Over the past two weeks, we at Acme Packing Company have counted down the best plays of the Green Bay Packers’ 2018 season. It was a rough year in total, as the Packers stumbled to a disappointing 6-9-1 record. But in week one, the roller-coaster of emotion was at its most turbulent as the Packers met the Chicago Bears for the week’s marquee matchup on Sunday Night Football.
Here is the #1 play of the Packers’ 2018 campaign.
It is week one, and the Packers are hosting their oldest rival, the Chicago Bears. Under new head coach Matt Nagy and with edge rusher Khalil Mack just coming over from Oakland a week earlier, the Bears and their fans are riding high and looking for a big 2018 season, preferably (for them) with a win over their rivals.
The Packers, meanwhile, are opening up their 11th season with Aaron Rodgers under center and their 13th with Mike McCarthy as the head coach. However, Rodgers’ entire 2018 season would quickly be put in jeopardy.
Early on in the game, the Bears are controlling the play. The Packers picked up one first down on the opening drive of the game before punting, but the Bears go the length of the field for a touchdown on their first offensive series. Then they add a long field goal drive on their second drive for a 10-0 lead. Meanwhile, the Packers go three-and-out three straight times, but on the final third down of this stretch, Roy Robertson-Harris sacks Rodgers, landing on the quarterbacks’ left leg.
Rodgers goes back to the locker room, with Packers fans fearing the worst. After all, he missed half of 2017 with a broken collarbone, and now the possibility that he will be sidelined for all of 2018 as well is sinking in. In the remainder of the second quarter, DeShone Kizer demonstrates that he is not ready to be an NFL quarterback, as Mack strip-sacks him then picks off a short pass and returns it for a touchdown and a 17-0 Bears lead.
However, after halftime Rodgers trots out of the tunnel to a deafening ovation from the Lambeau Field crowd. Following a Bears field goal to open the half and give Chicago a 20-0 lead, Rodgers uses a combination of quick passing and a sprinkling of the run game to begin leading the Packers back. First he leads the team on a lengthy field goal drive to get on the board, and in the fourth quarter the comeback is on in earnest.
Geronimo Allison’s touchdown to start that quarter earned the #2 spot on our countdown, and after a Bears three-and-out, Rodgers finds Davante Adams for a 51-yard gain and then a 12-yard touchdown to bring the Packers back within a field goal. Chicago extends their lead to six points with a field goal of their own, and the Packers take over with 2:39 to go in the game. Following two incomplete passes — one of which was a dropped interception — the Packers line up on third-and-ten from their own 25-yard line with 2:29 left on the clock.
The Packers line up on the left hash mark in 11 personnel. Davante Adams is wide left, Geronimo Allison is wide right, Randall Cobb is in the right slot, and Jimmy Graham is standing up just off the right side of the offensive line. Ty Montgomery is in the backfield to Rodgers’ left in the shotgun. The Bears show blitz over Lane Taylor at left guard, bringing five men to pressure Rodgers, with one of them (Leonard Floyd) assigned to drop and follow Montgomery if he leaks out of the backfield, which he does.
Rodgers retreats in the pocket as David Bakhtiari drives his man well back behind his quarterback. Mack, after pressuring initially, bails out when Montgomery leaks by him, despite Floyd running with #88. Oddly, Mack is practically standing still while keeping his eyes on Rodgers, who is drifting in the pocket to his left. In fact, it appears that Mack is actually spying Rodgers, despite the quarterback demonstrating that his mobility is all but gone following his injury in the first half.
Finally, Rodgers spots Cobb over the middle just past the first-down marker, starting to cut back to the right after finishing his route across the middle. Aaron delivers a perfect ball off his back foot. The football is just past the outstretched arms of Bears safety Eddie Jackson, who has dropped down to cover Cobb on the underneath route. Cobb secures the football and the first down, then turns upfield to look for extra yardage.
As Cobb hauls in the football, Allison’s route is carrying cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan across the field with him. Both run right past Cobb at the point of the catch, and the Packers veteran suddenly has open turf all around him. The Bears’ other safety, Adrian Amos, was over on the left sideline to help double-cover Davante Adams, taking him out of the play. Cobb quickly scampers to midfield, where it looks like Amos might have an angle on him.
Meanwhile, Montgomery has run a wheel route up the right sideline, and is carrying Floyd with him. Cobb cuts behind Montgomery and Floyd, shaking the linebacker off easily before Montgomery gets in Amos’ way just enough to fend him off and get Cobb to the end zone.
This play gave the Packers their first lead of the year, and brought them all the way back from that 20-0 deficit. It also seemed to suggest that Cobb was back to his old form — it capped his night as his ninth reception of the game and gave him 142 receiving yards on the night.
The Packers’ defense still needed to make a stand, however, but they did just that. On fourth down just before midfield, Nick Perry sacked Mitchell Trubisky, forcing a fumble that Kenny Clark recovered. The Packers were able to salt the remaining minute of game time away and emerged victorious, moving to 1-0 on the season.
In hindsight, this game was probably the high-water mark of the season for the Packers. They would tie the Vikings in a winnable game in week two, then struggled most of the rest of the season, eventually finishing 6-9-1 and getting McCarthy fired with four games remaining. Rodgers’ leg injury would be an issue all year, as well.
But in this game, on this night, this play capped the comeback and gave Packers fans the feeling that there was a potential for something special in 2018. That is why it is our #1 play of the season.