Eric Goska column: Dueling QBs put on air show for the ages

Jan. 1, 2012

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Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford leaps through the air after throwing a touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game at Lambeau Field. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette

First class

Regular-season games in which teams combined for 42 or more first downs passing.

No. Teams Date
47 Lions (27), Packers (20) Jan. 1, 2012
43 Chargers (23), Bengals (20) Dec. 20, 1982
43 Dolphins (24), Jets (19) Sept. 21, 1986
43 Titans (28), Raiders (15) Dec. 19, 2004
43 Patriots (23), Chargers (20) Sept. 18, 2011
42 49ers (22), Chargers (20) Dec. 11, 1982
42 Seahawks (22), Browns (20) Nov. 4, 2007
42 Steelers (22), Patriots (20) Nov. 14, 2010


The 688-page official NFL Record & Fact Book is divided into many sections.

Based on what transpired Sunday at Lambeau Field, next year’s edition ought to have a new chapter: the Book of Matthew.

Matthew Clayton Flynn and John Matthew Stafford broke, tied or approached so many team and NFL records it could take days for the Elias Sports Bureau in New York to determine them all. The two quarterbacks combined for 1,000 passing yards in a wild, back-and-forth, 45-41 Green Bay victory that capped the winningest regular season (15-1) in Packers history.

Where to start with these two, a Packer who goes by Matt and a Lion who is addressed by his middle name? How about a little perspective as we attempt to wrap our minds around the fireworks these two unleashed in ringing in the new year.

Flynn, making his second career start, completed 31 of 44 passes for 480 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. Stafford, in starting all 16 games for the first time in his three-year career, hit on 36 of 59 throws for 520 yards and was intercepted twice.

Flynn and Stafford threw for more yards than any two quarterbacks in one game. They shattered the record of 933 set by the Patriots’ Tom Brady (517) and the Dolphins’ Chad Henne (416) on opening day this season.

Stafford and Flynn combined for 11 touchdown passes, one off the league record of 12 established by the Saints’ Billy Kilmer (6) and the Cardinals’ Charley Johnson (6) in 1969. Their 67 completions are the second most in a non-overtime game behind the 68 of Oakland’s Rich Gannon (34) and Denver’s Brian Griese (34) in 2002.

It goes without saying, then, that the touchdowns and the completions these two accumulated are both Packers records. Brett Favre and Peyton Manning had owned the previous marks with 58 completions and nine touchdowns in the Colts’ 45-31 win on Sept. 26, 2004.

Remarkable numbers by Flynn and Stafford to be sure. But impressive also is the fact that these two aerial acrobats didn’t stop moving the chains with big plays and first downs until Packers defensive back Sam Shields intercepted Stafford with 25 seconds remaining.

Flynn completed five passes of 20 or more yards. Stafford hooked up 12 times with his receivers for gains of that length.

Green Bay earned 20 first downs by passing. The Lions grabbed 27.

The 47 first downs through the air are an NFL record. The previous best of 43 was set by the Chargers and Bengals in 1982 and tied three times in the intervening years.

The 17 passing plays of 20 or more yards are a record for a Packers game. The previous high was 15 established by Green Bay and Washington in 1983 and equaled twice since.

Flynn utilized five receivers to gain first downs. Most productive were tight end Jermichael Finley and receiver Jordy Nelson who both had six receiving first downs. Receivers James Jones (5) and Donald Driver (2), and running back Ryan Grant (1) also moved the chains.

Stafford spread the wealth among six players. Receiver Calvin Johnson dominated with 11 first downs, but tight end Brandon Pettigrew (5), receiver Titus Young (4), tight end Tony Scheffler (3), receiver Nate Burleson (2) and running back Kevin Smith (2) also chipped in.

The 27 passing first downs by Detroit is easily the most by a Packers opponent. It’s five more than the 22 that Jake Plummer and the Cardinals had in the 1999 season finale at Lambeau.

When going deep, Flynn found Grant, Driver, Jones and Nelson (twice) for more than 20 yards. Four of those gains resulted in touchdowns with Jones the odd man out.

In looking to go up top, Stafford connected with Johnson (7), Pettigrew (4) and Scheffler. Johnson was trouble as he gashed the Packers in the first quarter (20-yard reception), second quarter (23), third quarter (30, 41, 27) and fourth quarter (24, 21).

Since 1933, only one player had even five receptions of 20 or more yards against the Packers: the Oilers' Tim Smith on opening day 1983. Johnson matched Smith’s output in the third quarter with a 27-yard catch that helped set up Kevin Smith’s TD reception.

Overall, Johnson caught 11 passes for 244 yards. His yardage bettered Gene Roberts’ record of 212 yards against Green Bay in the Giants’ 30-10 win in 1949.

Johnson and Stafford will return to give the Packers fits. But if this indeed was the final regular-season game of Flynn’s career in Green Bay, the final chapter couldn’t have had a better ending.

Extra point

The Bills’ Andre Reed in 1994 is the only other player to have earned 11 first downs receiving against the Packers.

Eric Goska is a Press-Gazette correspondent, a Packers historian and the author of "Green Bay Packers: A Measure of Greatness," a statistical history of the Packers. Email him at

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