It was a “low-percentage play,” a miracle that required more luck than anything, but there was plenty of skill behind the Green Bay Packers’ game-winning Hail Mary on Thursday night.
Mike McCarthy couldn’t wait to watch the replay. This was a coach’s dream. On the flight home, McCarthy hit fast forward on the game film. The mistakes that led to the Packers falling behind 17 points in the first quarter at the Detroit Lions will need to be addressed and corrected, but they could wait until later.
McCarthy needed to see quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ game-winning pass.
“That’s probably the best throw I’ve seen in my time in this game,” McCarthy said. “Just the arc that you want to put on the ball, and obviously the distance. So great throw.”
McCarthy, in a jovial mood Friday afternoon, gushed over the mechanics that went into Rodgers’ throw. It started before the snap, he said.
With a “dispute” over Lions defensive end Devin Taylor’s facemask penalty, the play clock had only two seconds left when the center JC Tretter snapped the football. The Packers had possession at their own 39-yard line, almost as far away from the end zone as Rodgers could reach. Avoiding a 5-yard penalty was crucial.
Although, McCarthy said, Rodgers showed he had plenty of arm strength — and then some — to get the football across the field.
“The way he threw it last night,” McCarthy said, “he probably had a few more yards left in him. Just mechanically, and just being in tune with his technique, and the way he processes information. The ability to get up as close as he could to the 40-yard line, and to launch the ball.”
The play, McCarthy said, is usually called "Two Jet Rebound Pass," but with different personnel Thursday night's play was called "Scat Two Rebound Pass." The Packers receivers ran three-quarters the length of the field, forming a "triangle" in the end zone. Tight end Richard Rodgers caught the football, but receivers Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and James Jones were next to him and ready for a potential deflection.
The Packers' receivers executed, but it was Aaron Rodgers' throw that made the play. More than distance, McCarthy said, it was the trajectory of his quarterback's pass that made a touchdown catch possible. Rodgers lofted the football like a popup fly ball, allowing tight end Richard Rodgers to drift underneath it like an outfielder. The hang time was more than four seconds, similar to a punt.
McCarthy said the height of Rodgers’ pass separated him from other quarterbacks.
“I think a lot of guys may go with a flatter throw,” McCarthy said, “because they’re thinking they have to get it there, but the confidence he has in his arm and his ability to throw with that arc. The arc of the ball is critical to the success of the play. That’s the way it’s coached, the angle you want the ball to come out and drop down into the end-zone area. It’s great protection, and a great throw.”
email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood