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Lions botched Hail Mary defense

Green Bay Packers tight end Richard Rodgers (82) falls into the end zone after catching a 61-yard pass for a touchdown on the last play of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)


Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers deserves credit for his pass and tight end Richard Rodgers deserves credit for his catch, but the Lions’ defense made several mistakes on the Hail Mary play that cost Detroit a game last night.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell admitted after the game that the Lions weren’t expecting a Hail Mary. That in itself was a big mistake, as Aaron Rodgers clearly had the arm strength to throw the ball into the end zone.

The Lions also only rushed with three players, and their best pass rusher, Ziggy Ansah, was not one of them. That gave Rodgers a full eight seconds to scramble around and gave the Packers’ receivers time to get set in the end zone. If the Lions had rushed with four or five, Rodgers wouldn’t have had that much time.

The Lions also used an odd defensive alignment in which they had two players guarding the sideline around midfield. That strategy could make sense if the Packers had 10 seconds left and the Lions thought they’d try to get 20 yards or so and then get out of bounds. But the strategy makes no sense on an untimed down with no time left.

And of the six Lions in the end zone in coverage, none was Calvin Johnson, who is the team’s best leaper and would have the best chance of knocking a pass down. Johnson has played defense on Hail Mary plays before, and Lions players confirmed after the game that Johnson always practices with the defense when they’re practicing stopping a Hail Mary. It’s a mystery why Johnson wasn’t on the field for this Hail Mary.

The Lions who were on the field didn’t cover it well. In particular, linebacker Josh Bynes was guarding Richard Rodgers and in perfect position to step in front of him. But when Aaron Rodgers threw the ball, Bynes turned his back on the ball and ran into the end zone, leaving Richard Rodgers in the front of the end zone, with all six Lions in coverage behind him.

Bottom line: The Lions screwed up. And as a result, the Packers won.