Aaron Rodgers made a convincing final argument for his fourth NFL MVP award on Sunday afternoon, throwing for 138 yards and two touchdowns in two quarters of work against Detroit.
But that wasn't why Rodgers wanted so desperately to play in what otherwise could be viewed as a meaningless regular-season finale against the Lions, who held off Green Bay's reserve units to beat the Packers 37-30 in front of 56,735 at Ford Field.
As cool as it was for Davante Adams to break the franchise record for single-season receiving yards, the biggest reason Rodgers wanted to play was to get work behind a Green Bay offensive line that had both left tackle David Bakhtiari and center Josh Myers back in the lineup.
For Bakhtiari, Sunday marked his season debut after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament on New Year's Eve 2020. Myers started the first five games at center before suffering a knee injury of his own against Chicago in Week 6.
It was uncertain earlier in the week whether Bakhtiari would return to the lineup against the Lions or wait until the top-seeded Packers' divisional-round playoff game, but Rodgers remained hopeful his five-time All-Pro left tackle would get a shot.
After a little coaxing on his QB's part, Bakhtiari was back on the field Sunday and played approximately 25 snaps before giving way to Yosh Nijman, who finished at left tackle.
"We talked about momentum, and that was important, but I really wanted to get out there with Dave and Josh. That was my main focus," Rodgers said. "Obviously wanted to get Davante his record, but get some rhythm within the offense, get some rhythm with those two guys especially. We've got to figure out what our best five is and what our healthiest five is."
Due to injuries and various other circumstances, the Packers have had to be incredibly flexible on the offensive line this season. In addition to Bakhtiari and Myers, the Packers also lost Pro Bowler Elgton Jenkins and Billy Turner to knee injuries. The team is hopeful to get Turner back for the playoffs, while Jenkins' season is officially over.
In Myers' stead, veteran Lucas Patrick started the past 10 games at center before sliding to right guard on Sunday next to veteran right tackle Dennis Kelly, who hadn't played an offensive snap all season until Turner went down against the Bears in Week 14.
The light has been forming at the end of the tunnel, though. Nijman stemmed the tide at left tackle, while Turner is nearing a return as well. There's also rookie fourth-round pick Royce Newman, who finished the game at right guard after Patrick relieved Myers at center.
"I think we have a lot of depth, which is a good thing to have," Rodgers said. "We'll see what Billy's status is moving forward for the playoffs, but I like where we're at offensively up front and I think that's what today was most about."
Rodgers looked good in his four offensive series, leading the Packers down the field on a 13-play, 74-yard scoring series to start the game and exiting after a seven-play, 75-yard TD drive before halftime. Both possessions ended with touchdown passes to third-year receiver Allen Lazard.
Rodgers finished his 17th NFL season having completed 366-of-531 passes (68.9%) for 4,115 passing yards, 37 touchdowns and four interceptions. His 111.9 passer rating led the league this year.
"I like what we accomplished," Rodgers said. "It wasn't too dissimilar to Week 2 against them. They were ahead 17-14 at half, I believe we ended up beating them 35-17. It felt very similar to that and we feel good about offensively where we're at and what we accomplished today."
More on Adams: With a 13-yard catch near the end of the first quarter, Adams officially broke Jordy Nelson's single-season franchise record of 1,519 receiving yards.
With six first-half catches for 55 yards, Adams finished the year with the team record for both receptions (123) and receiving yards (1,553). He's also tied with Sterling Sharpe for the most single-season receiving touchdowns, at 18 from last season.
Adams said after the game that Nelson already had texted him his congratulations, while at his son Royal's football game.
"It feels great, man," Adams said. "If I continue to rack them up and do my part, it puts us in a really good position. That's what makes me feel best about going out and being able to get a record or have a successful game."
The Green Bay Packers faced the Detroit Lions in a Week 18 matchup on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022.
Deguara's big catch: After the starting offense left the game, backup quarterback Jordan Love connected with Josiah Deguara on a tight end screen that turned into one of the offense's longest touchdowns of the season.
Following a good downfield block by Lucas Patrick, Deguara broke free into the Detroit secondary for a 62-yard score that gave Green Bay a 30-27 lead with 4 minutes, 49 seconds left.
"I was screaming. I had a pretty good view of it," said Lazard. "Lucas Patrick, gotta give a shout-out to him, he threw an amazing block, knocked out two guys, Josiah was able to sneak inside of him and break off one tackle … That was a huge play for him and I think it was a huge confidence boost for him."
The former third-round pick has seen a significant spike in playing time since Robert Tonyan's season-ending knee injury. He also made a few key blocks on Sunday for a Packers ground game that produced 122 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.
Love's night: The second-year quarterback completed 10-of-17 passes for 134 yards with his TD pass to Deguara and two interceptions, which both came during the final two minutes.
While a few things could've gone differently down the stretch, Rodgers was still proud of how Love handled the opportunity, especially after taking a majority of the first-team reps the past two months while Rodgers has been nursing a toe injury.
"He's a great kid. He really is. He cares about it," Rodgers said. "He works his butt off. He asks good questions. He's got a great, wry sense of humor. He's a quiet kid, but I respect that. I was a quiet kid as a young player, too. I really enjoy his personality. I enjoy his friendship and we have a lot of fun together. I'm proud of the way he played today."