How Did We Get Here Revisited: 5 Plays Responsible for the Green Bay Packers’ Late-Season Surge
Back in December I wrote about the five plays that best highlighted why the Green Bay Packers were 8-6 and fighting for a playoff spot. Many of us thought the Packers should have been 10-4 and thinking about a first-round bye, but a few notable blunders and miscues left our favorite team on the brink of mediocrity.
Things have gotten better since I wrote that piece – a lot better. So I think it is only fair that we go back and highlight the five plays that have helped the Packers turn things around and get to where they are today.
1. Tramon Williams’ game-clinching interception vs. Philadelphia Eagles
This play has to be No. 1. It just has to. Everyone knew how explosive Michael Vick and the Eagles’ offense was. We knew no lead was safe and we had visions of another crushing loss in a close game as Vick was leading the Eagles down the field in the final minutes. Then Williams made a play on a slightly underthrown ball in the end zone intended for Riley Cooper, and the rest is history. It wasn’t a great throw by Vick, but how many times have we seen that type of play result in a pass interference, or the bigger receiver jumping over the smaller defensive back to make the catch anyway? Williams stepped up big time to make that play, and he deserves the top slot on this list (I’m sure he will put a copy of this list on his mantle, next to the game ball from Sunday).
2. John Kuhn’s 8-yard touchdown run vs. New York Giants
Um, what? A John Kuhn touchdown run is No. 2 on this list? It sure is. The Packers were driving to extend their lead to 21-7 in the second quarter when Jordy Nelson fumbled. One play later, Eli Manning hit Mario Manningham for an 85-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14. The Giants had all the momentum and fans at Lambeau Field were getting nervous. But instead of tightening up, the Packers went on a six-play scoring drive capped by Kuhn crashing into the end zone right after the two-minute warning. The run put all the momentum back in the Packers’ favor and they have been riding the wave ever since.
3. Aaron Rodgers hits Greg Jennings for 46 yards to set up TD vs. Bears
I had visions of the Lions and Redskins games in my head before this play. I did not want to see the Packers lose another game (and the season) because their supposedly explosive offense did not show up. Thankfully, when you have players like Rodgers and Jennings, you can erase earlier mistakes and struggles with a big play or two. That’s what happened here. Unable to maintain and finish long drives, the Packers resorted to the big play, something they have relied on all season. It worked – barely – and now people are talking about the Packers as the most dangerous team left in the NFC instead of the most disappointing team of 2010.
4. Erik Walden sacks Jay Cutler for the third time
Walden notched two of his three sacks on a drive late in the third quarter. His third sack came on a 3rd and 15 and forced the Bears to punt. The Packers scored the game’s only touchdown on their ensuing drive. Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews each sacked Cutler on a later drive in the fourth quarter, and you have to give some credit to Walden for those sacks too. I’m sure the Bears game-planned to try and contain Matthews and Woodson whenever they blitzed, which allowed Walden to get free. After Walden got sack No. 3, the Bears did not know who to focus on and Matthews and Woodson were able to operate a bit more freely. Finally, Walden’s big day epitomizes what the Packers have done all season: Take a number of no-name players and mold them into a solid defensive group.
5. Clay Matthews tackles LeSean McCoy for no gain on 3rd and 1
This is another play that is probably flying under everybody’s radar. It’s early in the fourth quarter and the Eagles are trailing 21-10. The Eagles have a 3rd and 1 at the Packers’ 16-yard line. A run by Vick or a simple handoff to McCoy should net an easy first down, right? Not if Matthews is on the other side of the ball. Matthews crashed down the line and twisted McCoy to the ground before he was able to get the first down. Instead of going for it on fourth down, the Eagles tried a 34-yard field goal. David Akers missed it wide right. You could just as easily put any of the touchdowns the Packers scored against the Eagles in this slot, but this play really stood out to me.
It was much more fun putting this list together than the last one. This one was also more difficult to compile. I left off several worthy plays, including Tim Masthay’s punts against the Bears, Collins picking off Cutler to end the game, any interception against the Giants, one of Rodgers’ four touchdowns against the Giants, and James Starks’ key first down run to further kill the clock late against the Eagles. Am I missing anything else? Which one of my top five would you replace?
As fun as it was putting this list together, you know what would be even more fun? Putting together another list after a Packers Super Bowl win. I’m anxious to see what happens next.——————