Lions’ Johnson was on sideline for Hail Mary play

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Detroit — Golden Tate said the Lions practice defending a Hail Mary each Saturday.

But, unlike the play that cost the Lions their game against the Packers Thursday night, wide receiver Calvin Johnson is normally a part of that defensive effort.

Instead, Johnson remained on the sideline for Green Bay’s last-ditch effort, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed a 61-yard touchdown pass to tight end Richard Rodgers with no time remaining as the Lions lost, 27-23.

In a game in which the Lions led 20-0 in the third quarter, there are plenty of decisions to second-guess, but Johnson’s absence was seemingly the most glaring misstep by the coaches.

“Because in that situation, we have a couple different things that we do,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “That was one where you’re kind of looking for more of that pass-back-and-forth kind of thing because of the range. (Aaron Rodgers) ran around there so long, moved up, gave himself a chance to get in the end zone.

“We had plenty of guys back there. We had plenty of guys. We just didn’t make the play. They did.”

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The Packers tried to score with multiple laterals on the second-to-last play, but that started on the Green Bay 21. After a questionable facemask penalty on Lions defensive end Devin Taylor, Green Bay moved to its own 39, and the strong-armed Rodgers was plenty capable of throwing it to the end zone.

But, the Lions instead tried to prevent the laterals again, rushing three linemen and leaving two other players, including defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, in position to stop any action around midfield.

The 6-foot-5 Johnson, meanwhile, didn’t have a chance to knock the ball down as he normally does when the Lions defend a Hail Mary.

“That’s Coach’s decision,” Tate said. “I can’t really speak on that.”