An improbable victory on a Hail Mary miracle could have potentially saved the Green Bay Packers’ season.
On the verge of suffering their fifth loss in six games, Green Bay pulled off a 20-point comeback on Aaron Rodgers’ 61-yard heave to Richard Rogers on the final play to beat the Detroit Lions 27-23 in thrilling fashion.
The Packers were fortunate to even have the chance to attempt the toss, which they were afforded on an untimed play after Detroit committed a face-mask penalty on a lateral-heavy last ditch effort as time expired on the previous down.
Rodgers, who was sacked three times and pressured throughout the night, was able to escape the pass rush, roll to his right and sky a pass into the crowded end zone.
Tight end Richard Rodgers was on the other end of the pass as he leapt and snatched the ball to complete the longest game-winning, gameending Hail Mary in NFL history.
— NFL (@NFL) December 5, 2015
“It’s the greatest feeling,” said the Green Bay quarterback. “We’re blessed to be able to play this game, and it reminds you at times how special this game is. You live for days like this, to be able to have something miraculous happen.”
The Packers entered the NFC North match-up struggling, while the Lions had won three straight. It looked like the two teams would continue heading in opposite directions until the Packers’ offence woke up in the second half with Rodgers tossing two touchdowns and running one in himself before the Hail Mary.
Had Green Bay lost again, they would have dropped to a 7-5 record, two losses behind the divisionleading Minnesota Vikings (8-3). Instead, the Packers remain in the hunt for the NFC North crown, as well as a bye in the first round of the playoffs, while leading the conference for one of the two available wild-card spots.
Though they escaped Ford Field with a win, Green Bay are still working their way back to looking like a title contender again.
“There’s going to be no masking this. We know that we struggled,” Aaron Rodgers said. “We’re inconsistent on offense. We can’t be that type of football team if we want to finish the season where we want to finish the season.
“We’re 8-4, there’s four games left, and we know it’s about giving yourself an opportunity, getting into the dance.”
The Boston Red Sox landed their top-of-the-rotation ace by agreeing to the largest contract ever for a pitcher with David Price.
The deal totals $217 million over seven years, with the $31m average annual salary the highest ever for a pitcher and tied with slugger Miguel Cabrera for the most at any position.
The move to acquire the star southpaw is the first big free agent signing by Boston’s new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who was the general manager of the Detroit Tigers during Price’s stint with the franchise following a trade from the Tampa Bay Rays in 2014.
217 million @DAVIDprice14 … That’s it?
— Adam Eaton (@AdamSpankyEaton) December 2, 2015
Last season, Price went 9-4 with a 2.53 earned run average (ERA) before the Tigers shipped him to the Toronto Blue Jays, with whom he went 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA. His 2.45 ERA for the year was the best in the American League, but Price struggled in the playoffs with a 6.17 mark combined with a 1-2 record.
The rotation was an area of concern last season for the Red Sox, who finished last in the AL East at 78-84 for the second time in three years.
Boston went through 12 different starting pitchers over the course of the season – none of which reached 200 innings – and the combined ERA of the group was 4.39, ranking 13th in the AL.
Dombrowski also strengthened the back end of the bullpen earlier in the offseason when the Red Sox sent four prospects to the San Diego Padres in exchange for AllStar closer Craig Kimbrel.
Despite their records being flipped, the Detroit Lions are the ones playing better football while the Green Bay Packers are spiralling downward.
Detroit are at the bottom of the NFC North at 4-7 but have reeled off three straight wins, beginning with the 18-16 victory over the 7-4 Green Bay at Lambeau Field in Week 10.
Now, the Lions can sweep the season series between the two teams for the first time in 24 years when they host their division rivals on Thursday night.
Following a 1-7 start to the year, Detroit have been resurgent with their defence leading the way, surrendering just 14.3 points in the past three games after allowing 30.6 through the first eight weeks.
On the other side of the ball, the Lions have benefitted with Jim Bob Cooter taking over as offensive co-ordinator. Since the move was made before Detroit’s Week 8 game, star wide receiver Calvin Johnson has had at least nine targets and 81 yards in each of the four contests.
The connection between Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford was at its best in the 45-14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving, with the duo combining for three touchdowns.
Taking more shots downfield to Johnson has been just one of the ways Cooter has refreshed what was previously a stale offence. “I mean, you can’t do the same thing over and over in this league,” Johnson said.
“People catch on to it and it’s a copycat league, you know. If something works coverage-wise or something the defence is doing and it’s working effectively against us, then the other teams are going to do it. We’re just playing complete football and we’re attacking the defence and not playing defence on offence.”
The Packers’ passing game, meanwhile, has struggled to get back on track as Aaron Rodgers completed just 53.8 per cent of his passes in November – the lowest of any quarterback with at least 90 attempts.
His yards per attempt have dropped from 9.1 in the first seven games to 6.1 in the past four, with Rodgers tossing just three touchdowns to four interceptions.
“We’re not even being effective enough anywhere near our potential, I think,” Rodgers said. “We’re just on different pages.”