As we approach the very best in our countdown of the top plays of the Green Bay Packers' 2014 season, you may have noticed one game conspicuously missing from the countdown so far. We have said nothing about the Packers' playoff win over the Dallas Cowboys yet, a victory which sent the Packers on to Seattle for the NFC Championship Game.
Well, rest assured that we have not forgotten about that game. Today at play number three, we find the first play from that game on our countdown. (And before you ask, the answer is no - it won't be the last.)
It is the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs. The Packers are hosting the Dallas Cowboys, and are clinging to a 26-21 lead. On Dallas' previous drive, a fourth-down completion to Dez Bryant was challenged and overturned, giving the Packers the ball back on their own 33-yard line with four minutes left and a chance to run out the clock.
After a pair of Eddie Lacy runs, Aaron Rodgers found Davante Adams for a short pass, and he shook off a defender to pick up 26 yards and a first down. A false start penalty followed by two more Lacy runs took the clock down to the two-minute warning and set up a critical third-and-11 from Dallas' 35-yard line with the Cowboys out of timeouts.
The Packers lined up with four receivers near the line of scrimmage - one to the right and three to the left - with Randall Cobb in the backfield. Before the snap, Cobb motions out wide to the right, stacked just behind another Packers receiver. At the snap, the other receiver cuts inside, while Cobb runs to the first-down line, covered well by Orlando Scandrick.
Aaron Rodgers has a comfortable pocket to start the play, but it breaks down after a few seconds as defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford comes free on a stunt. Rodgers sees Cobb get a little bit of separation from Scandrick and barely gets the pass off, but it grazes Crawford's outstretched hand and wobbles off his desired flight path. Here's the play:
(Credit for the GIF goes to @_MarcusD_)
Cobb sees the off-target pass coming in his direction and dives out for it, corralling the football with his body just beyond the line-to-gain. It is a remarkable effort by Cobb to get to this ball at all, but he finds a way to haul in the pass and give the Packers a first down.
This one is easy.
If the pass had fallen incomplete, the Packers would have faced a fourth-and-11, which would have necessitated either a punt or a Mason Crosby field goal attempt from 53 yards - hardly ideal in the cold conditions at Lambeau Field in January. In any of those cases, the Cowboys would have taken possession of the football with a little less than two minutes on the clock and with, at worst, a chance to either tie the game or take the lead.
After converting the play for a first down, the Packers were able to kneel on the ball three times to run out the clock and earn their first trip to the NFC Championship Game since 2010.
And we won't speak of that game again.
#4: Rodgers' fake spike
#5: Jordy Nelson escape Revis Island
#6: Peppers' pick-six leads to first Lambeau Leap
#7: Randall Cobb's one-handed catch finishes off the Bears
#8: The longest one-yard touchdown ever
#9: Rodgers finds Cobb on one leg
#10: Jordy Nelson completes the comeback