The Packers scored a huge upset victory in Arizona on Thursday despite a short week of preparation and no healthy players, and the greatest play of that game was undoubtedly Rasul Douglas’ game-sealing interception. That interception, with 15 seconds left, was both incredibly clutch and incredibly impactful.
When AJ Green confusedly turned around like so many Vince Vega memes, Douglas showed supreme reactions and coordination, tapping the ball aloft, and securing it inbounds to seal an unlikely victory.
For this week’s stat of the week, I’m going to attempt to quantify just how big and impactful that pick was compared to previous Packer game-sealing interceptions. While it’s not unusual for the Packer defense to come up with a late interception, they almost never do so this late, and just a handful of picks have taken place in the last 15 seconds of the game. Stathead has records of every Packer-related interception going back to 1994, and technically speaking, the Packer defense has seven interceptions that happened later in a game than Rasul’s pick, but there are plenty of caveats to go around. I am happy to report that Rasul Douglas’s interception is functionally the latest Packer game-sealing interception since at least 1994, excluding Hail Marys and what I will refer to as “other weirdness.”
Just to put some context to those Hail Mary plays, and define what “other weirdness” means, let’s go through them! The Packers have two picks on literal last second Hail Mary’s. On the first, against Washington in 2010, with the game knotted at 13 with just a second remaining, Tramon Williams picked off Donovan McNabb, and returned it 64 yards. It’s unfortunate that he was unable to house it, because the Packers would go on to lose that game in overtime, due largely to a LaRon Landry interception. Fortunately the 2010 season worked out okay. The next last-second Hail Mary pick came against the Vikings in 2002 when Darren Sharper (ugh) picked off whatever this was from Daunte Culpepper. Yeesh.
Moving on from the literal last second, in 1999 Antuan Edwards got Randall Cunningham in 23-20 win over the Vikings with six seconds left. There’s not much video of this game out there, unfortunately, so we’ll have to trust the stat sheet.
Here’s a fun one. In 2013 Sam Shields picked off a dumb Jay Cutler Hail Mary after the Randall Cobb magical 4th and 8 play with 10 second left. You might be asking yourself how a Hail Mary can be dumb, and I’m here to tell you. The Bears had the ball at the Green Bay 45 with 10 seconds left and a timeout. The play before, Cutler had Brandon Marshall wide open over the middle at about the Green Bay 25 when the Soldier Field turf monster ate him up and he dropped it, but the plan was sound. Get another 20 yards over the middle, use your timeout, and take one more end zone shot on a non-Hail Mary. Instead Jay took the snap, ran around for 8 seconds, and heaved a prayer at a double-covered Alshon Jeffrey. God he’s dumb.
And finally, back in 2003 Darren Sharper (ugh, again) picked off a Brad Johnson Hail Mary with 10 seconds left to secure a 20-12 victory, and that is all of the Hail Marys that occurred later than Douglas’ game-sealing interception. But we still have two more picks to deal with before we declare Rasul’s as the greatest late pick of the last 27 years. Let’s deal with the boring one first.
In 2013, the Packers narrowly defeated the Atlanta Falcons 22-21, but Atlanta had a real shot at a comeback. With Matt Flynn at the helm, the Packers managed to take their narrow lead on a touchdown pass to Andrew Quarless with 12 minutes left, but their two-point attempt failed, leaving them with a narrow one-point lead. The Packer defense would come up big on multiple occasions, forcing a missed Matt Bryant field goal attempt (52) on the subsequent Atlanta drive. After the Packers went 3-and-out, the defense would again rally, forcing a turnover on downs. After running clock with Eddie Lacy, Atlanta would have one final shot needing just a field goal, but without any timeouts left, Matt Ryan was forced to go to the sidelines, and with 11 second left, on a pass intended for Harry Douglas, Jarrett Bush got him.
Even though Bush’s pick occurred later in the game than Rasul’s and was not a Hail Mary, I don’t think this is impactful as Douglas’. For starters, the defense had the Packers in much better shape. Atlanta could not attack the middle of the field, as there were only 11 seconds left and the game would have ended. In fact, even if Harry Douglas somehow caught this ball, there is a good chance he is tackled inbounds and the game ends, and even if he somehow managed to get out of bounds, the weather was poor, and Bryant would have been trying something like a 54-55 yarder. They may have even opted for a Hail Mary instead. The pick denied Atlanta the opportunity, to be sure, and it was a nice play by Bush, but it only added about 25 points of WPA, while Douglas’ added something like 65-70.
Which brings us to the final bit of “other weirdness.” This interception occurred with just seven seconds remaining, with the score tied at 20, and with the Minnesota Vikings possessing the ball at the Packer 15 yard line. I happened to be at this game, and can confirm that it was cold, and raining buckets all game long. That is probably why on November 6th, 2000, Mitch Berger couldn’t handle the snap on the potential game-winning field goal. A smarter holder would have immediately spiked the ball, or thrown it at the feat of one of his eligible receivers as there were 7 second left and it was first down, but instead of doing the calm, rational thing, Mitch freaked out. He rolled to his right, and because he’s a punter, his pass was easily intercepted by Tyrone Williams.
This was, of course, the famous “Favre lays it up for Freeman/HE DID WHAT” game, and the Vikings would lose in overtime. The pick itself wasn’t crucial for getting to overtime, and because Berger took so long, the clock had expired. An incompletion would have had the exact same impact. But it’s hard to blame Tyrone for padding the stats a little, and hey, it all worked out in the end.
So, there’s your stat of the week. By moving the WPA needle this much this late, Douglas’ pick of Kyler Murray was the most impactful late pick for a Packer in the last 27 years.
Of the seven interceptions to occur later in a game than Rasul Douglas’ game winner against Arizona, five were Hail Marys, and we won’t count those. One was a feeble attempt by Matt Ryan to move into almost field goal range. And the last was, of course, Mitch Berger. That’s not to say there have not been other clutch late interceptions, like Sam Shields getting Tony Romo in 2013, and then Tramon Williams getting him again in the same game, or Kevin King getting Kirk Cousins in September of 2019, or Ha Ha getting Kirk Cousins in September of 2018, or Sam Shields, Nick Collins, Al Harris, and Nick Collins again all getting Jay Cutler at various times, or Adrian Amos getting Mitch Trubisky for the dagger in September of 2019. But all of those came with more time on the clock, and none had the finality of Douglas’ pick.