The Green Bay Packers won 14 games in 2019, compiling a 13-3 regular season record and a home victory in the Divisional round of the playoffs. Many tremendous individual plays contributed to that success, and with the summer upon us we at Acme Packing Company have ranked our favorites from the entire season.
Compared to 2018, when the Packers finished 6-9-1, 2019 was much more fun and had far more memorable plays to look back on. This year’s countdown was one of the toughest to decide in recent memory, with the top two plays separated by a single point. 11 APC contributors pitched in, each ranking our 15 favorite plays in order. After compiling the rankings, we finalized our top ten and will present them in reverse order over the next several days.
Keep it here at APC as we reveal our picks for the top ten plays of the Packers’ 2019 season. Today we continue the countdown at number four with an electric performance by an unheralded second-year UDFA.
The Packers entered their Week 6 contest against the Lions at 4-1, and looking every bit the serious contender they would become. The one blemish on their record against the Philadelphia Eagles was costly, as Davante Adams suffered turf toe that would knock him out for several weeks. Aaron Jones’ four-touchdown performance was enough to get them past the Cowboys a week earlier, but the plucky Lions, who started 2-1-1, did a nice job keeping the Packer run game in check and forcing the the Adams-less offense to beat them.
The Packer defense was in full bend-but-don’t-break mode as they repeatedly held the Lions out of the end zone, resulting in five Matt Prater field goals. Still, it looked as if that would be enough to finish off the Packers as Prater’s 5th field goal, a 54-yarder with 12 minutes remaining, gave Detroit a 9-point lead.
Allen Lazard hadn’t played a snap outside of special teams before that field goal, but a disastrous drop by Darrius Shepherd on the previous series (and subsequent demand from Aaron Rodgers) changed that.
After a nice deception play to Marcedes Lewis put the Packers in scoring position, Rodgers tried Lazard on a deep back shoulder down the left side. Lazard couldn’t quite haul it in, setting up a crucial 3rd and 5 situation. Still trailing by 9, they needed to score quickly as they would need at least one more score to win the game. Lazard would get one more chance.
The Packers go four-wide with Jamaal Williams in the backfield to assist with pass protection.
The Lions line up with a single safety deep. It’s an odd formation with all defensive backs playing tight and no one lined up over center. The Packers have Lazard at the top of the formation up against corner Justin Coleman in single coverage. Coleman may not be Darius Slay, but he’s a fine defensive back and actually does a nice job in coverage on this play, but the defensive formation puts him in a tough spot with no help behind him.
MVS lines up in the slot next to Lazard with Jimmy Graham in the slot opposite. Jake Kumerow goes in motion and comes to rest just outside of Graham on the lower half of the formation. As the play begins, the Lions bring four pass rushers while Valdes-Scantling and Kumerow run a standard “mesh” crossing route at the sticks. Jimmy Graham heads upfield down the seam, and Lazard takes off upfield for the end zone.
Matt LaFleur did a fantastic job on this play, and everyone running routes in the middle of the field executes their assignments perfectly. You can make a solid argument that Rodgers actually made the wrong read, as MVS carried his defender across the field while also picking off linebacker Jarrad Davis, allowing Jake Kumerow to run his route completely uncovered. If Rodgers hits him on-time, Kumerow easily picks up the first down, and likely a whole lot more.
There’s more than one way to create mismatches though, and Rodgers is less focused on horizontal space than vertical.
Justin Coleman stands 5-foot-11, 190 pounds. This is a perfectly reasonable size for a corner to be. Unfortunately for him, he is attempting to cover Allen Lazard, who stands nearly 6-foot-5 and 227 pounds. Coleman does a nice job reading the route and staying behind Lazard, but Lazard puts a little “out and up” move on him that gets him just enough separation to make the play work.
The safety has no chance of getting over in time to assist, and Rodgers makes one of his best throws of the season, dropping a dime into a tiny window for the touchdown.
Rodgers may have technically made the wrong read on this play, but sometimes the impact of a decision like this reaches beyond a single play. Going back to Lazard instilled some confidence in him, and if the throw goes to Kumerow instead of Lazard, who knows if Lazard continues making big plays on the next drive?
The play itself was brilliant, but it only drew the Packers to within two points, and there was still more work to do. Fortunately, Lazard was built off that play, instantly blossoming into a team leader, firing up his teammates, and making two key catches in the final drive to set up Mason Crosby’s game winning field goal.
Lazard would go on to be the most efficient Packer receiver of the season, and he enters 2020 as the prime candidate to start outside opposite Davante Adams. It all started here, as the Packers went to 5-1 and entrenched themselves as the team to beat in the NFL North.
2019 Top Plays Countdown
#10: Davante Adams’ second TD helps put the Seahawks away
#9: Aaron Jones’ spinning TD catch makes up for a previous drop
#8: Aaron Jones secures NFC North title for the Packers
#7: Rodgers hits Adams for huge third-down conversion to all but clinch playoff win
#6: Packers’ goal-line stand on Christian McCaffrey with no time left
#5: Kevin King saves the day with an end zone interception