clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Packers top plays of 2015, No. 2: Aaron Rodgers' prayers answered again

A wideout with just four regular-season receptions makes the biggest play yet on the largest stage of his career.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Acme Packing Company's rundown of the Green Bay Packers' top plays from 2015 has reached the penultimate entry, the second of Aaron Rodgers' two miraculous Hail Mary touchdowns. Though Rodgers and his target, Jeff Janis, didn't combine for a walk-off score, the play did force overtime in the team's divisional-round tilt with the Arizona Cardinals.

The situation

Already saved once on the drive by a 60-yard completion to Jeff Janis, the Packers found themselves with little time and plenty of ground to cover in order to keep their season alive. That play and the subsequent scramble to get up to the line of scrimmage took over 30 seconds off the clock. An incomplete pass and illegal motion penalty on Richard Rodgers pushed Green Bay back, leaving just 12 seconds. Another failed pass slashed even further into what clock remained.

With just five seconds left on the game clock, Aaron Rodgers and the offense find themselves 41 yards away from the goal line, the set up for a Hail Mary attempt.

The play

The Bruce Arians-led Cardinals go for the throat in big situations rather than take the conservative approach, and the Packers planned accordingly. They left seven men to block for Rodgers, turning the do-or-die Hail Mary attempt into a three-on-four showdown between the receivers and secondary in favor of Arizona.

At the snap, Green Bay's offensive line and extra blockers set up their protection to the right, the side with James Jones and Jared Abbrederis running go routes. The protection breaks down quickly, with linebacker Markus Golden beating Corey Linsley up the middle and Dwight Freeney bringing pressure from as a wide-nine from the left. Rodgers, as he has done often during the 2015 season, spins out to his left to buy some extra time for his receivers.

Moments later, Golden has a clear path to Rodgers, who at this point is running to his non-dominant side and falling away from the goal line. Those combined elements mean the quarterback has to make a 60-yard throw from release to landing point without the power generated from his lower body or the full breadth of his delivery, a recipe for disaster 99.9 percent of the time.

Yet somehow, Rodgers uncorks a perfect, high-arching pass just as Golden careens into him. The trajectory allows Janis to track the ball and high point it with precision despite two Cardinals draped over him. Janis even overcame a late punch-out attempt by safety Rashad Johnson to secure the touchdown.

The impact

The successful Hail Mary, along with the ensuing extra point, sent the game into overtime. The extra period didn't last long, however, as Larry Fitzgerald blew the game open courtesy of a 75-yard catch and run that set the Cardinals up inside the Green Bay 5-yard line.

Still, while Rodgers' other Hail Mary understandably receives more acclaim, the level of difficulty associated with his throw in the Cardinals game easily exceeds it. Though Rodgers has earned countless greater accolades during his career, his miracle completion to Janis ensures that he will go down as the greatest Hail Mary quarterback in NFL history.

The countdown

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. Damarious Randall denies Danny Woodhead to clinch win
3. Jeff Janis arrives and hope survives

Jason B. Hirschhorn is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and covers the NFL for Sports on Earth and SB Nation. He also serves as the senior writer and editor for Acme Packing Company, a Green Bay Packers blog.