Takeaways: Packers find a way to win on miracle play

Aaron Rodgers capitalized on a facemask penalty as time expired, dialing up an untimed 61-yard "Hail Mary" pass to Richard Rodgers for the game-winning touchdown as the Green Bay Packers (8-4) edged the Detroit Lions (4-8), 27-23, Thursday night. Here's what you need to know:

  1. As Golden Tate watched from the sideline, the football gods finally repaid Green Bay for the infamous "Fail Mary" loss to Seattle in September of 2012. Standing 79 yards away from the end zone with six seconds left, the Packers' situation was so dire that they turned to the lateral out of desperation as the clocked ticked down to zero -- only to be saved by a facemask call when Devin Taylor brushed Rodgers' helmet and took him down by the neckline of his jersey. Since NFL games cannot end on a defensive penalty, Rodgers was afforded one more play. After escaping pressure from Jason Jones, he came through with a beauty of a "Hail Mary" throw, landing softly in his tight end's hands amid a sea of jerseys.
  1. Although it was far from a clean game, Rodgers deserves credit for coming through with so much stacked against him. Starting with the second half of the Thanksgiving loss to the Bears, the Packers experienced a scoring drought of nearly 70 minutes before they turned a pair of fumbles -- one of their own and one of Matthew Stafford's -- into 14 quick points late in the third quarter. Rodgers was down to one starting offensive lineman for stretches of the second half. The ground attack was non-existent. The slow-footed wide receivers couldn't gain separation. Embattled play-caller Tom Clements continued to rely too heavily on his quarterback's ability to extend plays beyond their design.

Down 20-7 late in the third quarter, Rodgers threaded a perfect tight-window pass for Davante Adams' first touchdown of the season. Responding to a Lions field goal, Rodgers came back with a 17-yard touchdown scramble to bring the Packers within two points at the 4:00 mark in the fourth quarter. Thanks to a clutch third-down conversion from Matthew Stafford, Rodgers didn't touch the ball again until there were just 23 seconds left on the clock. The untimed touchdown pulled the Packers out of tailspin and reset their course for the playoffs at 8-4 in a tightly contested NFC North.

"It's the most amazing game of my life," Rodgers said after the game. "To be a part of that, to never give up ... I can't believe Richie caught it."

  1. After hauling in the dramatic game-winner on a career night with 162 receiving yards, Richard Rodgers revealed that his father, the assistant defensive backs coach for the undefeated Carolina Panthers, was part of the epic 1982 Cal win over Stanford. With members of the Stanford Band taking over the field midway through the game-winning kickoff return, "The Play" has gone down in folklore as one of the most memorable endings in football history.
  1. If not for the unlikely finish, we would be viewing the Lions as a dark-horse NFC wild-card contender. Buoyed by Jim Bob Cooter's promotion to offensive coordinator, Stafford is playing with a confidence and competitive fire we haven't seen in a couple of years. The improvement on defense is just as stark, as the last four opponents have been held under 70 rushing yards each. Facing the Rams, Saints, 49ers and Bears to close out the season, Detroit has a legitimate chance to the run the table. A sweep of the Packers would have given the Lions a chance at a 9-7 record. As it is now, it's hard to envision Jim Caldwell's club reaching the postseason at 8-8.
  1. Despite reaching 100 rushing yards in back-to-back games for the first time in his career last week, Eddie Lacy landed back in coach Mike McCarthy's doghouse. James Starks started the game, leaving Lacy as an afterthought until the closing seconds of the first quarter. Undrafted rookie John Crockett, elevated from the practice squad earlier in the day, played crucial snaps over Lacy in the second half. Per sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson, Lacy's diminished role was a "coaches' decision." The CBS broadcast crew hinted that Lacy fell out of favor due to an incident in this week's practices.
  1. The Packers' tinkering goes beyond the backfield. Second-year receivers Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis were given chances early in the game. Janis misplayed a deep ball while Abbrederis managed just one catch. Shut down by Darius Slay twice in the past 20 days, James Jones has shown why he was unceremoniously dumped by the Raiders and Giants. The slow-footed veteran has caught more than two passes in a game just once since Week 4. Randall Cobb and Adams haven't been any better. Cobb isn't beating one-on-one coverage and Adams continues to struggle with weaker cornerbacks and dropped passes. If there's one downside to the Rodgers-to-Rodgers miracle, it's that McCarthy will be less inclined to take over play-calling duties from a stumbling Clements.
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