Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn throws against the Detroit Lions during the first quarter at Lambeau Field on Sunday. Corey Wilson/Press-Gazette
Matt Flynn turned in one of the greatest single-game performances ever by a Green Bay Packers quarterback.
And if all goes as planned, he’ll never start another game for the team.
In his second — and almost certainly last — career Packers start, Flynn threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns, both team records, in Sunday’s back-and-forth 45-41 victory over the Detroit Lions in the regular-season finale at Lambeau Field.
Five Packers quarterbacks — Cecil Isbell, Don Horn, Lynn Dickey, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers — have thrown five touchdowns in a game. Only Flynn has thrown six.
Rodgers, the likely NFL MVP, watched Flynn direct an eight-play, 80-yard, game-winning drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jermichael Finley with 1 minute, 10 seconds remaining.
“It was clearly one of the best performances I’ve been a part of, no doubt about it,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “I can’t say enough about Matt Flynn. The whole world got to see what we see every day.”
With no reason to put Rodgers at risk of injury before the playoffs, it was Flynn’s day to showcase his talents. In the final year of his rookie contract, the former seventh-round draft pick from LSU almost certainly will leave this offseason to seek a starting job with another team. There’s always the possibility the Packers could use the franchise tag on him, then trade him to maximize their return, but the more likely scenario is Flynn departs in free agency, allowing the Packers to get a compensatory draft pick.
Either way, Flynn made himself some serious money on Sunday.
“I’m not thinking about that right now,” he said. “But there’s kind of a lot of guys jumping on my back, being goofy and saying things like that. But there’s a lot ahead for this team right now.”
McCarthy decided early last week to sit Rodgers, though he kept his starter involved by allowing him to call plays during the first half when they used almost exclusively a no-huddle offense.
Flynn got most of the work in practice, but things started shaky for him against the Lions. On the first drive, he got sacked by defensive tackle Sammie Hill and lost a fumble. The next time he touched the ball, he managed to lead only a field-goal drive.
Late in the first quarter, Flynn started to roll. He completed five straight passes on a drive that ended with a 7-yard hitch to receiver Jordy Nelson for the first of three touchdowns to Nelson. Flynn also had an 80-yard touchdown on a screen pass to Ryan Grant in the second quarter, when the Packers caught the Lions in a blitz. His fifth touchdown pass went to Donald Driver in the fourth quarter, when the Lions sent seven rushers after Flynn on third-and-8 from the Detroit 35-yard line.
Still, Flynn found himself in a 41-38 hole with 2:39 to play. Flynn faced a critical third-and-3 from his 43 with 1:56 to play. He used a hard snap count, and Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh jumped offsides, giving the Packers a first down. It’s a play that likely will be forgotten considering the rest of Flynn’s performance, but it was a savvy veteran move.
“You use the hard count every chance you can,” Packers center Scott Wells said. “He and Aaron both do an outstanding job of using that to our advantage, especially when we’re at home.”
Three plays later, Flynn found James Jones down the right sideline for a 40-yard gain to the Lions’ 6. Then on second-and-goal from the 4, he hit Finley for the game-winner.
“I knew Flynn was a winner,” Finley said. “I had big confidence in him, so we just went out there and played just like we were playing with (No.) 12, and you see what happened.”
After cornerback Sam Shields picked off Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford with 25 seconds left, all Flynn had to do was take a knee and the victory was his. It came 12½ months after he nearly pulled off an upset of the New England Patriots in 2010 when Rodgers missed the game because of a concussion.
“We’ve seen it all the time in practice, and he had his opportunity in New England, but just to handle everything that he handled, for him to get an opportunity to take that victory knee and win the game, we’re excited for him,” said Nelson, who had nine catches for 162 yards to go along with his three touchdowns. “The kid can win games. A lot of people forget that he won the national championship at LSU. People are seeing why.”
In two weeks when the Packers begin the playoffs in the divisional round, Flynn will go back to carrying the clipboard for Rodgers. Barring an injury, Flynn won’t see any more meaningful snaps for the Packers. But after Sunday’s showing, he’ll almost certainly get a chance to play meaningful football for some other NFL team next season.
“I didn’t look at it as trying to prove anything to anybody or trying prove myself to the rest of the NFL,” Flynn said. “There’s a lot ahead for this team. That made it a lot easier to not look ahead and to just, it’s kind of cliché, take it one week at a time. That was my mindset.”
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @RobDemovsky