Thursday night, the Lions did an absolutely miserable job of guarding Aaron Rodgers' game-winning Hail Mary. There's a lot to say about that, but we'll say it over here. That will be the only mention of the Detroit Lions in this episode of Chart Party, which will concentrate instead on how vastly improbably bonkers the Green Bay Packers' win really was.
It's weird enough that the Packers came back from a 20-0 deficit, and that they were even in that deep of a hole to begin with, and that they won it when a guy named Rodgers threw to a guy who was also named Rodgers (that was Richard). But as far as desperation plays go in the 21st century, this one -- a 61-yard touchdown strike -- was completely unique.
There's a good reason why long-distance Hail Marys virtually never, ever work in the NFL. Defenses are always playing Prevent, and a considerable amount of time is spent coaching players at this level for this particular scenario. Rodgers scrambled, dodged a tackle and threw an absolute meteor toward the end zone. In doing so, he gave the Packers a chance to be extraordinarily lucky. And in facing such a miserable Hail Mary defense, they were lucky as hell.
Since 2000, 392 other teams have found themselves in the Packers' situation. Here is how it ended for them.
It's important to note that this includes teams that were down by multiple scores and had zero realistic chance of winning the game. What this really illustrates to me is just how rarely the desperation 30-second drives matter. We see them all the damn time, and only 10 of them over the last 15 regular seasons have been meaningful.
Even among those 10, the Packers' drive last night stands alone.
A few things to note here:
1. It had been 14 years since the last time a team mounted an entire game-winning touchdown drive within 30 seconds. The rest were just set-ups for field goals.
2. None of these teams had more ground to cover than the Packers, who started at their own 21. These drives typically start with good-to-very-good field position.
3. That lateral play started with a 19-yard forward pass, followed by a 16-yard backwards pass back to Rodgers. This created the extraordinarily weird image of a quarterback who was more or less at his line of scrimmage, the furthest man backfield, and yet prohibited from throwing. Imagine a quarterback scrambling in the pocket who is not allowed to throw. Imagine how dead in the water that quarterback would be. Bless this highly nutritious microwavable facemask penalty and the people who sold it on sale.
4. Strictly from a drive-chart standpoint, I think this is the weirdest end to a game since that 2002 Chiefs-Browns game. It's occurring to me that there are probably some people who aren't familiar with that story. We'll have to talk about that some other time, because it's one of the stupidest things I have ever seen.