Our countdown begins with the first of two plays tied for the final spot in the top ten.
Each year, Acme Packing Company’s writers vote for the Green Bay Packers’ top plays of the previous season. Our votes are based on the impact of the play, spectacular individual or team effort, or sheer amusement value we compile the votes to list out the top ten plays. Join us over a two-week span as we count down from 10 to 1 in the Packers’ Top Plays of 2021.
This year’s Top Plays countdown has a minor problem — we ended up in a tie for the 10th-place play. Therefore, we’ll have plays 10A and 10B going live today before we continue on with play number 9 on Tuesday.
The first of our plays that ranked 10th comes late in the season, with the Packers trailing in the first half of a game against their oldest rivals. The Chicago Bears ended up being no match for the Packers as this game went on, but early on the game was very much in doubt, even as Green Bay was fighting to try to reach the top of the NFC standings.
Midway through the second quarter, the Packers’ defense struck with a bolt of lightning from a midseason acquisition who developed a knack for making huge plays in critical situations.
It’s week 14, and the Packers are hosting the latest edition of the NFL’s oldest rivalry, with the Chicago Bears in town at Lambeau Field. Predictably, this game is in Prime Time, kicking off as the week’s Sunday Night Football game.
The Packers enter the week at 9-3 and fresh off their bye week, which followed a big 36-28 victory over the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau in week 12. At this point, another NFC North title is almost assured, with the Minnesota Vikings sitting in second place in the North at 5-7, and Green Bay has its sights on the top seed in the NFC, as they are just one game back of the Arizona Cardinals. The Bears, meanwhile, come in at 4-8 after a 33-22 loss to those Cardinals the week before, and are just hoping to play spoiler.
The first quarter was pretty quiet, with the only points coming on a Cairo Santos field goal. Chicago took a ten-point lead early in the second quarter as Jakeem Grant got loose for a 46-yard touchdown on a screen pass from Justin Fields. The Packers put up an 11-play touchdown drive in response, however, closing the gap to 10-7 on a two-yard score from Aaron Rodgers to Allen Lazard.
The Green Bay special teams were a mess in this game, however. They allowed a 34-yard punt return early in the game to Grant that helped sed up the field goal, and Khalil Herbert took this next kickoff 40 yards to near midfield. After a seven-yard gain by David Montgomery and an incomplete pass from Fields, the Bears faced a 3rd-and-3 from their own 48-yard line.
Chicago lines up with Fields in the shotgun and Montgomery to his right. The Bears have three receivers to the left of the formation, two in a stack tight to the line and Darnell Money split out just inside the numbers, with one wideout split at the numbers to the right.
The Packers pick up the inside receivers well in zone coverage, while Mooney runs an out route towards the left sideline. Instead of stepping into his throw and firing a dart, however, Fields floats the football to Mooney about ten yards downfield.
As soon as Mooney makes his break, Rasul Douglas — in off coverage a few yards deep — breaks on his man. And in addition to needing more on the football, Fields’ throw is off-target, much too far inside rather than leading Mooney to the sideline. That allows Douglas to play the ball rather than the receiver, cutting inside of Mooney and hauling in the football at the Packers’ 45-yard line.
With his momentum already carrying him up the field, Douglas streaks up the sideline and is off to the races, only having to put a small move on Fields around the ten-yard line before he reaches the end zone.
For Douglas, this was yet another massive play in a season that was full of them following his arrival from Arizona. It was his third pick of the year and his second straight game with a pick-six after he accomplished the feat two weeks prior against the Rams and Matthew Stafford.
In this game, it gave the Packers their first lead of the day, and although they would give up a few more big plays before the half to go down 24-14 at one point, Green Bay would rally, scoring three touchdowns in the span of half a quarter between the two-minute warning of the first half and the middle of the third frame.
In a first half that saw the Packers’ defense and special teams plagued by allowing big plays to the Bears, this touchdown gave the Packers a brief early lead and allowed them to keep the game close until the offense began moving the ball consistently late in the second quarter. Once they did, Green Bay scored on five of their final six non-kneel down drives of the game, with four of those series resulting in touchdowns, eventually cruising to a 45-30 victory.
The win pushed the Packers into a tie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 10-3, and a day later on Monday Night Football, the Rams beat the Cardinals to set up a three-way tie for the top spot in the NFC. Green Bay went on to win their next three games and clinch the top seed with a week to go.
For Douglas personally, this play and his other splash plays over the course of the season helped earn him a long-term deal from the Packers, as he signed a three-year, $21 million contract this offseason.
Stay tuned for the next play on our countdown coming later today before we move on to play number 9 on Tuesday!