On December 3, 2015, Packers fans were treated to one of the most incredible plays in franchise history when Aaron Rodgers lofted a ball toward the rafters of Ford Field in Detroit. As anyone reading this article surely knows, the ball came down into the waiting hands of Green Bay tight end Richard Rodgers, who fell into the end zone and gave the Packers a miraculous come-from-behind Week 13 victory over the Lions.
While Packers fans are no stranger to witnessing otherworldly passes from A-Rodg, “The Miracle In Motown” could very well go down as the career-defining play for the future Hall Of Fame quarterback. Similarly, Richard Rodgers (who’s now a backup on the Philadelphia Eagles) will always have an unforgettable place in Green Bay football history. It’s the kind of play fans will remember forever. It’s also the sort of play that conjures memories from fans about where they were, who they were with, and how they felt during that miraculous moment.
Instead of telling you my memory at length (I was standing at the end of the bar at The Vanguard and I hugged the person next to me—an unsuspecting but surprisingly receptive Eric Alonso—when it happened and stayed to drink for too long after the game) days after the event’s five-year anniversary and in advance of Green Bay’s game in Detroit this weekend, I decided to put out an open call to Packer Backers to share their “Rodgers to Rodgers” Hail Mary memories. They didn’t disappoint.
Andrew Kosanke, Milwaukee
December 3 is my birthday, so I had a bunch of friends over for the game, including a friend who is originally from Michigan. He’s frequently told me about how many times the Packers “ruined Thanksgiving” and how the Lions always find new ways to disappoint him. After the Packers failed to score in the first half, I was really hoping for some of that Lions magic he frequently talked about. As the fourth quarter was ending and the pass went up, everyone was silent. When Rodgers came down with the catch, the room erupted in cheers. I looked over to my friend who was sitting completely silent and I extended no condolences. Happy birthday to me! What a comeback! Moments later, my dog slipped and tore her ACL. What a day.
Arielle Smith, Milwaukee
I was at High Dive for a show when the Hail Mary happened. The bands were waiting until the game ended to start, and since things looked kind of grim, a lot of people weren’t paying a ton of attention. [Midwives vocalist] Shaun [Stacey] and I were standing by the bar, kind of watching, just expecting the game to be over momentarily. Then it happens and everyone at the bar watching starts screaming. It was loud, wonderful chaos. Everyone outside or in back comes pouring in and everybody loses their minds for a good five minutes. Shaun also said that Midwives sold like 40 of their 7-inches that night. It was such a good vibe, so much fun, and so wild for a weeknight.
Christina Land, Milwaukee
We were at Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub and I was playing pop-a-shot with Courtney Lentz when it happened. Then we all lost our damn minds!”
Corey Baumann, Milwaukee
Watching alone. Miserable on my couch. Then I went bananas and Jess, my wife, was startled and the dog came downstairs barking like crazy, thinking he had to protect us from burglars or something. Then I posted on Facebook, “Greatest game of 500 I’ve ever seen and that’s all we did in grade school and middle school.”
DJ Hostettler, Milwaukee
If you get more than six people telling you “I was at Cactus Club when this happened,” someone is lying, because that was roughly the number of people at the bar that night. I was DJing the game, but it was a Thursday night and the Pack had lost four of their last five after starting the year 6-0. Let me just say this: after having DJed a few up-and-down seasons at Cactus, I can state with certainty that Packer Nation isn’t always as “die hard” as we like to think we are. Anyway, with the season seemingly unraveling, not many people were in the mood to sit on the Cactus bleachers on a work night and listen to me play corny sound effects and samples over the game or rock the Judgment Night soundtrack in the fourth quarter. Nonetheless, I had been doing my best during the evening to keep the half dozen of us in attendance entertained, playing the Law & Order “chung chung” sound effect after referee calls and other such dumb crap.
Still, by the final play of the game, we were laughing derisively at the outcome to keep from crying, and already saying our “nice to see you, we’ll try again next week”s. Not one of us in that room thought the Hail Mary was going to land, so we responded to Aaron’s drop back with a collective shrug. But then, as the pass arced through Ford Field, I remember thinking, “Uh, I think there’s a chance they could…OH MY GOD!” The impossible happened and Richard came down with the catch, and we immediately pivoted 180 degrees from cynical “mehs” to completely losing our shit, hugging and screaming and laughing in disbelief. It took me a few seconds to remember that I needed to fire up ‘Power Of Love,’ which remains the only Packers touchdown song that matters. I may have played it on repeat a few times, I don’t remember. But I do remember everyone laughed for about 15 minutes about how straight-up absurd that game-ender was. I’m pretty sure the touchdown shots were straight whiskey that night. Man, remember laughing and hugging people in bars? It was a different time.
Evan Koepnick, Brooklyn
For the Lions-Packers “Miracle In Motown,” I had started watching the game at the Nomad, but I had to go to work third shift at Lakefront Brewery to brew beer. The second shift brewer and the assistant brewer at the time—who was covering a shift for an employee on vacation—had the game playing on one of their phones and hooked up to the speaker system. We were working and listening to the game and when it got down to it, we all huddled around the phone to watch the final drive. I remember the face mask happening and they got one more play, so I ran up to the brew stand to check on the beer and then ran back down to the phone just it time for the play to start. When the touchdown happened, we were yelling and hugging and jumping up and down. I kept running to check on things and then ran back to watch the replays. I remember us being really excited and having a bunch of adrenaline for a little while after. We kept watching the replay over and over and talking about it.
Gary Zajackowski, Milwaukee
I fell asleep during that game and watched highlights before work the next day and was very bummed out.
Joe Manske, Milwaukee
I was at Blackbird, where I had just recently started hosting Thursday Trivia—still streaming every couple-two-tree weeks in our Blackbird Thursday Team Trivia FB group!—with a handful of strangers and soon-to-be lifelong friends. Oh, my Bears fan wife was also there. I pride myself on hopeless optimism when it comes to being a sports fan. What’s the point otherwise? So I had no doubt we’d win the game, I just didn’t know how. When Richard Rodgers caught that ball, I hugged a stranger, gave a gloating-type of grin to my wife, and ran out of the bar down KK screaming “OOOOH MYYY GOOODDDD!” Then we all had shots and probably more pizza. It ruled.
Joey Houghtaling, Milwaukee
I was the The Get Up Kids show in Chicago and the play happened between songs. As I started cheering the whole venue—The Double Door—booed me.
Kellen O’Brien, Milwaukee
I was watching at home. I think a friend was over and left around halftime because they were down by like 20 points. Then the comeback happened and I mainly didn’t believe it until the Hail Mary. Then I woke up my downstairs neighbor because I jumped up from the couch with a loud whoop and got the most vertical I have in a decade.
Ken Sabbar, Madison
I was at High Dive when Rodgers to Rodgers happened and probably screamed louder than I ever have in my whole life. It was packed and bonkers.
Mark Cummings, Appleton
It was not as good as being at the game but I was in the Detroit area at the Sheraton Novi, Michigan for an industry event. The group is called the Michigan Coal & Rail Club and it’s basically a social organization of people like me that are affiliated with the coal industry on the Great Lakes. The annual Christmas party is always the first Thursday in December, which coincided with the Thursday Night Football Packers-Lions game in 2015. There were probably 65 people at the event, most attendees were from the Detroit area and are long-term suffering Lions fans who generally despise the Packers and their success. I’m that guy from Green Bay who works for a company that has a boatload of Packer season tickets and is always flaunting a Packer shirt and head covers at the annual golf outing in June.
Most of them have known me for years and a number have been my guests at Lambeau, but that didn’t stop the abuse following dinner when a crowd congregated at the lobby bar. It was me and a co-worker buddy against a mob of Packer haters who reveled in our agony. With the Pack shut out in the first half, my buddy snuck away and went to his room. I was left alone to face the Lions. While the Pack made a comeback in the second half, it didn’t look good with the clock winding down in the fourth quarter. I made a fateful decision to depart from the remaining diehards who were sticking around for the sole purpose of torturing me. No sooner had I got to my room and crawled into bed when The Miracle Of Motown happened. After jumping around my room and watching every replay, I scurried to get dressed and ran back downstairs to confront the haters. Much to my dismay, none were left. Too pumped to go back to bed, I had a celebratory cocktail at the bar and took another roadie to my room. I went to sleep with a smile on my face that night. While I never got the satisfaction of revenge that night, not a year goes by at the Michigan Coal & Rail annual Christmas party since where The Miracle Of Motown does not get brought up and I get the last laugh.
Sean Anderson, Milwaukee
I was watching at Landmark Lanes with friends. I don’t usually watch games at bars, so this was a real treat. As you’d expect the whole bar absolutely erupted, and my friend who fittingly goes by the nickname “Big Nick” threw me up so high that I bashed my head on the ceiling. I came down on top of a bar stool and brought that down with me. Touchdown shots ensued.
Tim Tyson, Milwaukee
I was holding my one-month-old. He had just fallen asleep. His 18-month-old older brother was also finally asleep in the next room. I stood straight up with baby in hand. My wife said “please don’t spike the baby,” so I passed him to my wife and had a silent freak out.
Tobias Jeg, Chicago
I actually remember where I was—downtown Philly—and I’m not even a Pack fan. But I did go to Cal and love Golden Bear lore. There was a lot on that play and I was freaking out.
Walt Hamburger, Appleton
I was pacing at my house. I remember screaming so loud I lost my voice for a day. The pets got all worked up. I just ran around the house screaming like an idiot. I probably watched the replay 50 times in a row after that.
I was definitely on a mission from Gahd. Or the Gahds.
I was on a plane coming back to Milwaukee from Phoenix. The plane went from completely quiet to a small uproar.
Bonus memory from a Packers fan who was
AT THE GAME!
Christopher Mayer, Appleton
We got tickets from my wife’s aunt who lives in Grosse Pointe—like from the movie. The main thing is that game was brutal for pretty much three quarters if not four. The Hail Mary happened with no time on the clock, so it’s debatable. We were about 20 rows up in the end zone opposite of the miraculous play, surrounded by Lions fans. At this time, they had been on like a four-game win streak and Green Bay had been slipping lately, so the whole thing smelled like an upset to sports heads. And while Packer fans travel great, the Lions fans really showed up for this game and, at the time, it was I believe a record attendance at Ford Field. Or it felt like it and this is growing into a fish story.
Anyway, brutal game. Every time I shouted or muttered something instinctively or reactively, the fans around me immediately shouted the contrary, like not a coincidence at all. “Come on Aaron.” “INTERCEPTION!” in my ear. All game. It’s the fourth quarter and I feel it’s gone, like everyone. To my now-wife, Esh, I say, “Let’s just go, let’s get out of here, I don’t want to be in here when they lose.”
“What? Like hell we’re the leaving. The game isn’t over.”
“There’s no chance. They’ll have no time to do anything if they get the ball back”
“But the game isn’t over.”
“Listen, I’ve seen enough football to know they have like a zero chance to win this.”
“Well I’m not a whiny bitch, I’m a Packer fan and I’m staying. Stop being a shitty fan.”
“Okay, you’re right.”
I felt ashamed, put in my place, a bad fan, and felt like I was about to watch my team lose and get further berated as we the Packer fans had to walk out of the place, so I pleaded to at least lets just stand in the aisle by the exit. She reluctantly agreed so I shut up.
When the roughing or face mask penalty came and we got another shot without any time left, I finally said the same thing as the Lions’ fans: “you’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” But this is the thing, the Lions fans didn’t get that mad. Not as mad as I would’ve been even. It looked like a B.S. penalty from the stands. Through so many years of disastrous sucking, I think they knew it was coming.
Rodgers took the snap, rolled out wide, and I swear to god I thought the ball was gonna hit the roof. Ford Field feels fucking small. If there was score box thing in the middle like basketball courts, the pass would’ve nailed it easy. It felt like it was in the air forever, and Richard Rodgers went up and there was no doubt. That was a touchdown.
The change in my body and was like dynamite. I immediately went into shock, like, tripping out of body shock, awe, amazement, ecstasy. I was climbing walls and jabbering in tongues, hugging Esh, and saying the words “can you believe it, holy shit, oh my god, Packers, and Rodgers” all merging into a gibberish only us two Packer fans understood. It felt huge, I had this immediate sense it was going to be a historic play. I felt like I’d seen Ali fight or Jordan win a dunk contest. It felt very special.
What did the Lions fans do? Did they give any guff? This is the best part. No. They did nothing. They didn’t bitch or complain. Just nothing. It was just like it happened and they saw the credits go up and the lights come on. There were sad looks of envy and a few mutterers, but no anger and no guff. I’m sure some said something, but I didn’t catch anything. I think they looked at me and just knew I was going through emotions they will never know. That is the team they expect every week. They expect that kind of gross heartbreak all the time. Really, it’s friggin’ tragic. They are resolved to be this part of NFL history.
But check this the fuck out! Every time the Lions score this happens…
You can hear the lyrics clearly in the arena and there’s a singalong on the Jumbotron.
Forward down the field,
A charging team that will not yield.
And when the Blue and Silver wave,
Stand and cheer the brave.
Rah, Rah, Rah.
Go hard, win the game.
With honor you will keep your fame.
Down the field and gain,
A Lion victory!
Sure, it’s cheesy, but if I hadn’t been at this game and watching it happen to the Packers, this looked objectively fun. All the fans sing and I have never seen this caught on TV, but I do hear it and it’s great. Of course the Lambeau Leap is far superior in so many ways, but this is an awesome celebration tradition.
Being at this game was a display of what tradition like the Green Bay Packers gives you as a fan. We have some Lambeau and Lombardi baked into all of us as we learn and watch this team. The Lions have only sorrow, this great song, and that story about rim-jobbing in the parking lot during a game caught by security, which proves that for some Lions fans, it’s better to eat ass during a game.