The caboose of the Packers Hail Mary train, the slowest of the Green Bay receivers, was jogging around the five yard-line as he tracked the ball that would give football fans six reasons to remember the eighth top game of 2015, 60 seasons from now.
Truthfully, Packers at Lions had been as painful of a watch as one page of "50 Shades of Grey" was to read. First half: ugly. So yuck that one cheesehead walked to get a burrito with the thought that at least he had said burrito in his possession if the second stanza was as bad as the first (a cheesehead who writes some of these Top 20 Games features). Well, if you can't shine a turd, you can certainly hope it goes away.
Matthew Stafford came out firing ... pow, pow, pow. Just like that the Lions were in field-goal range, making the game 20-zip, with all of us viewers wishing we had a tasty burrito or three. That's when Aaron Rodgers employed the law of three, matching Detroit's score with two touchdown drives of his own, including a scoring strike to Davante Adams (he actually caught it!).
Now we were cooking. The problem was that Mike McCarthy's team couldn't fully close the gap. Stafford led the Lions attack to another Matt Prater field goal, putting the Lions up by nine. Rodgers kept up, getting Green Bay on the board with his own legs, but by that time there were only three minutes left, with Detroit angling to run out the clock. They almost did.
Down 23-21, with ironically 23 seconds to play and at their own 21-yard line, matters appeared hopeless for the Packers.
1st down ... incomplete pass to Randall Cobb.
2nd down ... incomplete pass to Cobb.
3rd down ... the now typical, throw-the-ball-around-and-lateral-it-back-and-forth-play, hoping for a Cal Bears miracle straight out of 1982. The completion to James Jones 19 yards downfield was pitched to Richard Rodgers for minus 16 yards, lateraled back to Aaron Rodgers -- both former Cal Bears -- for no gain.
Ballgame. Wait, what?
*Facemask. *Tack on 15. Play another down.
Cal miracle, 2.0.
In tackling the Packers quarterback, the Devin Taylor appeared to grab his facemask. He didn't, really, as he more swiped his hand across the lower part of the helmet. But from referee Carl Cheffers' view from behind the play, it sure looked like a facemask. No one would have been able to tell differently. Well, except the millions watching on CBS and NFL Network with the benefit of slow-motion replays.
One more snap, from the 39. Rodgers would have to buy enough time to let his receivers get downfield, then throw the ball a minimum of 61 yards -- in pads, high enough to leap for, at the end of a long game, mind you -- for his team to have any chance.
Rodgers took the snap, rolled to his left, then scampered back right, crow hopped like a junior high kid trying to impress the neighborhood with his Elway arm ... and the ball was launched. It soared as high and far as Rodgers rotator cuff would rotate. It looked like it would land a couple yards deep in the end zone, judging by where the receivers were setting up shop.
It did. Right in the hands of a lumbering tight end who looked that M&M right into his mitts. The Lions playoff hopes? Melted right in his hands.
Much was made of Eddie Lacy's weight during the 2015 season ... "Big Ed" ... "Bread-y Lacy," and so forth. OK, so maybe we took creative liberty with the second one, but you get the point. Yet, Lacy seemed to have surmounted his conditioning issues and middling play coming into Detroit. Lacy was a huge factor in Green Bay's 30-13 win over the Vikings, running hard 22 times for 100 yards. He followed that performance with 107 rushing yards, as well as four catches for 34 more versus the Bears.
Word later was the Lacy had drawn the ire of Mike McCarthy by missing curfew the night before the Detroit game (please no posting of Taco Bell drive-thru hours, commenters). When you have conditioning problems, and fail to follow up on a brilliant 2014 campaign because of those issues, missing curfew isn't the ticket.
Many people pointed to this game as ruining Detroit's season. Don't laugh. Detroit went 6-2 down the stretch, and would have gone 7-1 had it not been for what many considered a fluky loss. Maybe the Lions don't drop their game in St. Louis the next week if they were riding the high of what would have been a four-game winning streak.
It's not the first time these two teams have ruined the other's season. The most famous instance in one of pro football's oldest rivalries came over 50 years ago, when perhaps the best team of all-time -- the '62 Packers -- dropped their only contest at Briggs Stadium in Detroit. It was easily Vince Lombardi's best ball club, packed with Hall of Famers, and boasting an 11-0 mark as they spent Thanksgiving Day facing the Lions. By the fourth quarter it was 26-zip, Detroit, and the rout was on.
To give you an idea how dominant the Packers were that year, they scored 415 points, while allowing 148 -- the average score of their games was 29-11!
From the Boxscore
Outside linebacker Clay Matthews moved inside with Sam Barrington being injured all of 2015. Taking an All-Pro level performer out of his position is never ideal. Yet, while Julius Peppers and Nick Perry were expected to carry the load outside, McCarthy unearthed quite a contributor on the inside in rookie Jake Ryan.
The fourth-round pick from Michigan (how appropriate) made six solo tackles, four assists, and recovered a fumble that led to a huge Green Bay touchdown in the third quarter.
Why Packers at Lions is No. 8
Did you know "The Usual Suspects" and "The Sixth Sense" were premier flicks prior to their unforgettable endings?
A famous man once said, the Top 20 Games are often justified by the ending. I don't know who that guy was, but much like the "The Fail Mary" in Seattle in 2012, and other games whose endings blew us away, Packers at Lions Week 12 was special. Trust me, five years from now, people will still be talking about this contest.
Not sure the top seven on our list can boast that, even if they were better overall games.