Each year, Acme Packing Company’s writers vote for the Green Bay Packers’ top plays of the previous season. Our votes are based on the impact of the play, spectacular individual or team effort, or sheer amusement value we compile the votes to list out the top ten plays. Join us over a two-week span as we count down from 10 to 1 in the Packers’ Top Plays of 2021.
Like our ninth-ranked play of last season, our eighth-ranked play comes from Green Bay’s October battle with the Cincinnati Bengals. In a game riddled with special teams mistakes and general brain farts, the talented, yet frustrating, Packers earn a victory against the eventual AFC Champions with the help of an overtime turnover from an All-Pro linebacker who signed with the team deep into the free agency cycle.
The 3-1 Green Bay Packers took a road trip to Cincinnati to face the 3-1 Bengals in their first noon Central kick game of the 2021 season. Prior to the game, the Packers had struggled against the New Orleans Saints and against the Detroit Lions (for a half) but bounced back with a big Week 3 road victory against the San Francisco 49ers and a beatdown of the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4 at Lambeau Field.
The Bengals, who went 6-23-1 the two years prior, were off to a hot start and had extra rest after beating the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday Night Football. Rookie first-round receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who had played with Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow at LSU, had fully emerged after recording 297 receiving yards over the first four games of his NFL career. The Packers had their own breakout star, too, with inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, who was signed in June, looking like the team’s best off-ball linebacker since Desmond Bishop or Nick Barnett.
Three consecutive failed field goal attempts by the Packers’ Mason Crosby and the Bengals’ Evan McPherson resulted in the game being tied at 22 at the end of regulation. Despite Green Bay recording north of 400 offensive yards in regulation, the combination of special teams mistakes and a Kevin King busted coverage that turned Chase loose for an end-of-half 70-yard gain kept the Packers in a competitive game.
DE'VONDRE CAMPBELL WITH THE INTERCEPTION pic.twitter.com/cRcpl3liL7— packers clips (@packers_clips) October 10, 2021
The Bengals had a chance to drive down the field and win the game with a touchdown after they had won the coin toss. On the first play of overtime, Cincinnati lined up in an empty set that the Packers matched with their three-safety dime formation, putting Campbell in a position where he was the only off-ball linebacker on the field.
Burrow, from a clean pocket, was not on the same page with his target, who was running a fairly typical “Hoss Y Juke” route that the New England Patriots made famous under Tom Brady. The outside routes were designed to clear the middle of the field of numbers while the #3 in the trips formation has the opportunity to sit, run or return depending on how the middle of the field coverage plays his leverage. With the ball sailing a few yards over and behind where the target ultimately stood, Campbell, playing in the middle of the field, plucked the interception and took the ball to the 17-yard-line.
Campbell’s interception put overtime into sudden death and the Packers into field goal range, which they ultimately missed wide left after electing to kick on 3rd and 15. The Campbell interception felt like a game-sealing play, but the Special Teams Gods simply felt differently that day. The Bengals would then miss their next field goal attempt and Crosby would redeem himself with a 49-yarder on 4th and 1 coming out of the two-minute warning.
The biggest impacts of the play were 1) the Bengals not scoring that drive, 2) the incredible dopamine hit and 3) adding another play to the tally that helped Campbell earn NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors in October and his eventual First-Team All-Pro title.