Backup quarterback Matt Flynn threw six touchdowns in relief of a deactivated Aaron Rodgers Sunday, leading the Green Bay Packers to a 45-41 shootout win over the Detroit Lions in Week 17 at Lambeau Field.
Here are five observations from the Packers’ win:
In throwing for a Packers’ record in both passing yards (480) and touchdowns (six), Matt Flynn vaulted himself to the top of the 2012 free agent quarterback class. He’ll become a rich man sometime this summer, as there will likely be at least one quarterback-needy team that pays big money to Flynn despite only two NFL starts.
Any chance of the Packers trying to re-sign as a backup him went out the window Sunday. He’s ready to start, and that’s not happening in Green Bay. It’ll be interesting to see how the Packers approach the impending situation this offseason, however. They could choose to let Flynn walk and simply net the compensatory pick in next year’s draft. Or, they could franchise tag him and then pursue a trade, which gives them control over the compensation and location. I don’t think any team in the division is a threat to sign Flynn, but the Packers’ decision regarding their backup quarterback is definitely something to watch after this season.
2. More than a steal
You would be hard-pressed to find a receiver that had a better calendar year than Jordy Nelson. His stunning run started in Super Bowl XLV and has been followed by a breakout 2011 season. On the first day of 2012, Nelson finished his career year with another career game. Nelson caught nine passes for 162 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday, pushing his season totals to 68 for 1,263 and 15. Nelson’s 15 receiving touchdowns is third in Packers history to only 18 from Sterling Sharpe in 1994 and 17 from Don Hutson in 1942.
But possibly the most encouraging part of Nelson’s day was the fact that he did it without Greg Jennings, who missed his third game with a sprained knee. Any concerns about Nelson’s capability of handling the lead role were calmed. He’s a legitimate No. 1 NFL receiver. Can you believe the Packers re-upped Nelson for four years and just $14 million? What a steal that deal looks like now.
3. Same story, different day
The Packers were without Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson (healthy scratches), but the defense was again gashed over and over. Matthew Stafford’s right arm was the culprit, as he threw for a whopping 520 yards and five touchdowns. As fans so painfully know, this is nothing new for the Packers defense. They end the 2011 season with the most passing yards allowed in NFL history, and Sunday’s game was just the cap to what’s been a lot of bending in the Packers’ pass defense.
Which brings me to this point: What NFC playoff team is going to be intimidated coming to Lambeau Field in the postseason? Any of the remaining five offenses can (and likely will) score points in abundance against the Packers defense. If you can score points, you’ll be in any game. And even though the Lions couldn’t finish off a Packers team that was playing a bunch of second-stringers, you better believe that they’ll be a confident bunch if they return to Lambeau in two weeks. Any game the Packers win in the postseason will probably resemble what you saw Sunday.
4. Decision to make
It was evident on Sunday that left tackle Chad Clifton was playing his first live-game action since Week 5. He was beat a handful of times, especially to the inside, during his limited snaps. The Packers apparently saw enough to pull him early in the second quarter in an effort to preserve the 35-year-old’s health. Still, did Clifton do enough to warrant a start in two weeks in the Divisional round?
Marshall Newhouse shifted back to the left after Clifton went out and played well. It’s going to be interesting to see how this situation plays out. Do the Packers keep giving Clifton No. 1 snaps in practice to get the veteran ready? Or do you use those reps on a young player who needs all the experience he can get before the postseason?
5. Mental gaffes
The defensive allowances are a part of the Packers’ 2011 identity, but the mental mistakes that were made Sunday most definitely are not. Maybe you can possibly credit some of that to the maturity of the opponent. Erik Walden and Desmond Bishop each made critical personal foul penalties that gave Detroit an easy touchdown. Pat Lee had an inexcusable safety in the first quarter doing a job he’s been asked to do for a couple of seasons now. Those are all mistakes that can’t be made once the playoffs begin for the Packers in two weeks. Mike McCarthy’s bunch has been too disciplined all season (least penalized team in the NFL) for those bone-headed mistakes to start happening now.
The Packers Divisional round playoff game will take place on Sunday, Jan. 15 at 3:30 CT. The game will be shown on FOX, the NFL announced…The 51 total passing touchdowns (Aaron Rodgers 45, Matt Flynn 6) for the Packers in 2011 ties the NFL record set by the Indianapolis Colts in 2004. The 55 total (four rushing) are the most in the NFL history…Stafford’s 520 yards was the most in an NFL game since 1996…Ryan Grant showed some straight-line speed in out-running the Lions defense for an 80-yard touchdown. Could he be the same kind of spark that James Starks was last postseason?…How important was Randall Cobb? The Packers special teams aren’t so special without the rookie returning punts and kicks…The 560 points the Packers scored this season is the second-most in NFL history. They eclipsed the 1998 Minnesota Vikings with their final touchdown…Both Vic So’oto and Brad Jones had sacks.