Drum roll, please...
We hope you have enjoyed this look back at the highlights of the Green Bay Packers' 2014 season over this past week. As we reveal the top play on our countdown, let us know if you disagree with our pick for number one.
By now, you have probably figured out that the high-leverage situations in the Packers' playoff win over the Cowboys have played heavily into our minds when deciding on the top plays of this season. As it turns out, the top three spots on the countdown are swept by plays from that game, and Davante Adams' catch-and-run touchdown somehow didn't even crack the top ten.
The top play for 2013 was never in doubt, as it is a rare feat to pull off a come-from-behind victory in Week 17 against your biggest and oldest rival to win the division. We had a lot more trouble deciding on the best play of this season, but we have made our decision.
Here is our pick for the Top Play of 2014.
While Peppers' strip came early in the third quarter with over 25 minutes to go and Cobb's game-clinching catch took place with the team up by five in the waning minutes, our number one play took place with the Packers both trailing (by a score of 21-20) and with time waning in the fourth quarter, as the clock sat with less than 10 minutes to play.
The Packers closed the Cowboys' lead down to just one point late in the third with the aforementioned Adams touchdown. On Dallas' ensuing drive, two straight sacks by Nick Perry (with help from Mike Daniels on the second) helped force a Cowboys' punt, and the Packers took over again from their own 20-yard line.
Aaron Rodgers was magnificent on the next drive as the Packers accelerated the pace of the offense. On six of the first seven plays of the series, he completed passes, with the only other play being a run by Randall Cobb. The series included three receptions by Andrew Quarless, two by Cobb, and one more by Adams, with Quarless' final catch giving Green Bay a first-and-ten from the Cowboys' 13-yard line. He saved his finest pass of the game, and possibly of the season, for last on the drive.
Despite still struggling with his injured calf, the week off during the Wild Card round clearly did Rodgers some good. He showed slightly better mobility on the day, and he needed it on this play. The pocket collapses around Rodgers, but he is able to sidestep the rush and slide to his left.
With no pass rushers nearby, Rodgers spots rookie tight end Richard Rodgers running from right to left across the back of the end zone, and the quarterback squares his body to the end zone before unleashing a perfect spiral through the chilly Wisconsin air:
The throw is perfectly on target to Rodgers, who has J.J. Wilcox on his back hip and Sterling Moore coming across his face in an effort to break up the pass. Somehow, the ball fits in between the defenders and hits Rodgers perfectly, as he hauls in the football for a touchdown that gives the Packers a 26-21 lead.
It's been discussed just how tight the window was for Rodgers to throw this ball by many Packers blogs (Acme Packing Company included), but in my opinion, the best was from AllGreenBayPackers.com. Click here for their detailed breakdown of just how ridiculous this pass was, and enjoy the reverse view of the play below as well.
Finally, you can see the entire play here on video from Packers.com.
There are a few items that must be acknowledged when breaking down this play. Yes, the Packers were down just a single point, and could have taken a lead even with a field goal. Yes, the play came on first-and-ten from the 13-yard line, and if the pass had fallen incomplete the Packers would have had two more downs to work with. According to Pro Football Reference, the difference in the Packers' odds of winning were increased significantly more by several other plays in this game, including both Peppers' forced fumble and Adams' touchdown.
However, it was a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter of a playoff game. The impact of that play cannot be overstated, even if the numbers suggest that the Packers had a good chance of winning the game anyway. Another factor in this plays' favor is that it gave the Packers their first lead since the first quarter. And then there's the ridiculous nature of that throw, which puts it over the top.
On the next drive, the Cowboys would fall short of the end zone, with the challenge and reversal of Dez Bryant's catch on fourth down. The Packers would run out the clock with the help of Cobb's diving catch (#3 on our countdown) and advanced to the NFC Championship game for the first time since 2010.
#2: Peppers forces critical fumble
#3: Cobb's catch clinches playoff victory
#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