- Rob Demovsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Most people remember Matt Flynn’s record-setting performance against the Detroit Lions in the 2011 regular-season finale – the game that Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy said this week "got [Flynn] paid." Indeed, Flynn’s 480-yard, six-touchdown game played a major role in the three-year, $26 million contract he signed the next offseason with the Seattle Seahawks.
A year before his breakout game, which remains the high point of his career, Flynn got thrown into a scoreless game late in the second quarter at Ford Field after Aaron Rodgers sustained a concussion. The Packers lost 7-3 to a Lions team that came into the game with a 2-10 record. Leading 3-0 in the third quarter, Flynn led a drive to the Lions’ 9-yard line. On second down, Levy picked him off in the end zone.
Flynn had one more shot late in that game, but he missed receiver Greg Jennings in the end zone for what would have been a 31-yard, go-ahead touchdown.
“I always look back to that game; I learned a heck of a lot in that game,” Flynn said this week. “I think I got in there and I was a little too excited or nervous or whatever I was, but for some reason my mechanics just went out the window. We made some plays, moved the ball a little bit, but a lot of mistakes were made, obviously.”
A week after that relief appearance in Detroit, Flynn started at the New England Patriots and nearly led the Packers to an upset before losing 31-27.
“I went back and watched that game a ton of times before the next week when I played in New England and just watched how I rushed my footwork, how I was rushing my reads,” Flynn said. “I had to take a step back and say, ‘Just take a breath when you’re out there, play like you’re in practice, make your reads.’ And I saw a big progression from getting thrown in there in that Detroit game to the next week in New England. So I’m thankful for that Detroit game, because it taught me a lot about what not to do internally.”
Memories of that Detroit game – not the one a season later – came rushing back to Flynn on Sunday, when coach Mike McCarthy put in Flynn to replace the struggling Scott Tolzien against the Minnesota Vikings. Flynn’s first possession went nowhere.
“I rushed my feet [Sunday] in the first series, or it may have been the second,” said Flynn, who re-signed with the Packers on Nov. 12 after failed stints in Seattle, Oakland and Buffalo. “It was one of my early throws. I was just making very poor throws, and like I said, that first time I played in Detroit I learned a lot. You just have to take a deep breath and just play football. Play like you’ve had a million reps in practice. It’s 11-on-11 out there. Just don’t rush it.”
Flynn then rallied the Packers from a 16-point, fourth-quarter deficit and into overtime. That performance earned him the start this week against the Lions.
Flynn wasn’t the only one who learned a valuable lesson in that 2010 game in Detroit.
“When I look back at that game, I think I pushed the envelope a little too much,” McCarthy said. “That red-zone interception I wish I had that call back. It was the right call, but it was a preparation and timing and repping that play, and he got an odd blitz. I forget it, it might have been someone who peeled out on a blitz pressure and picked it off, if you remember the play.
“I thought he played well. Going into that deal, we had a chance to go down there on fourth down with the matchup with Greg Jennings that we did not hit with a possibility to win or extend the game. It’s something you take from that game, it’s no different than what we’ve done the last couple of weeks here, and we applied it to our preparation for New England. So, I really felt he was ready for New England. When we went up there we were aggressive with him, and I think that really helped him.”
3hDana Wakiji / Special to ESPN.com