By Ashley Scoby
It’s not often Lions fans would be clamoring for Calvin Johnson to play defense.
But at 6-foot-5 and possessing the best hands on the team, Johnson could have, theoretically, helped Detroit bat down an Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary that won the Packers the game Thursday, 27-23.
“That’s coach’s decision,” wide receiver Golden Tate said. “Can’t really speak on that. That’s all I’ve got.”
On the practice field, Johnson has previously used his height and hands on defense.
“Yep,” Tate said, leaning back and pursing his lips when asked if Johnson had practiced on defense for Hail Mary situations before. “Every Saturday we practice it.”
But against Green Bay, with no time on the clock and the Packers all-but-surely set to toss a Hail Mary, Lions head coach Jim Caldwell decided not to put Megatron in coverage. He was instead preparing for another lateral situation.
“That was one where you’re kind of looking for more of that pass back and forth kind of thing because of the range,” Caldwell said. “He (Rodgers) ran around there so long, moved up, gave himself a chance to get into the end zone. We had plenty of guys back there, we had plenty of guys. We just didn’t make the play. They did.”
Hail Marys so rarely work that they become instant classics when they do. It’s why so many know Doug Flutie’s name, and why that clip of Kentucky players prematurely dumping Gatorade on their coach still exists.
But for as much fanfare as they get when they happen, even the teams throwing them don’t even expect them to work.
“We rehearse that play in practice every week and it never works,” Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said. “The defense always gets the interception.”