Acme Packing Company’s writers have watched the film on the Green Bay Packers’ 2020 season and compiled our lists of the best plays from last year. Each writer voted on their favorite plays, combining qualities that include a play’s impact on a game or the season, outstanding individual or team effort, and amusement or hilarity factor.
Ten APC contributors submitted votes for the 15 best plays of the season, which we have combined and whittled down to the top ten plays of 2020. Please enjoy our countdown over the next two weeks!
Today we move on to play number 8, which involves the defensive line putting points on the board against a hated rival.
It was Week 12 and the Packers were coming off of one of their most disappointing losses of the season in an overtime defeat at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts. At 7-3, the Packers were two games ahead of their storied rival, the Chicago Bears, in the standings and heading into a crucial clash that could put the Green & Gold firmly in the driver’s seat of the division. What better way would there be for the Packers to regain momentum than to beat the Bears on Monday Night Football?
On the defensive side of the ball, Preston Smith had been in the midst of a disappointing stretch of his own to begin the regular season and his performance had just recently been called out by Matt LaFleur. As a result, Rashan Gary had taken Smith’s spot in the starting lineup against Chicago.
Green Bay was rather in control of the game with 3:20 to play in the first half, leading 20-3 and hoping to keep Chicago from trimming the gap before halftime. The Packers’ offense had scored touchdowns on each of their first three possessions, while the defense had already come up with a big interception from Darnell Savage earlier in the game. However, even a field goal on the final drive before the half could give the Bears a little bit of hope for a comeback.
After a minimal gain on first down and an incompletion on second down, the Bears were able to pick up what appeared to be a first down to extend their drive. However, a holding penalty on the left tackle negated that first down and set up a 3rd-and-17 situation from the Bears’ own 18-yard line.
Out of the shotgun in an obvious passing situation, Mitchell Trubisky took the snap and within two seconds was being sandwiched by four defenders. The Packers employed their three top edge rushers on this particular snap and each played a critical role, along with Kenny Clark.
Rashan Gary won his edge matchup with speed, helping to collapse the pocket and force right tackle Germain Ifedi to backpedal nearly into Trusbisky. Za’Darius Smith, standing up at the snap between the guard and tackle, was the first to bolt in from the middle and lay a finger on Trubisky as he tried to step up in the pocket. Although Smith probably got away with a facemask penalty on the play, Trubisky was unable to recover and ended up being pancaked by both Smith and Clark, who also appeared to get a piece of the mask.
However, before Trubisky fell to the ground, Smith was able to wrap his other arm around and knock the football loose. Preston Smith quickly spotted the loose ball, swinging around the pile to pick it up and race 15 yards untouched to the end zone where the entire defense celebrated a game-turning scoop-six. For Smith, who also had three tackles, a sack, and two quarterback hits in the contest, the fumble recovery was another highlight in a bounce-back performance.
Here is the play in its entirety.
One of the Packers’ most impressive turnovers of the season, Preston Smith’s touchdown pushed the lead to 27-3 and ultimately led to a rout. Although the Bears were able to still tack on a touchdown with 19 seconds to play in the first half, a dominant third quarter gave the Packers a 41-10 cushion. Chicago would battle for pride in the fourth quarter to make the final score 41-25, but the outcome was never in doubt as the Packers moved to 8-3 on the season and earned a three-game advantage over both Chicago and Minnesota.
For the Bears, this appeared to be a devastating blow on the surface after suffering a fifth-straight loss, but they would rally later in the year to make the playoffs. For Green Bay, this game served as a springboard for a six-game winning streak to finish the regular season and secure home-field advantage in the postseason.
Stay tuned on Thursday for another offensive gem of a catch in play #7!