing the ball around the field," Caldwell said.
Detroit had plenty of people in the end zone, but the Lions may have misjudged the high throw. Linebacker Josh Bynes dropped back away from Richard Rodgers to cover another potential target, allowing Richard Rodgers to drift into the end zone and haul the ball in at the front of a pack of players, with no Lions in great position to knock the pass down.
"All I saw was the dude catching the ball," cornerback Darius Slay said. "Limited words. I don't know what to say. I'm just in shock mode."
Matthew Stafford threw touchdown passes to Eric Ebron and Johnson in the first half, and Detroit led 17-0 at halftime. Taylor had two sacks, part of a strong effort by a defensive front that overwhelmed Green Bay's banged-up offensive line at times.
Green Bay's first touchdown came off its own mistake. James Starks fumbled into the end zone, but receiver Randall Cobb fell on the ball for a TD.
On the next snap, Julius Peppers stripped the ball from Stafford and Jake Ryan recovered it for Green Bay at the Detroit 12. On the ensuing third down, Aaron Rodgers perfectly lofted a 17-yard pass over Bynes to Davante Adams for a touchdown to pull the Packers within six points.
Detroit added a field goal with 7:06 remaining in the fourth quarter, but Aaron Rodgers scrambled for a 17-yard touchdown on third-and-long to make it 23-21 with 3:04 to play.
NOTES: Overshadowed in the loss was Johnson's 17-yard TD catch in the first quarter in which he leaped to catch the ball with two hands and squeezed it with only his right hand while planting his right foot and dragging his left near the side of the end zone.
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