Amidst the Hail Marys of 2015 was a smaller prayer that also went answered for the Green Bay Packers. This play did not result in a touchdown, but made a game-tying touchdown possible. Call it the "Glory Be" play, if you will.
The third-best play on our Top Plays of 2015 countdown took place late in the Packers’ Divisional round playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals. We already featured one play from this game on our countdown - Randall Cobb’s one-handed catch - but unlike that play, the one we are about to discuss actually counted.
It’s late in the fourth quarter, and the Packers are down 20-13 after a Cardinals field goal. They got the football back at their own 15 with just a minute and 50 seconds left on the clock.
Part of the setup for this play involves the play prior. After a sack, the Packers were facing 3rd and 20 from their own 4 yard line. The Packers lined up with trips left with Richard Rodgers in a two point stance just outside David Bakhtiari. Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis were off the line to the outside and James Jones was the lone receiver split out on the right of the formation. James Starks lined up to Aaron Rodgers’ right in a shotgun formation. On this play, Abbrederis ran a deep post heading to the middle third of the field. Richard Rodgers stayed in to block and then flared to the short middle of the field late. Jones and Janis both ran deep fly routes heading to the outside thirds of the field. Arizona rushed four and kept Kevin Minter in the short zone and Deone Bucannon shifted to a middle zone behind Minter when R. Rodgers did not immediately run a route. A. Rodgers was able to stay in the pocket and threw deep to Janis. Janis was behind Justin Bethel and the safety help had followed Abbrederis to the middle of the field. Unfortunately, the ball from Rodgers was underthrown and never made it to Janis.
Now the Packers are left with a fourth down and 20 yards to go for a First Down. There are just 55 seconds remaining in the game. The clock is stopped, but the Packers still look up at a scoreboard that shows a 20-13 Arizona advantage. The Packers are 96 yards from a tie game. The Packers have no time outs.
The Packers line up on Fourth Down with the same formation as on Third Down. Rodgers, Abbrederis and Janis line up in a trips formation on the left with Jones out wide on the right. Starks sets up next to A. Rodgers.
The first break down of this play revolves around the line. Arizona brings four again. Markus Golden and Dwight Freeney come as edge rushers and Frostee Rucker and Calais Campbell line up as the down linemen in the middle. Golden comes hard upfield, but Bulaga cuts him off and Starks moves to prevent the edge move. Golden is forced back inside and is effectively out of the play from here on. T.J. Lang immediately neutralizes Rucker. Rucker makes no penetration and is still at the line at the end of the play. Freeney tries to dip and get under Bakhtiari and bull rush him back into Rodgers. Bakhtiari gives some ground, but gains outside leverage and drives Freeney to the ground back to the inside. The main issue is Campbell starts upfield toward Sitton and then cuts across Linsley’s face. Corey Linsley does not get enough on Campbell to slow him down. Campbell ends up coming at A. Rodgers from Rodgers’ right. This forces Rodgers to spin and roll out to his left. Josh Sitton maintains his discipline and keeps looking for the next problem. Sitton turns and runs to the left of the formation and engages Campbell in the end zone providing Rodgers with space and time to see the field.
Down the field, things are setting up similarly to the previous play. Janis, Abbrederis, and Jones split the deep part of the field into thirds and each takes a third. Abbrederis runs the post route again to take the middle third. This time R. Rodgers immediately releases and takes Bucannon to the side line on a fifteen yard out route. Rashad Johnson and Tony Jefferson are in a two deep zone look. Generally, this is because the middle third of the field is considered less dangerous as the clock will still run. Johnson takes the half of the field to the defense’s left. Since Starks stays in to block, Jones is the only receiver on his half of the field. Johnson and Patrick Peterson effectively eliminate Jones. Rodgers rolling out to the left (terrible for a right handed quarterback) also eliminates Jones. R. Rodgers is available just past the first down marker, but A. Rodgers looks at the two remaining receivers.
Jerraud Powers has man-on-man coverage with Jared Abbrederis down the field. Powers gives Abbrederis a five yard cushion to start off with. There is a little contact as R. Rodgers and Abbrederis head down field together until Rodgers makes his cut to the sidelines. Abbrederis runs right across Jefferson’s face and the safety follows Abbrederis to the middle of the field. Bethel begins the play five yards off the line of scrimmage, clearly addressing the speed of Janis; however, on the snap, Bethel stands flat-footed waiting for Janis to reach him. Bethel then turns to chase Janis. Jeff Janis again beats Bethel along the sideline. Rodgers throws to Janis again, but this time leads him slightly inside to get him clear of Bethel. Jefferson cannot get back to the ball in time this time. Jefferson makes the tackle and prevents the touchdown on this play. Janis and Rodgers have moved the ball from the Packers 4 to the Arizona 36 on a single play.
The Packers have two incomplete passes, one marred by an illegal motion penalty, but then the Packers line up with 5 seconds left and complete the 41 yard touchdown pass to Janis to tie the game and head to overtime. In overtime, the Cardinals pulled off a big pass play of their own and ended the Packers season, but the Packers showed the depth of their team by moving 96 yards in 55 seconds with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery all unavailable.
10. Damarious Randall recovers the onside kick/picks off Cam Newton
9. James Jones beats Josh Norman deep on fourth down
8. Randall Cobb's one-handed lung-buster
7. Aaron Rodgers clowns the 49ers defense
6. Jayrone Elliott seals the deal against Seattle
5. Micah Hyde's backhanded interception
4. Randall denies Danny Woodhead to clinch a win