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Throw that beat Lions was Aaron Rodgers' first successful Hail Mary

DETROIT -- Aaron Rodgers used the word “joy,” and much like the 61-yard rainbow that won the game, it was right on target.

The Green Bay Packers quarterback’s Hail Mary touchdown pass to tight end Richard Rodgers with no time left on the clock Thursday night at Ford Field did more than just give the Packers an improbable 27-23 victory over the Detroit Lions. It also reminded Aaron and his previously downtrodden teammates why they do this in the first place.

“It’s the greatest feeling,” Aaron said. “We’re blessed to be able to play this game, and it reminds you at times how special this game is. You live for days like this, to be able to have something miraculous happen.”

Aaron said he’d never thrown a successful Hail Mary in his football life -- not for the Chico (California) Jaguars midget team, not at Butte Community College, not at the University of California and never before in the NFL.

“Good time for it,” he said with a smile.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, “My goodness, can Aaron Rodgers throw the football. A great final play and an excellent Packers win.”

After failing to score or convert a third down in the first half, the Packers’ struggling offense came to life after halftime, scoring 27 points. Now, after losing four of their previous five games, the Packers are 8-4 and still in the thick of the NFC playoff race, a half-game behind NFC North-leading Minnesota. And while the miracle finish doesn’t erase the Packers’ up-and-down play, it does give them new life, Aaron said.

“There’s going to be no masking this. We know that we struggled,” Aaron said. “We’re inconsistent on offense. We can’t be that type of football team if we want to finish the season where we want to finish the season. We’re 8-4, there’s four games left, and we know it’s about giving yourself an opportunity, getting into the dance.

“It’s a great game we play. This one obviously ranks up there as one of the greatest joys on the field that we’ve had, together as a team and personally.”