The Green Bay Packers' 2013 season was a year defined by injuries, but also by unique and memorable plays. Here at Acme Packing Company, we will spend two weeks looking back at the ten best plays of the 2013 season as voted on by our writing staff.
Each person had their own criteria for deciding which plays were the best, but we took into account how memorable the play was, how big an impact it had within a particular game and for the season overall, how impressive a display of effort or athleticism the play had, and finally any hilarity or novelty factor.
Here is our pick for the second-best play of the 2013 season.
Opponent: Dallas Cowboys
Venue: AT&T Stadium
Fresh off a victory against the Atlanta Falcons at Lambeau Field (their first win since Aaron Rodgers' collarbone injury), the Packers traveled to Dallas to face the Cowboys in their first visit to Jerry World since their victory in Super Bowl XLV. Likely needing to win out to make the playoffs, the 7-5-1 Packers, led by Matt Flynn, were facing a 7-6 Cowboys team that also needed to win to stay in the thick of the NFC East race.
You know what happened in the first half of this game - the Packers offense got nothing going while the defense gave up big chunks of yardage. Though the defense was able to hold Dallas to field goals on four occasions, the Cowboys found the end zone twice and stormed out to a 26-3 lead by halftime.
The Packers received the opening kickoff of the second half, knowing that they needed a touchdown on the drive to maintain any hope of a comeback. On the opening drive of the second half, Eddie Lacy started the Packers off with a jolt of life, picking up 60 yards on the first play from scrimmage, a play which fell just outside our top 10. Following that play, James Starks came in to spell Lacy and picked up seven total yards on first and second down, setting up a third and three from the Cowboys' 13-yard line.
On third down, the Packers lined up in a shotgun formation with Andrew Quarless and John Kuhn flanking Matt Flynn. Jarrett Boykin was wide to the left with Jordy Nelson in the left slot and James Jones wide to the right. Flynn took the snap and dropped back to pass. Nelson, matched up on Orlando Scandrick, runs a corner route and has decent position behind Scandrick. A good throw to the back corner of the end zone would likely be a sure touchdown for Nelson.
He didn't get that throw.
Instead, Flynn's throw came with the quarterback a little off-balance, and as such the throw didn't have the necessary depth, instead leading his receiver towards the front corner of the end zone. With the ball coming to that location, Scandrick should have had the perfect position on the ball to make a game-clinching interception on the first drive of the second half.
Instead, Jordy decided that that day was not a good day to die:
Nelson leapt over Scandrick, quite literally taking the ball out of his hands for a touchdown and bringing the Packers back within two scores at 26-10. The comeback was officially underway.
Take a look at the video here, which shows the play from a few different angles. One of the things I love most about this play is Nelson's reaction: he's stoic and intense, and his body language seems to say "Okay, that's step one. Let's keep working and we'll win this damned game."
The Packers did just that, and they have Nelson's incredible effort in this play to thank for it. After yet another Cowboys field goal extended the Dallas lead to 29-10, the Packers would score a touchdown on every ensuing drive in the second half, except for the final kneel-downs to run out the clock. Flynn threw touchdowns to Andrew Quarless, James Starks, and James Jones, and after Sam Shields' interception (which came in at #6 on this list), Eddie Lacy's one-yard touchdown put the Packers up 37-36. That lead would hold over the last few minutes of the game.
The win kept the Packers squarely in the NFC North race, which they would eventually win thanks to some more heroics from different sources. Sure, if they had beaten the Steelers in Green Bay the following week, their record might have been the same and they might have still won the division, but that's no guarantee. It's safe to say that without Nelson's never-say-die attitude on this play, the Packers almost certainly would have lost this game and it is likely that the team would not have earned a third straight NFC North title.
Stay tuned this afternoon for our breakdown of the #1 best play of the Packers' 2013 season.