Miracle in Motown
Ford Field in Detroit, site of the game
|Date||December 3, 2015|
|Stadium||Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan|
|TV in the United States|
|Network||CBS, NFL Network|
|Announcers||Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson|
The Miracle in Motown refers to the final play of an American football game between the NFC North divisional rivals Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions of the National Football League (NFL) that was played on December 3, 2015 at Ford Field in Detroit. On the final play of regulation, with no time remaining on the game clock, Packers quarterback (QB) Aaron Rodgers heaved a towering 61-yard (56 m) Hail Mary pass into the end-zone that was caught by tight end (TE) Richard Rodgers for the game-winning touchdown. The play resulted in a stunning 27–23 come-from-behind victory for the Packers, who had trailed 20–0 in the second half, marking the fourth-largest comeback in franchise history. The game was broadcast on television nationally on Thursday Night Football, a joint production aired simultaneously by CBS and NFL Network.
Before the game on December 3, 2015, the Green Bay Packers had struggled, especially offensively, in their previous games, while the Detroit Lions had found their form since winning against the Packers on the road at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. The Packers had lost four of their last five games after a 6–0 start for the season and were in dire need of a change of fortune to reach the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions came to the game with a three-game winning streak, and they still had a chance to become the first team to earn a playoff spot after starting the season 0–5.
Eighteen days earlier, the Lions had ended a 24-year winless streak against the Packers in a road game by beating them 18–16 at Lambeau Field. If they had also defeated the Packers at their second meeting of the season, the Lions would have swept the season series with Green Bay for the first time since 1991.
Before the Packers started their comeback from the 20–0 deficit in the second half of the game, the Lions had snapped a 56-game streak during which the Packers had scored in the first half. Counting the previous game against the Chicago Bears and the greater part of the Lions game, Packers went nearly 70 game-minutes without scoring a point.
Events of the play
On what turned out to be the penultimate play of the game, with only six seconds left on the game clock, Green Bay was at its own 24-yard line. Time expired during that play as Green Bay completed a number of lateral passes which culminated in Packers TE Richard Rodgers throwing the ball to quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was quickly tackled by Detroit Lions defender Devin Taylor. The official standing behind the play called a 15-yard penalty on Taylor for a face mask foul on the tackle, which put the Packers at their own 39-yard line. Because NFL rules state that a game cannot end on a defensive penalty, with the game clock on zero, the Packers were given one more untimed play. After calling the play, all Packers receivers ran towards the end zone and Aaron Rodgers broke right, escaping the Detroit defenders before throwing a 61-yard (56 m) Hail Mary pass into the end zone. TE Richard Rodgers caught the pass right at the goal line and stepped backwards into the end zone, resulting in the Packers winning 27–23. According to a number of estimations, Aaron Rodgers' pass traveled 66–68 yards (60–62 m) before reaching the hands of TE Richard Rodgers. The throw was also high enough to nearly hit the rafters at Ford Field.
When you throw it with that arch you have a chance, because it gives guys a chance to fight for position. That’s the whole design of it, and there’s a design to where you try to get to and the triangle that you’re trying to form (with teammates) down there. Richard is the perfect guy for that type of situation, big body and his ability to go up—you see his old basketball skills—and high-point the football.— Mike McCarthy, the Packers head coach, breaking down the play
Broadcast call of the final play
Nantz: Rodgers, in trouble...
Simms: It's going to get there.
Nantz: He turned 32 yesterday, does he have a vintage moment in it... in the end zone... it is CAUGHT! FOR THE WIN! Richard Rodgers! With a walk-off touchdown, a game-ender for the Packers!'
—TNF's Jim Nantz and Phil Simms calling the Hail Mary
The Packers TE Richard Rodgers is the son of Richard Rodgers Sr., who was involved in one of the most famous plays in American football, "The Play", that ended the game between Cal and Stanford in 1982. Richard Rodgers Sr. contended after the game that his son's role in the play rivaled his involvement in the famous play which he called and in which he threw two of the five laterals in 1982:
It's the complete scenario. If you look at it from my perspective, Rodgers throws it to Rodgers, not Aaron to Richard but Richard to Aaron, to start the whole thing. The penalty gets called. And then Rodgers throws it back to Rodgers again. I couldn't write a better script than that.— Richard Rodgers, Sr., father of TE Richard Rodgers
Like most significant calls by officials, the face mask penalty against Detroit that led to the winning play by Green Bay generated controversy. On replays, it appeared that Taylor's hand only brushed Rodgers' face mask, with the hand ultimately landing on Rodgers' right shoulder. However, Dean Blandino, NFL Vice President of Officiating, responded to the call on Twitter moments after the game:
Hand up to the mask, quick grab with finger and the head gets turned. At full speed, official is going to make that call almost every time.
Naming the play
The nickname for the play, "Miracle in Motown", was first used by Jim Nantz during the nationally broadcast Thursday Night Football postgame show.
- Aaron Rodgers' pass is the longest game-winning Hail Mary play in NFL history.
- The touchdown-throw distance of 61 air yards (56 m) from the line of scrimmage is the most air-yards on a touchdown in the past 10 NFL seasons, and it was the second-longest offensive game-winning touchdown on the final play of regulation in NFL history. It came four yards (3.7 m) short of Earl Morrall and Jim Gibbons combining for a 65-yard (59 m) game-winning play for the Detroit Lions in a 20–15 win over the Johnny Unitas-led Baltimore Colts in 1960.
- Overcoming a 20-point deficit represented the fourth-biggest comeback win in Packers franchise history. It rates behind a 23-point deficit in a 35–23 win over the Los Angeles Rams in 1982, a 23-point deficit in a 37–36 win over the Dallas Cowboys in 2013 (with Matt Flynn as a QB) and a 21-point deficit in a 35–34 win over the New Orleans Saints in 1989.
- Before the final game-winning play, the Green Bay Packers had gone the full 60 minutes of the game without leading.
- The play was named the "Bridgestone Performance Play of the Year" at the 5th Annual NFL Honors ceremony the night before Super Bowl 50.
- The play won the award for Best Play at the 2016 ESPY Awards.
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- Brinson, Will (December 4, 2015). "Miracle in Motown Has an Incredible Link to the Stanford Cal Lateral Play". CBS Sports. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
- Wagner-McGough, Sean (December 4, 2015). "NFL Ref Czar Defends Controversial Face Mask Call in Miracle in Motown". CBS Sports. Retrieved December 8, 2015.
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- Reineking, Jim (December 8, 2015). "Packers' Duo from Cal Now Has Its Own 'The Play'". National Football League. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
- Hodkiewicz, Weston (February 6, 2016). "'Miracle in Motown' Wins NFL Play of the Year". The Sheboygan Press. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
- ESPN.com (July 14, 2016). "LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers Clean Up at ESPYs". ESPN. Retrieved October 23, 2016.