Matt Flynn's historic day leads Packers' backups past Lions
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- With Aaron Rodgers resting up for the playoffs, Matt Flynn had to be ready to run the Green Bay Packers offense.
Was he ever.
With Rodgers bundled up on the sideline in cold and windy conditions at Lambeau Field, Flynn set franchise records with 480 yards passing and six touchdowns -- the final one to Jermichael Finley with 1:10 left, giving the Packers a 45-41 victory over the Detroit Lions in a wild regular-season finale Sunday.
"Just think of all of the great quarterbacks that have come through here," Flynn said. "It's very humbling. I just thank everybody around me and everything. I couldn't have done it, obviously, by myself. There's weapons all around me, and the line did a great job. It's one of those games where it got to a shootout, and we just kept having to match each other."
It was an ideal afternoon for the Packers (15-1), who got to rest Rodgers and several other big-name players without losing momentum going into the playoffs.
Flynn barely got the Packers past Matthew Stafford, who threw for 520 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions for the Lions (10-6). Detroit has lost 21 straight road games to the Packers, including the postseason.
"We're going to use this as motivation," Stafford said. "We had a chance and didn't get it done, so we've got to get out there and start making it happen. We've got to get on a run here. That's what it's all about in the playoffs, getting hot and hopefully we can get that going."
The Lions head to the playoffs for the first time since 1999 as a wild card, but could have clinched the No. 5 seed with a win. Instead, they'll be the No. 6 seed and face New Orleans in the first round.
"This certainly wasn't a throwaway game for us," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said.
According to STATS LLC, it was the first time in NFL history opposing quarterbacks each threw for 400-plus yards and five-plus touchdowns in a game. The teams' combined 971 net yards passing broke the record of 906 set earlier this season in a Week 1 game between New England and Miami.
"Flynn played a great game," Stafford said. "Their guys were making plays all over the field and scoring points."
For Flynn, it was a huge day that could eventually lead to a significant payday. A seventh-round pick out of LSU in 2008, Flynn already had the attention of general managers around the league after he nearly beat New England last season while Rodgers was recovering from a concussion.
Now he has a huge performance and a victory under his belt, and he'll become a free agent in the offseason.
"We're going to miss him," guard Josh Sitton said, adding that he thought Flynn should sign with an AFC team.
For now, though, Flynn is ready to get back to his main role in Green Bay: Helping Rodgers get ready to lead the Packers back to the Super Bowl.
"We've got the best quarterback in the NFL as a starter here, so it's not hard at all," Flynn said. "He's the heart and soul of this team and the leader of this team. So, it's pretty easy to take a back seat and watch him play, and I'm excited to see what he does in the playoffs."
Jordy Nelson had nine catches for 162 yards and three touchdowns for the Packers.
Calvin Johnson had 11 catches for 244 yards and a touchdown, and Titus Young had a pair of touchdowns for the Lions.
With the afternoon off, Rodgers' season quarterback rating of 122.5 coming into the game broke Peyton Manning's single-season mark of 121.1 set in 2004.
With NFC home-field advantage for the playoffs secured, the Packers also rested several key players with nagging injuries: cornerback Charles Woodson, linebacker Clay Matthews, wide receiver Greg Jennings, right tackle Bryan Bulaga, running back James Starks and wide receiver Randall Cobb.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said it was an "easy call" to rest Rodgers, but the coach found ways to keep Rodgers' head in the game; McCarthy said he handed over play-calling duties to his quarterback in the first half.
And McCarthy was thrilled with Flynn's day.
"It was clearly one of the best performances I've been a part of," McCarthy said. "No doubt about it. I can't say enough about Matt Flynn. The whole world got to see what we see every day."
For a while, it looked like the Lions would take advantage of the Packers' resting starters.
With the Packers leading 38-34, Johnson drew a pass interference penalty on Tramon Williams to give the Lions the ball at the Green Bay 28. Scheffler hauled in a one-handed catch to set up first-and-goal on the 2.
Johnson then was called for offensive pass interference in the end zone, but Stafford threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Scheffler in the back of the end zone and the Lions took a 41-38 lead with 2:39 left.
Flynn wasn't finished, finding James Jones for a 40-yard completion to set up first-and-goal at the 6 with 1:19 left. Flynn found Finley to win it.
With the Lions threatening again in the final minute, Sam Shields' interception put the game away.
Jones said he and the rest of the Packers weren't surprised by Flynn's performance.
"He's a great player, great quarterback," Jones said. "He just showed the world what he can do."
Ndamukong Suh mocked Rodgers' "title belt" celebration after sacking Flynn near the end of the third quarter. Suh was suspended for two games after he stomped on Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith in Green Bay's win on Thanksgiving. ... Packers veteran left tackle Chad Clifton played for the first time since injuring his hamstring Oct. 9. He played the first quarter. ... Defensive tackle Corey Williams and safety Louis Delmas were inactive for Detroit.
- Walt Coleman