Miracle in Motown
Ford Field, the site of the game.
1234 Total
GB 001413 27
DET 17033 23
DateDecember 3, 2015
StadiumFord Field, Detroit, Michigan
RefereeCarl Cheffers
TV in the United States
NetworkCBS, NFL Network
AnnouncersJim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson

The Miracle in Motown was the final play of an American football game between the NFC North divisional rivals Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions on December 3, 2015. The game, which was broadcast on television nationally on Thursday Night Football, was played at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan during the 2015 NFL season. On the final play of regulation, with no time remaining on the game clock, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw a 61-yard (56 m) Hail Mary pass into the end-zone that was caught by tight end Richard Rodgers II for the game-winning touchdown.

The play resulted in a dramatic 27–23 come-from-behind victory for the Packers, who had trailed 20–0 in the second half. The victory was the Packers' fourth-largest comeback in franchise history. It was also the start of a 3-game winning streak that would help the Packers clinch their seventh consecutive postseason berth. The play won the NFL Play of the Year Award for the 2015 season and would be named the year's best play in North American sports at the 2016 ESPY Awards.[1][2]

Background

The Packers entered the game having lost 4 of their previous 5 games after starting the season 6–0 and were seeking a win to keep pace in a close division race with the Minnesota Vikings. The Lions came into the game following 3 consecutive victories following a 1–7 start to the season and needed a win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.[3]

Eighteen days prior, the Lions had ended a 24-year winless streak at the Packers' Lambeau Field with an 18–16 victory. With a victory in the teams' second meeting, the Lions would achieve their first season sweep of the rival Packers since 1991.[4]

The Lions started the game strong, scoring on their first three possessions while holding the Packers to only 29 yards of offense to take a 17–0 lead. In the second quarter, both offenses struggled to generate offense and Packers entered halftime facing a 17–0 deficit. The Lions would extend their lead with a field goal on the opening drive of the second half to take a 20–0 lead. The Packers would answer scoring 14 points in just under 90 seconds to cut the lead to 20–14. The teams then traded scores, a field goal for Lions and a touchdown for the Packers to bring the score to 23–21 in favor of Detroit as the game reached its final seconds.[5]

Events of the play

With six seconds left on the game clock, Green Bay was faced with a 3rd-and-10 at their own 21-yard line. On a desperation play after one forward pass and one backward pass, Packers tight end Richard Rodgers II lateraled the ball to quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was quickly tackled at his 24-yard line by Detroit Lions defender Devin Taylor, with the game clock having gone to zero during the play. However, the official standing behind the play called a 15-yard penalty on Taylor for a face mask penalty on the tackle, and so, because NFL rules state that a game cannot end on a defensive penalty, the Packers were given an untimed play at their own 39-yard line.[6][7][8]

After the snap, all Packers receivers ran towards the end zone and Aaron Rodgers broke to his left in order to buy time for his receivers to reach the end zone before changing direction and scrambling to his right, escaping the Detroit defenders in the process. Rodgers then threw a 61-yard (56 m) Hail Mary pass into the end zone.[9] Tight end Richard Rodgers II, who was the last player to reach the end zone, leapt high in front of all defenders, caught the ball at full extension, and came down nearly unchallenged for the catch, resulting in the Packers winning 27–23 in walk-off fashion.

According to a number of estimations, Aaron Rodgers's pass traveled 66–68 yards (60–62 m) in the air before reaching the hands of Richard Rodgers II. The throw was also high enough to nearly hit the rafters at Ford Field.[10] The Packers 20 point comeback was the fourth-largest in franchise history.[11]

When you throw it with that arch [sic] you have a chance, because it gives guys a chance to fight for position. That’s the whole design of it, and there’s a design to where you try to get to and the triangle that you’re trying to form (with teammates) down there. Richard is the perfect guy for that type of situation, big body and his ability to go up—you see his old basketball skills—and high-point the football.

— Mike McCarthy, the Packers head coach, breaking down the play[12]

Game box score

Week Thirteen: Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions – Game summary
Period 1 2 34Total
Packers 0 0 141327
Lions 17 0 3323

at Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan

Game information

Penalty controversy

The face mask penalty against Detroit that led to the winning play by Green Bay generated controversy, since replays appeared to show Taylor not grabbing Rodgers's facemask.[13] Dean Blandino, NFL Vice President of Officiating, responded to the call on Twitter moments after the game:

Hand up to the mask, quick grab with finger and the head gets turned. At full speed, official is going to make that call almost every time.

— NFL Vice President of Officiating, Dean Blandino, posted 12:05 a.m., December 4, 2015[14]

During a visit by NFL officials to a Lions training camp in 2016, Carl Cheffers, the official who threw the flag, was asked about the penalty; he said "I think it was an illegal tackle. Horse-collar, facemask, I think it was an illegal tackle. I’m very comfortable with it."[15]

Naming the play

The nickname for the play, "Miracle in Motown", was first used by Jim Nantz during the nationally broadcast Thursday Night Football postgame show.[16]

Broadcast calls of the final play

TV

Nantz: How far can Rodgers throw it?
Simms: He can make it to the end zone if he gets out of the pocket, gets a little running start, but then can – can the receivers get far enough down the field?
Nantz: Rodgers, in trouble...
Simms: It's gonna get there.
Nantz: He turned 32 yesterday, does he have a vintage moment in him? In the end zone... IT IS CAUGHT! FOR THE WIN!!! Richard Rodgers with a walk-off touchdown! A game-ender for the Packers! Total disbelief at Ford Field. The Packers, saved by the face mask call, given one last chance, and Aaron Rodgers heaves it as far as he can, and Richard Rodgers II, boxing out in the end zone for the touchdown. The son of a former Cal football player who was involved in the Band Play, one of the all-time game-enders in football history, the Stanford–Cal game of years ago, 1982 – now the son comes up with the Play of his own.

— TNF's Jim Nantz and Phil Simms calling the Hail Mary

Radio

Larrivee: Snap to Rodgers, scrambles to his left, under pressure rolling right, escapes, right side looking, rainbows high and deep into the end zone... and it is CAUGHT! CAUGHT FOR A TOUCHDOWN!!! A leaping touchdown catch is made and the Packers have won!
McCarren: Unbelievable.
Larrivee: The Packers have won... on an extra play!

Aftermath

The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Packers as was credited as saving the team's season.[17] It also helped the Packers maintain pace with the Vikings for the NFC North title, however the Vikings would ultimately win the division, ending the Packers 4 year streak of division titles.[18] The Packers would still make the playoffs as a wild card team In the playoffs, the Packers would defeat the Washington Redskins 35–18 in the Wild Card Round before falling to the Arizona Cardinals in the Divisional Round 20–26 (the game went into overtime after Rodgers completed another successful Hail Mary pass, this time to Jeff Janis, only for Arizona to win on their opening drive of the extra period largely through the efforts of Larry Fitzgerald).[19] The loss effectively eliminated Detroit from playoff contention and after going 3–1 in their final four games, the Lions would finish the season in 3rd place in NFC North with a 7–9 record.[20][21]

The play marked the first of three successful Hail Marys in the span of 13 months for Aaron Rodgers leading him to be regarded as ''The Hail Mary King''.[22][23][24][25] Considered one of the best of the year, the play won the NFL Play of the Year Award for the 2015 season and was named the year's best play in North American sports at the 2016 ESPY Awards.[1][2]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b "LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers clean up at ESPYS". ESPN.com. July 14, 2016. Retrieved November 7, 2022.
  2. ^ a b Kramer, Daniel. "NFL Play of the Year 2015-16: Award Winner, Voting Results and Reaction". Bleacher Report. Retrieved November 7, 2022.
  3. ^ Wright, Jamie (December 3, 2015). "Green Bay Packers: What's at stake tonight?". Lombardi Ave. Retrieved November 8, 2022.
  4. ^ "Packers stun Lions on Aaron Rodgers-to-Richard Rodgers Hail Mary". ESPN. December 4, 2015. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
  5. ^ "Packers vs. Lions - Play-By-Play - December 3, 2015 - ESPN". ESPN.com. Retrieved November 7, 2022.
  6. ^ Edholm, Eric (December 4, 2015). "Miracle in Motown: Packers Stun Lions on Controversial Walk-off Touchdown". Yahoo! Sports. Yahoo!. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  7. ^ Slusher, Keenan (December 4, 2015). "Miracle in Motown: Rodgers Connects with Rodgers on Hail Mary". NBC Sports. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  8. ^ Wagner-McGough, Sean (December 4, 2015). "Look: Twitter Can't Believe the Miracle in Motown Actually Happened". CBS Sports. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  9. ^ Nantz, Jim; Simms, Phil (December 3, 2015). "Aaron Rodgers' Amazing Hail Mary: The Miracle in Motown! Packers vs. Lions". Thursday Night Football. CBS Sports. Retrieved December 4, 2015 – via National Football League on YouTube.
  10. ^ Breech, John (December 4, 2015). "Look: This Is How Close Rodger's Hail Mary Came to Hitting the Rafters". CBS Sports. Archived from the original on December 15, 2015. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
  11. ^ "Green Bay Packers Greatest Comebacks". Pro-Football-Reference.com. December 4, 2015. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  12. ^ Dougherty, Pete (December 4, 2015). "This Time, Packers on Winning End of Hail Mary". Green Bay Press-Gazette. Retrieved December 6, 2015."
  13. ^ Wagner-McGough, Sean (December 4, 2015). "LOOK: Twitter can't believe the Miracle in Motown actually happened". CBS Sports. Retrieved November 1, 2016.
  14. ^ Wagner-McGough, Sean (December 4, 2015). "NFL Ref Czar Defends Controversial Face Mask Call in Miracle in Motown". CBS Sports. Retrieved December 8, 2015.
  15. ^ Rogers, Justin (August 5, 2016). "Ref who flagged Lions before Hail Mary: It was right call". The Detroit News. Retrieved November 1, 2016.
  16. ^ Verderame, Matt (December 4, 2015). "Jim Nantz Coins Game 'Miracle in Motown'". Fansided. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  17. ^ Stites, Adam (January 1, 2017). "Packers saved their 2015 season with a Hail Mary vs. the Lions". SBNation.com. Retrieved November 8, 2022.
  18. ^ NFL 2015 schedule and results: Vikings beat Packers in Green Bay to win NFC North, SBNation, January 3, 2016
  19. ^ "2015 Green Bay Packers Rosters, Stats, Schedule, Team Draftees, Injury Reports". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved November 8, 2022.
  20. ^ Slusher, Keenan (December 4, 2015). "'Miracle in Motown:' Rodgers connects with Rodgers on Hail Mary". NBC Sports NFL. Retrieved November 8, 2022.
  21. ^ "2015 Detroit Lions Rosters, Stats, Schedule, Team Draftees, Injury Reports". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved November 8, 2022.
  22. ^ "Ranking Aaron Rodgers' three Hail Mary completions". NFL.com. Retrieved November 8, 2022.
  23. ^ "Aaron Rodgers Remains The King Of The Hail Mary". Deadspin. January 9, 2017. Retrieved November 8, 2022.
  24. ^ "The Hail Mary King, Aaron Rodgers: No. 10 on the #PFF50". Twitter. Retrieved November 8, 2022.
  25. ^ Dougherty, Jack (November 18, 2020). "Aaron Rodgers Reveals His Secret to Throwing the Perfect Hail Mary". Sportscasting | Pure Sports. Retrieved November 8, 2022.