Miracle in Motown
Ford Field in Detroit, site of the game.
|Date||December 3, 2015|
|Stadium||Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan|
|TV in the United States|
|Network||CBS, NFL Network|
|Announcers||Jim 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 Thursday, 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 (QB) Aaron Rodgers threw a 61-yard (56 m) Hail Mary pass into the end-zone that was caught by tight end (TE) Richard Rodgers for the game-winning touchdown after defensive end (DE) Devin Taylor was called for a face mask on Rodgers which resulted in one additional play.
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 Lions would end the season with a record of 7–9 and fail to reach the playoffs.
Before the game on December 3, 2015, the Green Bay Packers had struggled in their previous games, while the Detroit Lions had found their form since winning against the Packers on the road at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. The Packers had lost four of their last five games after a 6–0 start for the season and were in dire need of a change of fortune to reach the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions came to the game with a three-game winning streak, and they still had a chance to earn a playoff spot despite starting the season with a 1-7 record.
Eighteen days earlier, the Lions had ended a 24-year winless streak against the Packers in a road game by beating them 18–16 at Lambeau Field. If they had also defeated the Packers at their second meeting of the season, the Lions would have swept the season series with Green Bay for the first time since 1991.
Before the Packers started their comeback from the 20–0 deficit in the second half of the game, the Lions had snapped a 56-game streak during which the Packers had scored in the first half. Counting the previous game against the Chicago Bears and the greater part of the Lions game, Packers went nearly 70 game-minutes without scoring a point.
Events of the play
With six seconds left on the game clock, Green Bay was on 3rd-and-10 at its own 21-yard line. After one forward pass and one backward pass, Packers tight end Richard Rodgers 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 foul 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.
After the snap, all Packers receivers ran towards the end zone and Aaron Rodgers broke right, escaping the Detroit defenders before throwing a 61-yard (56 m) Hail Mary pass into the end zone. Tight end Richard Rodgers, 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 (the Packers chose to omit the extra-point attempt). According to a number of estimations, Aaron Rodgers' pass traveled 66–68 yards (60–62 m) before reaching the hands of Richard Rodgers. The throw was also high enough to nearly hit the rafters at Ford Field. The comeback victory was the fourth-largest in franchise history.
When you throw it with that arch 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.
The Packers TE Richard Rodgers is the son of Richard Rodgers Sr., who was involved in one of the most famous plays in American football, "The Play", that ended the game between Cal and Stanford in 1982. Richard Rodgers Sr. contended after the game that his son's role in the play rivaled his involvement in the famous play which he called and in which he threw two of the five laterals in 1982:
It's the complete scenario. If you look at it from my perspective, Rodgers throws it to Rodgers, not Aaron to Richard but Richard to Aaron, to start the whole thing. The penalty gets called. And then Rodgers throws it back to Rodgers again. I couldn't write a better script than that.
Like most significant calls by officials, the face mask penalty against Detroit that led to the winning play by Green Bay generated controversy. 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
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."
Naming the play
Broadcast calls of the final play
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, 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.
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!
Larrivee: The Packers have won...on an extra play!
Miller: Rodgers rolling to his left, being chase, slips the tackle, Rodgers is stepping up lofting it deep down the field, into the end zone, it is up, and it is....CAUGHT!! CAUGHT BY THE PACKERS!!! RICHARD RODGERS FOR THE TOUCHDOWN! OH NO!!! Unbelievable! Rodgers on the final play of the game, slipped inside of all the defenders in the endzone, and made the catch for the score. Sixty-one yards, and the Lions have lost.
- Aaron Rodgers's pass is the longest game-winning Hail Mary play in NFL history.
- The touchdown-throw distance of 61 air yards (56 m) from the line of scrimmage is the most air-yards on a touchdown in the previous 10 NFL seasons, and it was the second-longest offensive game-winning touchdown on the final play of regulation in NFL history. It came four yards (3.7 m) short of Earl Morrall and Jim Gibbons combining for a 65-yard (59 m) game-winning play for the Detroit Lions in a 20–15 win over the Johnny Unitas-led Baltimore Colts in 1960.
- Overcoming a 20-point deficit represented the fourth-biggest comeback win in Packers franchise history. It rates behind a 23-point deficit in a 35–23 win over the Los Angeles Rams in 1982, a 23-point deficit in a 37–36 win over the Dallas Cowboys in 2013 (with Matt Flynn as a QB) and a 21-point deficit in a 35–34 win over the New Orleans Saints in 1989. This 20-point deficit was later tied in 2018 when the Packers overcame a 20-point third quarter deficit to beat the Chicago Bears 24–23.
- Before the final game-winning play, the Green Bay Packers had gone the full 60 minutes of the game without leading.
- The play was named the "Bridgestone Performance Play of the Year" at the 5th Annual NFL Honors ceremony the night before Super Bowl 50.
- The play won the award for Best Play at the 2016 ESPY Awards.
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- Breech, John (December 4, 2015). "Look: This Is How Close Rodger's Hail Mary Came to Hitting the Rafters". CBS Sports. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
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- Brinson, Will (December 4, 2015). "Miracle in Motown Has an Incredible Link to the Stanford Cal Lateral Play". CBS Sports. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
- Wagner-McGough, Sean (December 4, 2015). "LOOK: Twitter can't believe the Miracle in Motown actually happened". CBS Sports. Retrieved November 1, 2016.
- Wagner-McGough, Sean (December 4, 2015). "NFL Ref Czar Defends Controversial Face Mask Call in Miracle in Motown". CBS Sports. Retrieved December 8, 2015.
- Rogers, Justin (August 5, 2016). "Ref who flagged Lions before Hail Mary: It was right call". The Detroit News. Retrieved November 1, 2016.
- Verderame, Matt (December 4, 2015). "Jim Nantz Coins Game 'Miracle in Motown'". Fansided. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
- Reineking, Jim (December 8, 2015). "Packers' Duo from Cal Now Has Its Own 'The Play'". National Football League. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
- Hodkiewicz, Weston (February 6, 2016). "'Miracle in Motown' Wins NFL Play of the Year". The Sheboygan Press. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
- ESPN.com (July 14, 2016). "LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers Clean Up at ESPYs". ESPN. Retrieved October 23, 2016.
- on YouTube