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Packers Top Plays of 2020, #2: Jaire Alexander sacks Kirk Cousins for a safety

A big gamble pays off for the Packers’ superstar corner.

Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

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!

At play number two, one of the Packers’ defensive superstars came up with a massive play in the opening week of the season, setting the stage for a campaign that saw him earn second-team All-Pro honors.

The Game

Opening the season against a divisional opponent that it was presumed would be the Packers top competitor for the NFC North title is certainly a stressful way to begin a new campaign. Green Bay faced the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on the first Sunday of the 2020 season with a chance to set the tone in the division for the season. After a 2019 that was a big step forward overall, the Packers were hoping to see a year two jump in the down-to-down play of their offense (which they got) that would lead them to another division title.

The Situation

After having to settle for a field goal after a promising start to their opening drive, the Packers’ defense proceeded to get steamrolled on the Vikings first possession, giving Minnesota a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter. Green Bay would then march down the field on one of those very long yet very slow drives that somehow only involved one third down conversion. Green Bay ran into a nemesis it knew far too well: The opponent’s one-yard line. After it looked like Aaron Jones had scored, it was reviewed and Green Bay consequently failed to convert on the next three plays, turning it over to Minnesota on their own one.

After a pointless false start penalty that moved the ball half an inch, Dalvin Cook created a little bit of breathing room to the four yard line. That brings us to the play.

The Play

This play is objectively hilarious. First of all, it’s a safety. Safeties are always ridiculous plays both because of their rarity but also because of how desperately teams try to avoid them. Minnesota made a pretty inexplicable playcalling decision.

I often think NFL teams are too conservative with their choices in general. That they are too scared of the potential negative consequences of a decision and unwilling to take the fruit that is hanging right in front of their face. This is not one of those times.

Calling a shot play from play-action with your quarterback’s butt in the end zone is A LIFE CHOICE.

The formation here is a pretty standard look for a situation like this. Minnesota is lined up in 13 personnel with two tight ends to the strong side on the right. This is a pretty standard look for one of Minnesota’s staple zone runs.

Kirk Cousins motions Adam Thielen down towards the formation, which is also a pretty typical look for a running play here, and something that even Green Bay does all the time.

The big tell though, is if you pause right before the play, is that Thielen is not really set up to block as a part of the box count. He’s still too far away from the formation, which leaves two options in the running game: He’s either cracking a linebacker and leaving Dalvin Cook 1 v 1 with Jaire Alexander or Minnesota is pulling out a big to try and collapse Alexander. In seeing this, Jaire tries to beat Minnesota to the spot.

A third option is what ultimately ensues though: Play-action. And boy, oh boy is Jaire out of position. At the mesh point, Jaire is already past the line of scrimmage.

By the time Kirk Cousins turns around, he is probably thinking he has a big play coming. Green Bay’s second and third level defenders are all drawn in by the play-action and Adam Thielen is... completely uncovered? Where is Jaire Alexander? One step away.

The Packers star corner plants Kirk Cousins eight yards deep in the end zone before Kirk can even process what he’s seeing.

Ignore the analysis in the tweet above, however. The funniest part of the play is that it wasn’t even supposed to happen. The Packers didn’t call any type of cornerback blitz. When asked after the game about the play, Jaire said, “I was anticipating run because of the motion by Thielen, so once I anticipated run, I shot my shot... And when I saw it wasn’t a run, it was too late to turn back, so I just kept going.”

Normally when a team has a turnover, there is some sort of mistake made by the team or the coaching staff was outmaneuvered. Not in this case. Alexander wasn’t supposed to be there, but it turned out to be a big turning point in the game that he was.

The Impact

Minnesota would never have the ball with a lead again in the game. The safety made it 7-5, which is just a disgusting score to look at, and Green Bay would take the free possession and made it 8-7. Green Bay would take a 22-10 lead into halftime and the game would never be as close as the final score of 43-34 would indicate as during the middle part of the game Minnesota would go Punt, Interception, Field Goal, Punt, Turnover on Downs en route to going down 29-10 by the end of the third quarter. Green Bay would slam the door shut, scoring touchdowns on their two non-kneeldown possessions in the fourth quarter as the defense gave up some meaningless prevent defense touchdowns.

This emphatic win would be the start of a season full of them as Green Bay’s offense cooked and the defense played well when it mattered to lead Green Bay to a stress-free week one win that would be a sign for what would be an easy NFC North title.

Stay tuned this afternoon for some honorable mentions and keep it here on Friday as we reveal our pick for the #1 best play of the Packers’ 2020 season!