Acme Packing Company's rundown of the Green Bay Packers' top plays from 2016 continues with a sack-strip from Clay Matthews that solidified a wildcard win over the New York Giants. The turnover, in an unusual sequence of events, showcased Matthews’ relentless effort and sealed the victory for Green Bay in the fourth quarter.
The Packers had just capped off a 10-play, 80-yard drive with an Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass to Randall Cobb on the previous possession. Trailing 31-13 with 8:44 to play in the fourth quarter, the Giants were in no-huddle mode, needing three scores to keep their season alive.
Though a comeback was improbable, New York was starting to drive, reaching its own 47-yard line after a 14-yard completion from Eli Manning to Tavarres King. With time ticking down, the Packers knew the Giants would be desperately throwing the football and had its best pass rushers on the field.
Out of the shotgun, Manning took the snap, halfheartedly faking a handoff to running back Paul Perkins. After quickly scanning the left side of the field for his outside receiver running a deep pattern, Manning instead decided to make a short check-down pass to his safety valve Perkins. Unbeknownst to Manning, Matthews had beaten second-year left tackle Ereck Flowers with a quick burst off the snap. With a last-ditch leaping effort, Matthews reached Manning’s throwing arm, forcing what appeared to be an incomplete pass to everyone else on the field.
Fortunately for Green Bay, Matthews (and Julius Peppers) knew he had forced a fumble. The ball, pushed forward by Manning’s hand after being knocked loose, meandered up to Perkins’ feet at midfield where the rookie tailback watched it come to a halt. Perkins lethargically reached down to pick up the ball before being pummeled by a gritty Matthews in pursuit. Without a whistle blown on the field, the former USC Trojan scooped up the ball for the Green Bay recovery. After an official review, the play stood and the Packers took over possession with good field position for a put-away drive.
The turnover effectively ended the game. The Packers went on a final nine-play, 58-yard drive that lasted over five minutes and culminated with an Aaron Ripkowski rushing touchdown. With under five minutes to play and a 38-13 lead, Green Bay was headed to Dallas for the NFC Divisional round.
More than anything, the play was an exhibition of Matthews’ sheer effort and desire to win. Stricken by the injury bug, the Packers’ defense rose to the challenge all game long. The strip sack was just another example of Green Bay’s ability to prevent the Giants from crawling back into the game in the second half. Matthews didn’t give up on the play and the Packers’ defense didn’t give up a playoff win.
10: Rodgers' 9-second TD pass to Geronimo Allison
9. Ty Montgomery runs around and through the Bears
8. Clay Matthews forces two fumbles on one play