Published December 28, 2008
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Detroit Lions own a distinction no team wants: worst in NFL history.
Facing one last chance to avoid their dubious destiny, the Lions lost Sunday's season finale to the Green Bay Packers 31-21 to complete the league's first 0-16 season. The 1976 expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-14) were the last NFL team to complete a season without a victory.
It didn't come without a fight. After falling behind 24-14 midway through the fourth quarter, Kevin Smith's 9-yard touchdown run put Detroit back within a field goal.
But Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers responded with a 71-yard touchdown pass to Donald Driver and the Lions' Dan Orlovsky threw an interception on fourth-and-27 with 3 minutes left, dooming Detroit to futility of historic proportion.
The Lions were building toward this for years and now have lost 23 of their last 24 games. The 0-16 record will be a lasting testimony to the Matt Millen era. With Millen as president of the team from 2001 until he was fired on Sept. 24, Detroit won only 31 games — none this year, of course.
Indeed, the Lions haven't won since Dec. 23, 2007, when they beat Kansas City. Green Bay is where this woeful streak began at the end of last season. Since then, the Lions have lost 17 straight and have been outscored 551-281.
Coach Rod Marinelli has gone 10-38 in three seasons. His future has not been announced, but team owner William Clay Ford has decided the leaders of the front office, Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand, will be back in some capacity.
Orlovsky was 22-of-42 for 225 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for the Lions, whose bid to stay out of the record book came undone in large part due to a pair of ill-advised penalties.
Rodgers was 21-of-31 for 308 yards and three touchdowns for the Packers (6-10), and Ryan Grant rushed for 106 yards.
Trailing 14-7 early in the third quarter, Lions punter Nick Harris pinned the Packers at their 10-yard line. Safety Kalvin Pearson then put a hard hit on Grant to cause a fumble, and recovered the ball at the Packers 11.
Calvin Johnson caught a pass from Orlovsky in the flat and broke three tackling attempts to score a tying 14-yard touchdown with 10:20 left in the third quarter.
But the Packers put together a 12-play, 62-yard drive for a 36-yard field goal by Mason Crosby. After a three-and-out by Detroit's offense, Lions linebacker Ernie Sims' penalty for a late hit out of bounds on Grant played a key role on a drive that ended with a 5-yard pass from Rodgers to fullback John Kuhn.
The Lions weren't finished, as Orlovsky used two long completions to John Standeford to set up Smith's touchdown with 8:34 left. After the ensuing kickoff, Rodgers reared back and threw deep to Driver, who blew past Lions cornerback Leigh Bodden and ran in for a touchdown.
Orlovsky led the Lions back into Packers territory, but a taunting penalty on Smith moved the Lions back near midfield and Orlovsky threw an interception to Nick Collins.
Detroit fell behind 14-0 as Orlovsky managed a measly 9 yards passing in the first quarter. But the Lions' defense showed some fight early on before allowing backup running back DeShawn Wynn to score on a 73-yard touchdown.
Rodgers also threw a fade to rookie tight end Jermichael Finley in the end zone for a 14-0 lead.
Detroit scored early in the second quarter, a 9-yard touchdown from Orlovsky to Johnson on third-and-goal.