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!
The countdown continues with the 3rd-ranked play, which all but sealed a playoff victory and sent the Packers to a second straight NFC Championship Game.
Two playoff trips for Matt LaFleur, two matchups in the Divisional Round with an NFC West team. This time, the Los Angeles Rams made the pilgrimage to Lambeau Field, bringing with them the No. 1 defense in weighted DVOA and the best defensive player in football, along with arguably the only cornerback outside of Green Bay with any chance of slowing down Davante Adams.
Aaron Donald injured his ribs the week before against the Seahawks and came into the game gimpy, but boy wonder coach Brandon Staley—on a staff with boy wonder coach Sean McVay—put together one of the most disciplined and indecipherable defenses in the NFL.
And while the 2020 Rams were hardly the 2018 version of themselves offensively, they still had the aforementioned McVay and the kind of ground game that could control the game and limit Jared Goff’s exposure to mistakes.
Cam Akers wouldn’t let the Rams go quietly into that cold and snowy night. After Aaron Jones put the Packers up 25-10 to open the second half, Akers accounted for 45 yards on an answer drive, scoring both the touchdown and the two-point conversion to cut Green Bay’s lead to a single score.
The next drive, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense stalled out in Rams territory, forced to punt for just the second time in the game early in the fourth quarter. That made two drives in a row ending in punts, this one after a grind-it-out effort by the Rams, taking nearly six minutes off the clock and wearing down Green Bay’s defense.
Luckily, when the Rams got the ball back with a chance to tie or take the lead, Kenny Clark sacked Goff on second down, scuttling the drive and giving Rodgers and Co. a shot to seal it.
On 2nd-and-6 from the Green Bay 42-yard line, the Packers went back to a play they had called earlier in the game and run to perfection, but Allen Lazard simply dropped the football. That play, in the middle of the third quarter, may well have been enough to close out the game with the Packers already holding a 25-10 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Lazard made it right.
Matt LaFleur eats Staley’s lunch on this, the quintessential “illusion of complexity” play. Green Bay comes out in 12 personnel with both tight ends to the left side of the formation. Particularly in the fourth quarter, this could telegraph run. Down and distance makes the ground attack potentially more likely because on 2nd-and-6 even a “bad” run sets up a manageable third down.
Situationally, the defense reacted differently than they had to this same lookearlier. The last time the Packers dialed this up, on the Lazard drop, they didn’t get as favorable an alignment as they got in the fourth. Notice the safety to Lazard’s side (top of the frame) already spinning down to show single-high coverage.
The play-action still holds the linebackers and that play-side safety, plus Lazard wins off the release. Still, the safety in the middle has a chance to come over and at least have a shot to make a play if Lazard had caught the ball. It still could have been a touchdown, especially with Lazard’s combination of strength and speed, but there’s a reason the Rams gave up the fewest long touchdowns through in the air in the league last year: this defense is designed to stop them.
We can use the NextGen dots to show why this play worked so beautifully the second time they called it. This time, instead of revealing that single-high coverage pre-snap, the Rams safeties are cheating to the line of scrimmage. In fact, all 11 players are within 10 yards of the line at the snap.
Green Bay knows the safeties have to fill hard in the run game, especially against big personnel because the Rams played as many light boxes are any team in the NFL last season. From Corey Linsley to Lazard, the Packers have five blockers for four defenders with the nose tackle shaded opposite Linsley.
Aaron Rodgers — off play-action — finds an open Allen Lazard behind the Rams secondary (4.4 yards of separation) for a 58-yard TD to give the Packers a two-score lead.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 17, 2021
*Rams Defense: 2nd deep TD allowed this playoffs (NFL-best 1 during the regular season)#LARvsGB | #GoPackGo pic.twitter.com/l8Cuv2IH02
Not only does the play-fake create indecision from the safety, the cornerback to Lazard’s side bites on it and as soon as he takes the false step forward, it’s a wrap. As the NextGen Stats show, the Packers created over 4 yards of separation on this play, an area where they led the league last season, and all Lazard had to do was secure the catch and not get caught.
This is such a terrific playcall because even if they’d run the ball with Jones, they have a man advantage on an outside zone to that side too. Instead, they get the ideal look for this play call with the Rams vacating the middle of the field and leaving no last line of defense for Lazard once he catches the ball.
The only thing left to do was party in the end zone.
Stay tuned on Thursday as we reveal the #2 play on our countdown!