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.
It’s hard to overstate how incredible it was that the Packers plucked Rasul Douglas off the scrap heap in the middle of October 2021. Signing Douglas from the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad turned out to be a season-changing moment for Brian Gutekunst and the Packers’ defense, which sorely needed help after Jaire Alexander’s injury.
Douglas proved to be an unexpected star, and play number five on our 2021 Top Plays Countdown is his second appearance in the top ten. In this case, it was his first career touchdown that helped ensure a Packers victory at Lambeau Field and added another chapter to his incredible story.
It is week 12, a few days after Thanksgiving. The Green Bay Packers are 8-3 and are coming off a frustrating 34-31 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Green Bay sits one game back from the idle, 9-2 Arizona Cardinals for the top spot in the NFC. Coming in to Lambeau Field are the 7-3 Los Angeles Rams, fresh off a bye week and fighting for their own position within the conference and the NFC West division in particular.
With both teams chasing the Cardinals, the winner would take a big step towards closing their gap with Arizona and would claim a potentially useful NFC tiebreaker as well in the event of a potential postseason matchup.
The Packers and Rams traded scores through most of the first half, with Green Bay giving up a late touchdown to Los Angeles after the two-minute warning to cut the Packers’ lead to just three points at 20-17.
The third quarter started with the Packers ripping off a 13-play, seven-minute drive that finished in the end zone as AJ Dillon’s touchdown reception extended the lead to 27-17. The two teams traded three-and-outs after that, but Rams punt returner J.J. Koski fumbled, giving Green Bay a short field. They would turn that into three points on a Mason Crosby field goal, extending the lead to 30-17.
The Rams’ ensuing drive started with a touchback, a three-yard run by Darrell Henderson, and an incomplete pass, setting up third-and-7 from the Rams’ 28.
With the ball on the right hash mark, the Rams line up Stafford in the shotgun with a running back to his right and four receivers split out in a 3x1 alignment. To the left of the line are Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, and Tyler Higbee, from outside in, with Kupp and Higbee set back off the line of scrimmage, while another receiver (perhaps Odell Beckham, Jr.) is alone on the opposite side of the formation. The Packers are in their typical three-safety dime package with two down linemen, two edge rushers, and one linebacker (De’Vondre Campbell) manning the middle of the field.
At the snap, Eric Stokes has the single receiver to the right blanketed up the seam. While Jefferson runs a corner, Higbee runs a shallow in route over the middle and sits down in a soft part of the Packers’ zone coverage. Meanwhile, Kupp runs a Clear Out China route, getting to the numbers and giving a hard jab-step towards the boundary before cutting back inside.
In coverage, Chandon Sullivan passes Jefferson off to the deep safety on that side of the field (likely Darnell Savage) while Campbell appears to be stuck between covering Higbee or running back Darrell Henderson, who is leaking out of the backfield to the right. Unfortunately for the Rams, Stafford doesn’t see this setting up to his right, as he is staring down Kupp on his slow-developing route.
The pocket begins to collapse around Stafford, with Preston Smith getting around the edge to apply some pressure from behind while Kenny Clark gets back in the quarterback’s face at the last second before he finally gets the ball away in Kupp’s direction. The pressure appears to affect the throw a bit, as it lacks Stafford’s typical arm strength and it doesn’t lead Kupp back toward the middle of the field.
All the while, Rasul Douglas has been lying in wait.
As soon as Kupp plants his foot to cut back to the inside, Douglas breaks on him:
Stafford’s ball placement allows Douglas just enough time to beat Kupp to the football, with his momentum carrying him just in front of the receiver as the pigskin arrives. After a bobble, he secures the football as he continues up the field, racing to the numbers to avoid Stafford and center Brian Allen before high-stepping into the end zone for his first professional touchdown.
Douglas’ pick-six extended the Packers’ lead to 36-17 after a failed two-point conversion attempt. Green Bay would need the extra cushion, as the Rams got a 54-yard touchdown from Odell Beckham, Jr. and a two-pointer of their own on their next possession to close the gap back to 11 points at 36-25. The Rams settled for a field goal late in the 4th quarter to get within eight and attempt an onside kick, but if the Packers had been up 30-24, Sean McVay’s team surely would have used the final 30 seconds to try to get into the end zone with a chance to take the lead.
Instead, the Packers’ lead held and they earned a huge win over another NFC contender. They also completed their 4-0 run against the NFC West during the regular season and set themselves up for a happy bye week to come before the final five-game stretch.
As for Douglas, this was the first of two pick-sixes in consecutive games, as his repeat against the Bears after the bye was one of our tenth-ranked plays on this countdown. Those plays, along with his other three interceptions on the season, helped him earn Pro Bowl alternate status for 2021 despite only playing 12 games over the course of the season, as well as a three-year, $21 million contract this offseason to stay in Green Bay.