NFL: Packers defeat Lions 31–21, Lions become first team to finish season with 0-16 record

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Monday, December 29, 2008

The Lions versus the Packers (2007).
Image: Dave Hogg.

The Green Bay Packers defeated the Detroit Lions on Sunday evening by a final score of 31–21, effectively ending the Lions' season with an 0-16 record. The game was played at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin and was televised by Fox in the United States. Kickoff was at 1:00 p.m. EDT. The Lions became the first National Football League franchise to complete an "imperfect season" (without a victory) since the introduction of the 16-game schedule in the 1978 NFL season. The winless season comes just a year after the New England Patriots did the reverse, accomplishing the NFL's first "perfect" 16-0 regular season.

After trailing the game 14–0 entering the second quarter, Detroit rallied back to tie the game at 14 by the end of the third quarter. The Packers took a 10-point lead halfway through the fourth quarter with a field goal by kicker Mason Crosby (Green Bay 17 - Detroit 14) and then a touchdown pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to fullback John Kuhn (Green Bay 24 - Detroit 14). The Lions fought back with a rushing touchdown by Kevin Smith which left Detroit within three points of tying the game. However, just 11 seconds later, the Packers took possession and Aaron Rodgers completed a 71-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Donald Driver (Green Bay 31 - Detroit 21). The Packers held on to the lead for the remainder of the game to seal their sixth victory on the season.

Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky was 22-of-42 for 225 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Calvin Johnson led the Lions in receiving with 102 yards and touchdowns. Kevin Smith led the Lions in rushing with 92 yards and one touchdown.

For the Packers, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was 21-of-31 for 308 yards and three touchdowns, and running backs Ryan Grant and DeShawn Wynn rushed for 106 yards each. Wide receivers Donald Driver and Greg Jennings led the Packers in receiving, both tallying over 100 yards.

Prior to the Lions' loss on Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the only franchise since the 1970 AFL–NFL merger to finish a season without a victory or a tie. The 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished their season with a 0-14 record. It was the Buccaneers franchise's first season in the NFL. Tampa Bay also lost the first 12 games of the 1977 season, and the team's 26-game losing streak is still the longest in NFL history. The 1982 Baltimore Colts were the most recent NFL team to not win a game in their respective season, failing to win in the strike-shortened 1982 season, posting an 0-8-1 record.

Scoring summary
Qtr Team Time Scoring play Extra point Score
1 GB 09:02 Wynn 73 yard TD run Crosby kick GB 7–0
1 GB 01:33 Finley 3 yard TD pass from Rodgers Crosby kick GB 14–0
2 DET 11:22 Johnson 9 yard TD pass from Orlovsky Hanson kick GB 14–7
3 DET 10:28 Johnson 14 yard TD pass from Orlovsky Hanson kick Tied 14–14
4 GB 13:38 Crosby 36 yard field goal GB 17–14
4 GB 08:40 Kuhn 5 yard TD pass from Rodgers Crosby kick GB 24–17
4 DET 07:38 Smith 9 yard TD run Hanson kick GB 24–21
4 GB 07:27 Driver 71 yard TD pass from Rodgers Crosby kick GB 31–21

The Lions' loss was closely watched by some members of the 1976 Buccaneers team, including defensive end Pat Toomay. Toomay told reporters, "I would like the torch to be passed...At the same time, you don't want to wish that on anybody." Toomay also pointed out that although the Buccaneers lost every game in their inaugural season, the team reached the NFC Championship Game in their fourth season (1979).

Steve Spurrier, the quarterback for the Buccaneers in the 1976 season, voiced his support for the Lions in their quest to win their first game of the season, hoping that only the Buccaneers would hold the distinction of finishing an "imperfect season."

A field goal by Mason Crosby (pictured here in 2007) helped the Packers take and hold on to the lead late in the game.
Image: Paul Cutler.

"I want that record," Spurrier said. "I'm pulling for them, sure," Spurrier added. "That's the American thing to do, isn't it?"

Entering the game, the Lions were 10½-point underdogs against the Packers in spread betting. Lions tackle Gosder Cherilus likened the team's chance to avoid the 0-16 finish as a championship game. "It's our Super Bowl," Cherilus told reporters on Friday, December 27.

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Were the 2008 Lions the worst team in NFL history?

The Lions surpassed the 1980 New Orleans Saints with their 15th consecutive loss on December 21 to become the first team in NFL history to lose the first 15 games of the season. The 1980 Saints lost their first 14 games, but won their 15th game against the New York Jets.

The closest margin that the Lions came to within victory was two points, which came against the Minnesota Vikings on October 12. Minnesota won the game by a score of 12–10. The 1976 Buccaneers suffered five shutout losses (in which they did not score a single point) in their winless season. The closest that the Buccaneers came within victory was a 23–20 loss to the Miami Dolphins on October 24, 1976.

Prior to the regular season, the Lions won all four of their games in the exhibition season, which do not count in regular season standings or totals.

While the loss didn't come without a fight from the Lions, players from the team knew that they would be forever remembered as possibly the worst team in NFL history. "I've got to live with this," Lions center Dominic Raiola said. "I've been here eight years. This is on my résumé."

"I don't ever want to be a part of this again," Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky said. "We haven't won since, November of '07, maybe? I don't even know the last time we won a game." The franchise's last victory in the regular season was on December 23, 2007 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Packers players were just as eager for a victory. Green Bay's quarterback Aaron Rodgers said while their own season was disappointing, they didn't want to be forever remembered as the team that lost to the 0-15 Lions in the final game of the season. "We didn't want to lose, no, we didn't," Rodgers said. "But really it's not on your mind once the game starts. I didn't even think about it until the fans started chanting in the fourth quarter. They played hard, they really did." Packers fans in attendance at Lambeau Field began to chant "0-16" late in the game.

With their victory, the Packers finished their 2008 season with a 6-10 record. With the loss, the Lions finished their 79th season since their inception as the Portsmouth Spartans in 1929. It was the Lions' 75th season in Detroit, Michigan. The franchise also secured the first-overall selection in the upcoming 2009 NFL Draft, a spot reserved for the NFL team with the worst record from the previous season entering the upcoming season.

After the game, Lions head coach Rod Marinelli declined to comment on his future with the team. Since being hired in 2006, the Lions have had a 10-38 record under Marinelli. The Lions have averaged 11 losses per season since 2001 and now have lost 23 of their last 24 games. The 0-16 record could be a lasting testimony to the Matt Millen era. With Millen as president of the team from 2001 until he was fired on September 24, Detroit won only 31 games. Millen was widely criticized for his handling of the Lions organization, and Lions fans rallied to have him relieved of duties for years.

Related News

Wikipedia
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"New England Patriots go undefeated in NFL regular season" — Wikinews, December 30, 2007

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