Unsung Heroes  

Chevy  

Packers backup Flynn has talent of top-tier QB

In a league governed by quarterback play, scouts, coaches and general managers are always looking for the next big thing at the position.

The league's next franchise quarterback might be Aaron Rodgers' backup in Green Bay. With Rodgers resting in the Packers' season finale on Sunday, Matt Flynn made his second career start and torched the Detroit Lions for 480 passing yards and six touchdowns.

While it is presumptuous to assume that the relatively inexperienced Flynn is capable of delivering that kind of blockbuster performance on a consistent basis, the flashes of brilliance he displayed will certainly have some in the league strongly considering him as a top option on the free-agent market.

The fourth-year pro was unflappable Sunday, showing the kind of big-game moxie and ability that coaches covet in franchise players.

Some of the excitement generated by Flynn's remarkable one-game performance will be tempered by memories of Kevin Kolb and Charlie Whitehurst, who followed splashy play as backups with disappointing games as starters. However, many teams are searching desperately for a franchise-caliber signal caller, and they will closely examine Flynn's game in the spring.

Let's take a look at five aspects of Flynn's overall game that were highlighted by his performance against the Lions.

Football aptitude

Before Sunday, Flynn had made just one start, and the jury was still out on his ability to comprehend the Packers' offense and understand defensive fronts and coverage. He certainly addressed those concerns, however, against Detroit. He kept his offensive teammates on schedule by making solid pre-snap checks and adjustments, and he managed the game efficiently. He appeared to have a great feel for deciphering the Lions' pre-snap disguises, and his keen sense of anticipation allowed him to make several big plays in the passing game.

Flynn's excellent football IQ was also illustrated by his clockwork execution of Green Bay's no-huddle attack. He operated at a rapid tempo but never seemed rattled or flustered. Flynn's poise was indicative of his mastery of the game plan and thorough understanding of Mike McCarthy's agenda.

Flynn also managed situations superbly, avoiding costly red-zone mistakes and playing very well in third-down situations. His ability to sustain drives with both his arm and feet was critical to the Packers' success.

Arm

Flynn's status as a late-round pick often obscures his talent as a passer, but from a physical perspective, he has all the goods. Flynn can make the requisite throws from the pocket with outstanding velocity, and his arm strength rates above average by pro standards.

Flynn showed off that arm when he fired a handful of laser-like throws at Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley on in-breaking routes over the middle of the field. By completing those tightly contested throws, Flynn proved he can fit the ball into small windows by ramping up the speed of his passes.

He also displayed excellent deep-ball touch and accuracy, connecting on a few vertical throws delivered to the receiver's outside shoulder. His ability to drop the ball in the bucket showcased precise ball placement and allowed his receivers to haul in passes despite defenders being nearby.

Accuracy, touch and arm strength are all valued highly, and Flynn's dazzling display will definitely have teams salivating.

Pocket presence

The biggest stumbling block for young quarterbacks is learning how to play comfortably in the pocket. The speed and power of rushers means quarterbacks are routinely forced to work in close proximity to crowds of defenders. Elite passers are able to deliver pinpoint passes in the midst of chaos.

Against the Lions, Flynn regularly stepped into his throws when facing rushers on the verge of making contact. His ability to stand tall in the face of a blitz, for example, allowed him to make a 35-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Donald Driver.

Flynn also displayed those skills in the game's opening stages when he connected with Ryan Grant on a screen pass that resulted in an 80-yard score. Although he was instructed to allow the rushers to get close before releasing the teardrop to Grant on his left, it was Flynn's patience and courage that allowed the play to develop.

Athleticism

Modern quarterbacks must be able to buy time in the pocket to allow their receivers to work free from tight coverage. Quarterbacks do not need to be exceptional runners outside of the pocket, but the ability to elude and evade defenders is invaluable.

Flynn is an underrated athlete with the ability to create plays inside or outside of the pocket. He frequently bought additional time Sunday by stepping up and around defenders while keeping his eyes downfield. He also fled the pocket for a few impromptu scrambles that turned negative plays into positive gains.

He certainly doesn't possess the speed and explosiveness of Michael Vick or Rodgers, but he is a credible playmaker with the skills to punish defenders in a movement-based scheme that allows him to work on the perimeter.

Clutch factor

Great quarterbacks perform at their best with the game on the line. Flynn certainly showed signs of being a clutch player, filling in admirably for Rodgers against a playoff-caliber opponent and performing brilliantly under pressure. His flawless execution of a pair of two-minute offensive situations showcased his cool demeanor under fire.

At the end of the first half, Flynn connected on five consecutive passes to drive the Packers into field-goal range. He effectively targeted all areas of the field to stretch the defense, and also managed the game by avoiding negative plays to conserve precious seconds. Although the Packers didn't score on the opportunity, Flynn's superb game-management was impressive for a player with so little experience.

During the Packers' game-winning drive, Flynn completed five of seven passes, including a 40-yard toss to James Jones on third-and-four from the Lions' 46-yard line. More importantly, he showed evaluators that he was capable of making plays with the game hanging in the balance, which will certainly intrigue teams looking for a franchise-caliber quarterback.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop

NFL News
CONTENT
15