With the Green Bay Packers in the midst of their lengthy summer break before training camp, Acme Packing Company has begun to count down the team’s top 10 players of the previous season. In 2018, the Packers stumbled to an ugly 6-9-1 record, losing their longtime head coach in December with multiple games remaining and experiencing issues in every phase of the game. Accordingly, compiling the list of the year’s top plays offered more challenges than usual.
However, 11 contributors at APC submitted votes for the Packers’ top 10 players, and we will break down these moments over the ensuing two weeks. As in past years, contributors selected plays based on their impact on a game or the season, impressive individual effort, or simply the hilarity factor.
Today, we continue the countdown with No. 9, a play featuring a relatively unknown receiver setting up a game-winning field goal.
The Packers entered Week 6 in desperate need of a victory and drew the Jimmy Garoppolo-less San Francisco 49ers. The game came one week after Mason Crosby’s meltdown in Motown -- the veteran kicker missed four field-goal attempts in a contest Green Bay lost by eight points -- leaving the team’s playoff chances dwindling at 2-2-1.
Despite the absence of Garoppolo, the Packers found themselves down in an unlikely dogfight with the 49ers. After establishing a 10-point advantage in the first quarter, Green Bay lost control shortly after halftime, ceding the lead until Aaron Rodgers hooked up with Davante Adams for an equalizing touchdown with less than 2 minutes remaining.
Still, the Packers needed a stop and a quick drive to avoid overtime or worse, putting the pressure on an inconsistent defense. 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard had performed like a star to that point in the game, completing 15 of his 21 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns. A backbreaking 2-minute drill appeared well within reach for the second-year signal-caller.
Instead, Beathard committed his first major mistake of the night, throwing an interception to Kevin King on a deep shot intended for Marquise Goodwin. That turnover returned the ball to Rodgers, who promptly pushed the Packers towards midfield. With time dwindling and more yardage needed before sending Mason Crosby and the field goal unit onto the field, Rodgers turned to rookie wideout Equanimeous St. Brown.
The Packers, with less than 20 seconds remaining in regulation, line up with trips right, Jimmy Graham isolated to the left, and Aaron Jones in the backfield. Of the three wideouts, Davante Adams has positioned himself in the slot with St. Brown on the boundary and Marquez Valdes-Scantling in between.
At the snap, Adams runs a stutter-and-our route towards the bench with Valdes-Scantling clearing the zone with a vertical route. The combination opens a passing window for Rodgers to connect with St. Brown along the boundary. The quarterback throws towards the rookie’s back shoulder, hitting St. Brown 19 yards down the field and pulling him out of bounds to kill the clock.
Rodgers executed the back-shoulder pass to St. Brown so well that it allowed the Packers to attempt another two plays before sending on the field-goal unit. Rodgers hit Adams on another 19-yard fade and then tossed an incompletion before Crosby received his opportunity to redemption. The veteran kicker connected on his 27-yard attempt, sealing the win for Green Bay.
Ten of the 11 APC voters included Rodgers’ back-shoulder throw to St. Brown in their selections, with the play ranking as high as seven on one ballot. The play became the second and final moment from the Packers’ Week 6 matchup with the 49ers to make the cut, though a third came within two points of forcing a tie with APC’s No. 10 selection.
Stay tuned on Wednesday for play No. 8 in APC’s countdown.