NFC North: 2011 Week 17 Wrap-ups
January, 1, 2012
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
A few thoughts on as wild of a "meaningless" Week 17 game as you'll possibly see.
What it means: The Green Bay Packers improved to 15-1, becoming the sixth team in NFL history to win at least 15 regular-season games in one season, despite deactivating three of their most prominent players (quarterback Aaron Rodgers, cornerback Charles Woodson and linebacker Clay Matthews). They also used the game to experiment on offensive line combinations. Amazingly, the Packers were able to protect some key players while still riding momentum into the playoffs. The Lions missed a chance to lock up the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoffs, leaving their positioning at the mercy of the Atlanta Falcons. The Lions will be the No. 6 seed, and travel to the New Orleans Saints, if the Falcons defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Falcons were leading 35-0 in the second quarter at last check. The Lions have now lost 20 consecutive games in the state of Wisconsin.
Air Supply: On a windy and snowy day at Lambeau Field, both starting quarterbacks set franchise records for passing yards in a game. Backup Matt Flynn made the most of his opportunity to start, throwing for 480 yards and six touchdowns, also a team record. The Lions' Matthew Stafford threw for 520 yards, bringing their combined total to an even 1,000 in the game, and tied his team record with five touchdown passes. The Madden-like final statistics also included 244 receiving yards for Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, 116 for tight end Brandon Pettigrew and 162 for Packers receiver Jordy Nelson.
FlynnWatch: I'm not sure what else Flynn could have done to audition for a starting job elsewhere next season. The Packers used two different left tackles, Chad Clifton and Marshall Newhouse, and didn't have receiver Greg Jennings or running back James Starks for this game. But Flynn smartly used the remaining talent the Packers surrounded him with, most notably Nelson (three touchdowns). Perhaps most impressive to teams considering him in free agency this spring, Flynn also led the Packers to 14 points in the final eight minutes, 18 seconds of the game, playing as if he was the quarterback fighting to secure a fifth seed.
Official grumbling: Kudos to Lions center Dominic Raiola, who stepped in and calmed down Lions coach Jim Schwartz (a little bit) in the second quarter after a series of poor calls robbed the Lions of both challenge opportunities before halftime. There is little doubt that the Lions were on the short end of both calls that led to challenges, a fumble that was reversed on tight end Tony Scheffler and a fumble by kick returner Stefan Logan. That left the Lions unable to challenge what should have been a touchdown pass to receiver Titus Young, whom officials ruled didn't get both feet down in the end zone when he in fact did. But in the end, it's fair to say the Lions had plenty of opportunities to win the game. I hope no one leaves the Lions locker room blaming those calls for the loss. The Lions had a 41-38 lead with 2:44 remaining, and their defense couldn't slow down a watered-down Packers offense. That's on them. The Packers' winning drive included two third-down conversions, one of which came after defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh jumped offside.
What's next: We'll await the Lions' playoff seed and opponent for next weekend's wild-card game, to be determined later Sunday. The Packers will have a playoff bye week and host a divisional game the weekend of Jan. 14-15.