The Elite Eight gets underway as chalk ruled the day in round 2. Will “4th and 8” continue to roll? Or could Antonio Freeman’s improbable catch pull off the upset as the last play unrelated to the playoffs?
Our bracket for the best Packers play of all time returns from the weekend with the Elite Eight, but the Sweet 16 was all chalk as a few favorites rolled their opponents. “4th and 8” treated Tramon Williams’ pick-six vs. the Falcons as if it was Chris Conte and won with 79% of the vote while Bart Starr’s sneak to win the Ice Bowl trounced the Rodgers to Janis Hail Mary vs. the Cardinals with 91% of the vote. In our closest matchup yet, “We want the ball and we’re gonna score” eked out a victory by just a single vote over LeRoy Butler’s creation of the Lambeau Leap. The loss for Butler stings, but hopefully, the Pro Football Hall of Fame makes up for their past mistakes and allows him to leap into Canton next year (or we riot).
The two titans of the bracket could be headed for a showdown of old school vs. new school in the final four, but first, we’ll take a look at how the bracket stands and get into today’s matchups. As always, feel free to click each seed down below to watch each play.
Old heads rejoice! If you still think of the North as the “Black and Blue” division or even if you still refer to the North as the NFC Central, this matchup is for you. The Ice Bowl demolished its first opponent after receiving a bye in round 1 so this would be a colossal upset. The path to victory is somewhat clear though. A one-handed catch is awesome. A QB sneak? Maybe a tad boring to some. Not to mention the mystique of Super Bowl I and the greatest hangover story of all time. Am I somehow talking myself into this?
13 degrees below zero. The game-time temperature at Lambeau Field on December 31st, 1967 should’ve repelled even the most loyal Packers fans. And yet, 50,000 showed up to watch the NFL Championship between the Packers and Cowboys. As they attempted to win their 3rd consecutive NFL Championship, with 5:00 left in the game, the Packers found themselves trailing 17-14. With 16 seconds left, the Packers lined up on the goal line with no timeouts. A pass play was really the only option here to win the game. But Bart Starr and the Packers gambled with a sneak play up the middle. Ken Bowman and Jerry Kramer destroyed Cowboys lineman Jethro Pugh, giving Starr the space he needed to sky over the line for the game-winning TD.
Hangover remedies. We all have them. A giant plate of cheese fries, a Bloody Mary, or maybe just a nice, hot shower. After a long night of drinking, somehow I don’t think any of us consider catching 6 passes for 138 yards and a TD in football’s biggest game, but I suppose Max McGee was just built differently. By the time Super Bowl I vs the Chiefs rolled around, McGee was in the twilight of his career, content with backing up starting wideout Boyd Dowler and not expecting to play in the game after a night of debauchery. Of course that all changed when Dowler re-injured his shoulder early in the game and was unable to return. McGee entered, caught the first TD in Super Bowl history, and the rest was, well… history.
By seeding, this would not be a big upset. But when you consider how they got to this point, I don’t think anyone expects “4th and 8” to fall now. The narrow escape by Rodgers, the importance of the moment, maybe too much to overcome for any play in the bracket. But Freeman’s catch is no slouch. It contains an iconic Al Michaels line along with the Vikings losing a primetime game in absurd fashion. A punter throwing an interception is quite frankly hilarious. According to statmuse.com, only thirteen punters have ever thrown more than one interception, so it’s not exactly a common occurrence, especially on a game-winning field goal attempt!
“He did WHAT?!” Al Michaels spoke for all of us at that moment. To this day, the catch makes no sense. And like so many of these moments, it’s made so much sweeter by being in overtime and against a hated rival. Not to mention the Packers shouldn’t have even been in overtime. The Vikings botched the snap on a game-winning field goal, followed by their punter, Mitch Berger, throwing an interception to send the game into OT. It still stands as one of the greatest plays in Monday Night Football history and one that will leave us flabbergasted for ages.
Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb have crushed the souls of Bears fans as a hobby for nearly a decade now, but no moment stands above the NFC North winning bomb to Cobb in 2013. The 2013 season was a tumultuous one for the Packers. After starting 5-2, Rodgers was lost to a broken collarbone in the 1st quarter against the Bears in week 9. A Thanksgiving blowout to the Lions left them at 5-6-1 with little hope for the playoffs. But with a little luck and a lot of Matt Flynn magic, the Packers went 2-1 over the next 3 weeks, setting up Rodgers to return for a week 17, winner takes all showdown with the Bears to decide the NFC North. Cobb himself was returning from an injury as well. With less than a minute left in the game, down 1 with one last gasp left, Rodgers scrambled left to evade the rush and thanks to a timely John Kuhn block on Julius Peppers, was able to heave it downfield to Cobb for a 48-yard touchdown. Chris Conte expected Cobb to stop at the sticks, but he and Rodgers had a different idea, leaving Cobb wide open for the score.
This one is tough. I think we’re looking at another nail-biter after “We want the ball and we’re gonna score” narrowly escaped last round. Think of this as a tortoise and the hare situation. The hare being Al Harris, the tortoise being B.J. Raji. Because, well… duh. On the field, they’re both winners who landed in the end zone. In this fantasy world bracket, only one comes out on top. Maybe Harris’ interception is more aesthetically pleasing and it’s a walk-off playoff TD. It should be favored. But we can’t discount the elation that comes from watching a big guy score. Just like the hare, maybe the slow, steady rumble for the touchdown is what will send this 6 seed onto the final four.
Foot, meet mouth. Everyone loves an arrogant guarantee from their favorite players. Broadway Joe in Super Bowl III, Ali knocking out Liston in one round, or Jordan in game 7 vs the Pacers. These moments stand the test of time! Matt Hasselbeck’s guarantee in the 2004 NFC Wild Card is… a bit different. Heading into overtime, Seattle won the toss and was asked what they wanted to do. Hasselbeck emphatically stated, “We want the ball and we’re gonna score!” However, on their 2nd drive of the OT period, Hasselbeck was intercepted by Al Harris, who ran 52 yards for the win, and reminded us all of the power of humility.
At 6’2” 340 lbs, Raji isn’t exactly what you think of when you think of the “spy” role on defense. But against Caleb Hanie and the Bears in the NFC Championship, Raji played his part to perfection. The big man dropped back into coverage, picked off Hanie’s pass, and rumbled his way to the end zone to give the Pack a commanding 21-7 lead and secure their spot in Super Bowl XLV. And who could forget Raji’s iconic dance in the end zone? The perfect end cap to a play that couldn’t have been written better by Hollywood execs themselves.
In our final play of the quarterfinals, Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings face off against Desmond Howard. Two unforgettable Super Bowl moments slammed the door shut on their respective opponents’ comeback bids. Howard’s return is most likely remembered by more fans of other squads, but Packers fans know that Rodgers’ missile to Jennings was just as crucial in securing the team’s first Lombardi since Super Bowl XXXI. That could put Howard in prime upset territory this round and designate Rodgers and Jennings as a certified Cinderella.
Up 28-25 late in the 4th quarter with the Steelers breathing down their necks, Rodgers and Jennings connected on a crucial 3rd and 10 to set up a Mason Crosby field goal and give the Packers the victory. Ike Taylor was blanketing Jennings but like Rodgers has done so many times before, he fit the ball into the tiniest possible window for the 31-yard dime. An unbelievably clutch throw in a game filled with them.
No snaps on offense. Zero on defense. And a Super Bowl XXXI MVP as the Packers defeated the Patriots 35-21. Howard totaled 244 return yards in the big game, none more important than his 99-yard kickoff return TD in the third quarter that staved off the Patriots and put the exclamation point on the Packers’ victory. At the time, it was the longest play in Super Bowl history.
That will do it for the quarterfinal round! On Wednesday, we’ll be voting on the final four, followed by voting for the champion on Friday. Only eight plays are left standing so every vote is crucial. We’ll be sending out voting reminders this week on Twitter @acmepackingco so be sure to follow us there for the latest updates.