Sure, we all saw this coming. On a chilly, windy day at Lambeau with snowflakes in the air, backup Matt Flynn would make his second career start and deliver the best statistical day by a quarterback in Packer history.
In the process, the top seeded Packers sent a message to the Detroit Lions and the rest of the NFC: with nothing to play for and its three biggest stars taking the day off, the champs played a game against a much more motivated opponent and showed why its offense is ready for all comers in the post-season.
Flynn and Matthew Stafford combined for 1,000 yards passing, an NFL record, and it was Flynn’s final drive that was his most impressive. Trailing 41-38 with just over two minutes to go, he led the Pack on an eight play, 80 yard drive–highlighted by a beautiful sideline lob to James Jones on the right sideline that put the Packers deep in the red zone. He then hit Jermichael Finley for the game winning score, his Packer record sixth TD pass of the day.
I love the fact that McCarthy had Aaron Rodgers on the headset in the first half calling the plays. He wanted to keep him in the game mentally, since he was inactive–the right call by McCarthy.
It wasn’t always pretty. Purists will scoff that a January game at Lambeau with 1,000 passing yards is not great football. But it was a completely entertaining game and it puts the Packers in the right mindset heading into the playoffs. Rodgers, Matthews and Woodson were inactive. The offense was also missing its right tackle, #1 receiver, #1 running back and all-purpose weapon Randall Cobb. Yet they throw up 45 on the Lions, a playoff team needing a win to avoid a wildcard trip to the Bayou.
It’s a crushing blow for the Lions who fall to the sixth seed and will have to face the red hot Saints at the Superdome next weekend. Good luck with that.
As for the defense without two Pro Bowlers, they gave up a ton of yards and points, but they took the ball away four times, twice each on picks and fumbles, and ended the game on Sam Shields’ interception in the final minute.
On display on this day for the Super Bowl champs: a fantastic job by the coaches getting a focused effort from the players on a day where they had nothing tangible to gain. Kudos to the offensive line for rising to the challenge, to Ryan Grant on his 80 yard scamper on a screen pass, to Nelson (nine catches, 162 yards and three TDs), Driver, Jones and Finley for showing why this offense is so diverse and talented. And finally, to Matt Flynn for making himself millions of dollars on his next contract, wherever he lands. On this day he showed he has what it takes to be a starter in this league.
I’ve seen it theorized that Ted Thompson may elect to tag Flynn and trade him for multiple picks. That would take some guts, because you’d have to throw a ton of cap money his way and be sure you can find a taker at your price. It would also mean they couldn’t tag Finley and would risk losing him. At any rate, something to think about after the season ends.
For now, we enjoy the first ever 15-1 Packer team–and the first in team history to sweep its division. A team with 14 days to prepare for, most likely, the Falcons or the Giants. And a team that delivered a message to the field: you’d better be prepared to score a lot of points to beat this team at Lambeau Field.
No matter who is playing quarterback.