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. 4, a play which delivered the Packers’ first and only road win of the season.
The Packers lost all hope during the final month of the 2018 season. Head coach Mike McCarthy received his walking papers following a disastrous performance against the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 2 and the team officially fell out of playoff contention two weeks later. With the coaching search already underway, Green Bay had little more than pride on the line when it took on the New York Jets in Week 16.
The Jets established an early lead and held it into the final minutes of regulation. Aaron Rodgers led an 11-play drive that he capped off with a touchdown run and successful two-point conversion for the Packers’ first lead of the game. However, as had become routine during 2018, Green Bay’s special teams faltered at an unfortunate moment, allowing a 51-yard kickoff return. New York used the big play to set up a game-tying field goal, forcing overtime.
Just inside the red zone, Rodgers and the offense lined up in shotgun with 11 personnel (one back, one tight end) with Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling positioned wide left, Jake Kumerow split out right, and Jimmy Graham stationed on the hip of the right tackle.
On the right side of the play, Graham and Kumerow each ran quick outs, though Rodgers never looked their way after an initial glance at the snap. On the other side of the play, Valdes-Scantling hit a curl route over the middle, drawing a linebacker and a safety towards him. That created a one-on-one matchup between Adams and cornerback Morris Claiborne.
Claiborne’s outside leverage protects against a back-shoulder throw towards the boundary, but it leaves him vulnerable to the deep post Adams runs instead. Without safety help, Adams has just open space ahead after he makes his break. Rodgers finds his go-to receiver in the back of the end zone for the walk-off touchdown moments later.
The score gave the Packers their only road win of 2018 and their final victory of the year. They would go on to drop the season finale the following week to lock in their 6-9-1 record, the worst since Rodgers’ first year as a starter.
Eight of the 11 APC voters included Adams’ walk-off touchdown in their selections, with the play earning mostly top-3 consideration. One ballot even ranked it as the top play of the Packers’ season.
Stay tuned on Wednesday for play No. 3 in APC’s countdown.