Sure both secondaries are being treated for third degree burns, there were 17 penalites, six turnovers, an unsightly safety, and bizzare officiating, but it was still the most hypnotic passing display in Lambeau Field's glorious history and it's Matt Flynn who took the eraser to a pair of legendary records in Green Bay's wild 45-41 victory over the Detroit Lions to ring in the new year and wrap up the best regular season in franchise history. The 4th year pro from LSU took the controls for a deactivated MVP candidate in Aaron Rodgers and put up single game records of 480 yards and six, count em, six touchdowns! The last was the shortest, covering 4 yards to Jermichael Finley but it capped a brilliant 80 yard march in 1:29 and put the Packers on top for good with only 70 seconds left to play. Flynn finished with 31 completions in 44 attempts for a passer rating of 136.4. It simply was uncanny, and overshadowed Matthew Stafford's 520 yard and five touchdown performance for the Lions.
Flynn's second career start started badly. On the game's first series, he was sacked and fumbled, giving Detroit the ball at the Green Bay 35. Four plays later, Stafford found Titus Young for an 8 yard score and a quick 7-0 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Pat Lee, returning for the injured Randall Cobb, kicked the ball out of the end zone but while still standing behind the goal line, reached over the line, pulled the ball back and took a knee. Only problem, when he was touched down, it was a safety and the Lions were up 9-0. The defense did force a punt on the next series and that's when Flynn went to work. He converted three straight third downs before the drive stalled inside the five and Mason Crosby put the Packers on the board with a 22 yard field goal in a tricky swirling wind. Desmond Bishop knocked the ball loose from Kevin Smith on the next series and Flynn drove the Pack 48 yards in 7 plays. From the 7, he threw a quick pass wide right to Jordy Nelson who embarrased Alphonso Smith with a stiff arm up the right sideline for a touchdown and a 10-9 Packers lead. Stafford found Calvin Johnson for a 13 yard touchdown midway through the second quarter to put Detroit back on top 16-10. Johnson had a monster game, catching 11 balls for 244 yards. Two plays later, Green Bay was back on top as Flynn was blitzed and threw a short screen to Ryan Grant who broke loose up the left sideline for an 80 yard touchdown play. Officials blew a fumble call on the next kickoff return from Stefan Logan, giving the ball to Green Bay at midfield but Flynn was picked two snaps later by Smith. That led to a 30 yard Jason Hanson field goal but the Packers answered again, Flynn hitting Nelson on a sideline bomb that covered 36 yards for a 24-19 lead. It stayed that way at intermission as both Hanson (from 39 yards) and Crosby (from 47) missed field goals.
The defense came up with another takeaway to start the third quarter as Jarrett Bush jumped a slant route for Nate Burleson at the 14 yard line. The Pack couldn't move and two bad defensive penalties against Erik Walden and Bishop kept a Lions drive alive until Stafford hit Young from the two that made it 26-24 Detroit. Flynn then delivered a patented deep ball off play action to Nelson who somehow caught the ball against his hip in tight coverage for a 58 yard scoring play. It was Nelson's 15th touchdown of the season, third most in franchise history. Detroit came right back with Smith catching Stafford's fourth TD from five yards out and tight end Tony Scheffler snared a two point conversion to put the Lions up 34-31. Ndamukong Suh came up with a sack to end the next Packer series but the defense rose up on a 4th down stop early in the 4th quarter. The Packers then moved 69 yards in 7 plays to retake the lead on Donald Driver's 35 yard scoring play. He caught a short pass crossing the middle and turned upfield untouched. With 5:01 to play, Stafford engineered a 93 yard march in just 2:22, hitting Scheffler from 12 yards out and it was 41-38 Detroit.
Flynn saved his best for last. Starting at his own 20, Flynn completed two balls to the 43 and on third and three, got Suh to jump offsides. On third and 4 from the Lion 46, Flynn took a shot up the right sideline and dropped a perfect pass to Jones who was pushed out of bounds at the Detroit 6 after a 40 yard gain. After John Kuhn gained 2, Detroit took a timeout to preserve the clock and on the next snap, Flynn drilled a back shoulder slant to Finley who beat Amari Spivey for the 4 yard touchdown with 1:10 remaining. Stafford marched the Lions from their 20 to the Packers 37 with :33 left but that's when Sam Shields jumped in front of Burleson for the game clinching interception. Fittingly, Flynn took a knee to run out the clock.
The Packers finished the regular season a franchise best 15-1 and for the first time ever, swept the NFC North going 6 for 6. While Green Bay piled up 550 yards of offense, they gave up 575 and despite losing only once all year, were outgained by the opposition this season.
Two players who have missed time returned to the field, Ryan Pickett was back after missing two games with a concussion and he said he felt fine, same for Chad Clifton, who started at left tackle and played exactly 25 snaps. It was his first appearance since week five in Atlanta when he tore a hamstring and just when he was ready to return, suffered a back injury during rehab. Clifton also said he felt fine and hopes he'll be ready for the post-season. The only injury of note was a sprained ankle suffered by rookie tight end Ryan Taylor but he should be fine. The inactives were Rodgers, Woodson, Matthews, Cobb, Bryan Bulaga, James Starks and Greg Jennings.
For the first day of the year, the weather wasn't too bad for the 70,294 fans, kickoff temperature was 31 degrees with a strong northwest wind at 20 miles an hour bringing the wind chill to 19. After about an inch of snow fell overnight, the field was in great shape and so are the Packers, heading into a week off before the NFC Division round January 14-15.
On the link below, the locker room quotes from the Pack.