In a season filled with fascinating, incredible, and sometimes hilarious plays, we at Acme Packing Company looked back at the 2016 Green Bay Packers to determine which ones were truly the best. Over the next few days, we will reveal our countdown of the top ten plays of the 2016 season, as voted on by 13 APC contributors.
The contributors were asked to vote on what they believed to be the best overall plays of the 2016 season, based on a number of factors. Included in the analysis were impact on the season overall, impact within the game, highlight-reel spectacle, individual effort or achievement, and hilarity or ridiculousness.
The impact of this play goes beyond the set up of the single play itself. After falling to a 4-6 record, the Packers struggled back through games against the tough defenses of Philadelphia and Houston to get back to 6-6. The Lions were 8-4 and about to play the hapless Bears. Minnesota was also 6-6 and facing off against Jacksonville. With three divisional games left to finish the season, the Packers needed to keep pace. Also, this was a chance to return to a winning record for the first time since before the loss to Indianapolis dropped the Packers to 4-4 in Week Nine.
Seattle is 8-3-1 and coming off a 40-7 victory over Carolina. The Seahawks had also won four of their last five games before coming into Lambeau Field. Yet, this will be the first full game without Earl Thomas after a season-ending injury.
In this immediate instance, the Packers have the ball on their first drive of the game. The drive starts after a touch back. After a nine yard pass to Jordy Nelson and a Ty Montgomery run for nothing, the Packers find themselves on 3rd and one (though the television broadcast called it 3rd and two) and the ball is on the Packers 34 yard line.
The Packers run a balanced look. Aaron Rodgers liens up in the shotgun with Ty Montgomery standing to his right. Randall Cobb and Davante Adams line up to the right. Adams is on the outside and Cobb is on the line of scrimmage. After going in motion, Jordy Nelson is to the left and off the line. Jared Cook lines up in line next to David Bakhtiari.
The Seahawks counter with a balanced defensive formation. Steven Terrell lines up as a single high safety. Kam Chancellor is at linebacker depth and lined up across from Nelson. Jeremy Lane stands at the line on the defensive left, across from Cobb and Adams. K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner line up at standard linebacker depth. Wright is across from Cook and Wagner on the side with Montgomery. Richard Sherman and DeShawn Shead are at about ten yards from the line of scrimmage. Sherman is across from Adams and Cobb.
On the snap Cook, Nelson, Cobb and Adams all release down field and break about two to three yards down field. Nelson breaks left, toward the sideline and looks back to Rodgers. Cook runs until he and Wright make contact, then Cook cuts directly toward the left sideline as well. Wright does not follow. Montgomery waits to see if there is a blitz. When none comes, the moves forward to the first down line and the cuts left across Bobby Wagner’s face. Wagner follows Montgomery across the middle of the field.
Of course, all this is prologue to the main action. With both linebackers across the field and a single high safety, there is a two man game with Cobb and Adams. Cobb runs up field before stopping and turning back toward Rodgers. As Cobb stands still, Sherman breaks on him expecting the Packers to take the easy yards and the first down. As Sherman comes forward, Cobb breaks back toward the inside. This effectively removes Sherman from the rest of the play. Adams breaks to the right sideline before breaking up field again along the sideline.
As all this is happening, the Seahawks rush four. Michael Bennett pushes up field. Corey Linsley and Lane Taylor double team Ahtyba Rubin, leaving T.J. Lang one-on-one with Tony McDaniel. Cliff Avril makes no headway against Bryan Bulaga. Avril tries and inside move first, but this does nothing as Rodgers starts to move to the offensive right. McDaniel, however, makes very good progress. He moves up field and pushes Rodgers from the pocket. Beyond being the most natural direction to roll, the pressure from Bennett and the inside move from Avril leave the right wide open. Also, since Wagner has rotated away, there is no one left to flow to the edge.
Now the two man game with Cobb and Adams is making headway. Terrell does not leave the Packers G in the middle of the field until the ball has already been released from Rodgers’ hand. Adams breaks up field and is a yard free of Lane as he races down the side line. Rodgers does not stop and stride into the throw. He flips the ball on a half step. The ball leads Adams perfectly, hitting him without breaking stride. The ball also leads Adams slightly toward the side line, allowing Adams to keep his body between Lane and the ball. Lane can only dive in an attempt to cover the gap. Terrell cannot make a pursuit line that will get to Adams before the end zone. Adams crosses the goal line while Terrell is still five yards away.
The Packers get the fast start they needed, and after this score the Seahawks do not score a touchdown until the Fourth Quarter. By then, the Packers had scored 31 points and the game was out of hand. This play set the tone for this all important game. The 66-yard pass gave the Packers a major momentum boost and forced the Seahawks to play from behind, something they are not built to do.