We’re finally here: number one. The Green Bay Packers’ 2017 season was fraught with frustration, injuries, and angst, but there were still memorable moments to be found. Even with Aaron Rodgers sidelined, there were remarkable plays by his teammates.
In fact, only four of the plays ranked in our top ten best plays of the Packers’ 2017 season took place with Rodgers healthy, and he directly factored into just two of them — Davante Adams’ memorable touchdown to beat the Dallas Cowboys (second place) and a bomb to Geronimo Allison that set up an overtime win (sixth).
In fact, Adams himself was arguably the biggest star on the team last season, and he was the key player in both the number two and number one plays on our list. That is in addition to a third play that landed him and his fellow Packers receivers in the tenth position for their fantastic celebration, plus a few honorable mentions.
But here we are at number one, and it was Adams striking again.
It’s week 14, and the 6-6 Packers are in Cleveland on a cold, windy December Sunday trying to get back over .500 and keep their playoff hopes alive. Meanwhile, the Browns are trying to win their first game of the season.
The Packers took an early lead on a deep pass to Jamaal Williams that went for a 30-yard touchdown, but Cleveland fought back to take a 21-7 lead entering the fourth quarter. The Packers offense wasn’t exactly struggling; they had gone three-and-out just once all game, but were once pinned inside their own ten-yard line and on another occasion had failed to convert a fourth-and-one from the Browns’ ten.
However, Hundley led the Packers on a 13-play drive covering the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters, as Williams pulled the team back within seven points with a one-yard touchdown. Then, with just under three minutes on the clock, Trevor Davis delivered the biggest play of his career with a huge 65-yard punt return (a play that was considered for our countdown but that ultimately fell short of the top ten). That set up Hundley and company at the Browns’ 25-yard line with 2:37 to go in the game, and the young quarterback found Adams on a back-shoulder throw for a one-yard touchdown to tie the game and send it to overtime.
In the extra period, the Browns won the toss, but on third-and-two, DeShone Kizer — now Hundley’s teammate in Green Bay — was pressured into a brutal interception on a play that ended up as our ninth-ranked snap of the year.
Although the Packers took over once again in Browns territory, they still needed to move the ball to get into better field goal range. One first down (on a tough third-down catch over the middle by Adams) put them at least in a reasonable position for a Mason Crosby attempt, but on third-and-six from the Browns’ 25, Adams delivered a dagger.
The Packers start out in their favorite 11 personnel grouping, with Williams as the lone setback and one tight end to the right side of the line. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson are stacked wide to the left side, with Cobb on the outside. Adams is lined up wide right, but before the snap he motions left to line up wide left beyond (and a bit behind) the other two receivers. The Browns show three defensive backs wide to that side — Jamar Taylor is up on the line opposite Nelson, Jason McCourty followed Adams and lines up two yards off him, and Mike Jordan sits about five yards back. (Kai Nacua is also lined up as a deep safety well out of the frame below.)
At the snap, Hundley takes a quick one step and turns left to fire the ball to Adams, who is cutting back inside, two yards behind the line of scrimmage. Cobb and Nelson immediately move to block the DBs, with Cobb pushing the man assigned to cover Adams back to the sideline and Nelson taking the DB on the line of scrimmage straight downfield. This creates a channel for Adams to the inside between Nelson and Myles Garrett on the end of the Browns’ defensive line, and he catches the football and turns up the field.
Garrett is alert, however, and is able to disengage from David Bakhtiari’s block and make a tackle attempt on Adams. However, #17 runs right through that arm tackle and sees the unblocked Jordan squaring him up; Adams puts on a magnificent spin move to the left, leaving the DB in the dust before cutting upfield. Nacua takes a poor angle coming down from center field, leaving the sideline open for Adams to outrun him and McCourty to the end zone.
Adams’ route to the end zone took him straight to the tunnel to the Packers’ locker room, and his walk-off was literal, as he sprinted there after ending the game. This was the Packers second straight overtime victory after beating the Buccaneers on Aaron Jones’ walk-off the week before, and their third OT win on the season.
This win kept the Packers’ playoff hopes alive for another week, moving them to 7-6 on the season. That was enough for the team to reactivate Aaron Rodgers from injured reserve for the following Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers; however, the Packers would lose that game, put Rodgers back on IR afterwards, then lose the final two contests of the season to finish at 7-9.
For the Browns, this was by far the closest they came to winning a game in 2017. The would lose each of their next two games by 17 points to fall to 0-15 before coming up just short to the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road in a 28-24 week 17 loss. That made them just the second team to finish winless since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule, joining the 2008 Detroit Lions.
For the Packers and their fans, this play kept alive that playoff spark and the hope of an Aaron Rodgers return. It also demonstrated all of Adams’ best skills in one package. Although Rodgers didn’t save the season when he got back on the field, Adams earned a big new contract prior to the Packers’ week 17 game, and he will enter 2018 with high expectations for a big season.