It’s a memory that no Detroit Lions fan wants to revisit. However, with the Lions facing the Green Bay Packers this week, it was bound to be brought up several times. It started when the league announced the same referee who called that game—including the facemask penalty that led to the final play—would be officiating Sunday’s game. Now defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is ready to face the reality of the Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary that won the game for the Packers at Ford Field last year.
Reporters asked Austin about the fateful play back in December when it happened. Both he and head coach Jim Caldwell refused to point fingers at what went wrong. “I’m not looking back at the Hail Mary,” Austin said a few days after the game.
The Lions were specifically criticized for their defensive alignment during the play. Based on their defensive formation it was pretty clear the Lions were expecting a lateral play and not a Hail Mary.
As you can see, the Lions had two defenders covering the shallow part of the field with no Packers receivers within 30 yards of them.
Now we know why:
Austin said the hail mary last year was on him. Said he didn't think Rodgers would be able to get the ball 70 yards to the end zone.— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) September 22, 2016
Even though the Hail Mary happened 10 months ago, it’s still a little jarring to hear this. Aaron Rodgers’ arm is known to be one of the strongest in the league, and while he may be the only quarterback who could have thrown the ball that far, it wasn’t all that surprising to anyone who has paid attention to his career.
That being said, Austin finally taking responsibility is kind of nice to hear, even though it probably came 10 months too late.