Our Best Plays of 2022 series continues today with a fan favorite from last season who served as a source of salvation after years of Packers fans wandering the desert of abysmal special teams. As voted on by our APC contributors, Keisean Nixon’s 94 yard kick return vs. the Miami Dolphins in week 16 comes in at #6 on our list.
6: Keisean Nixon opens the game with a bang
Before 2022, the Packers’ special teams produced years of play ranging from mediocre to a Hindenburg-level disaster, sometimes all within the same game. However, the unit showed signs of life last season with the hiring of Rich Bisaccia. After the 2021 season in which they ranked dead last in special teams DVOA, the 2022 unit rose to a respectable 17th. Bisaccia brought a sense of purpose both in who was signed for special teams and where snaps were allocated, as our own Justis Mosqueda discussed here.
The biggest revelation on this side of the ball was Keisean Nixon, a player who would likely be spoken about in 3 AM “Hey do you remember when?” conversations for years to come even if he never played another down. Luckily, the First Team All-Pro returner will be in green and gold for at least one more year after he re-signed this offseason. What he represented for a moribund return game previously led by Amari Rodgers can not be overstated. Nixon exploded onto the scene with 35 returns for 1009 yards and a touchdown. Before 2022, he had only returned 6 kicks in his career, a testament not only to his talent but Bisaccia’s ability to cultivate it.
Coming into week 16’s matchup, the Packers were clinging to dear life in the NFC playoff race. The Dolphins were reeling after a hot start, having lost three straight. Despite a commanding first half lead, the Dolphins would go on to lose this one due to three second-half interceptions thrown by Tua Tagovailoa, who was later revealed to have suffered a concussion in the first half and been allowed to stay in the game.
This week’s play starts all the way at the beginning of the contest though, as Keisean Nixon set the tone early. After the Dolphins’ opening drive resulted in a field goal, Jason Sanders made the mistake of kicking off to Nixon and letting him cook. He returned the kick 93 yards to Miami’s nine-yard line, setting the Packers up in an incredible position which they promptly squandered to settle for a field goal. This stretched Nixon’s incredible streak of 100-yard return games to six, which etched his name into the Packers’ history books forever. Although Nixon is set to play more snaps in the slot this year, we’d all do well not to doubt his ability to make big plays on another side of the ball.
That’s a wrap for the first week of our Best Plays series! We’ll be back on Monday to begin the top 5 countdown, culminating in our #1 play being revealed next Friday.