Hail Mary vs. Lions was ‘changing point’ in Packers’ season

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Richard Rodgers makes the Hail Mary catch on a 61-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to beat the Lions on Dec. 3.

The Packers were on the losing end of a Hail Mary in 2012 when then-Seahawks receiver Golden Tate caught a 24-yard touchdown that became known as the “Fail Mary” because Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings seemed to have possession before Tate.

For at least one Packers player, that losing experience made the Hail Mary against the Lions even sweeter in 2015.

“You watch so many Hail Marys over your career and see it done,” Packers wide receiver James Jones said last week. “We had one in Seattle that went against us, so for you to be a part of it and it was to win the game, it was unbelievable.”

Lions fans surely won’t want to relive what happened in Week 13, but the play ultimately will go down as an important footnote in the 2015 season.

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At NFL Honors last Saturday, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and tight end Richard Rodgers accepted the award for Play of the Year after connecting for the 61-yard touchdown as time expired at Ford Field.

“It was unbelievable man, especially to win a game that really you were getting dominated the whole game by the Lions,” Jones said. “That was the changing point of our season, to be honest with you. After that game, we felt like we could win any game no matter what the circumstances were in the game.”

The score helped start a three-game winning streak for the Packers, who advanced to the postseason and beat Washington in the wild-card round before losing to Arizona the following week. But, that loss to the Cardinals included two Hail Marys that forced the game to overtime before Arizona scored a touchdown on the opening possession.

Richard Rodgers said the Hail Mary against the Lions gave the Packers a “jolt of energy” after they’d lost four of the previous five games, including one to the Lions at Lambeau Field.

“It was kind of surreal,” wide receiver Randall Cobb said. “It was kind of like, wow, that really happened.”

Jones said that was the best play he’s ever been a part of, but Cobb said he preferred his late, game-winning touchdown against the Bears in 2013, which clinched a postseason berth in Week 17.

Richard Rodgers said he thinks he had some better catches in high school, one-handed ones, but the Hail Mary, which was mostly uncontested as he crossed the goal line, was the biggest moment in his football career.