Things you learn while looking up other stuff is common among writers and researchers and hit me like a ton of bricks today as I called up a video of the infamous “4th and 26″ play that ripped the heart out of every Green Bay Packers fan, but ironically produced the origin of “The Belt.”
I don’t believe that I have seen (nor have wanted to see) the play that eventually led to that heartbreaking January 2004 playoff game loss in Philadelphia when the Eagles converted that seemingly insurmountable first down yardage. However, I was forced to seek it out today when I heard that Freddie Mitchell, the receiver who snatched that first down pass from Donovan McNabb, had pleaded guilty to tax fraud. The idea was to write a post about Mitchell’s court appearance and, of course, tie it in with the infamous play.
So, off to youtube I clicked to relive what was truly a hellish moment. I saw it all once again – McNabb saunters back into the pocket with no pressure from the Packers, Mitchell runs down the middle of the field uncontested and turns just as McNabb’s lob over the middle hits him right at the first down marker. Packers safety Darren Sharper slams into Mitchell, but it’s too late. He catches the ball, is hit and then quickly rises to celebrate.
Running 10 yards downfield, Mitchell signals the first down but then does something I had never seen before …
Watch the play and then keep your eye on Mitchell as he gets up to celebrate … watch carefully …
I know you saw it … Mitchell clearly puts on “The Belt,” the move that so many of us felt was originated by our own Aaron Rodgers. It doesn’t seem that Rodgers saw Mitchell put on the belt and maybe he wasn’t watching that game at all … after all, he was still in college at Cal.
Ironically, the play that will live in infamy among Packers fans is the play where “the belt” was born.
We’ll never live down the fact that Mitchell not only beat us with the pass catch, but he beat us to the punch in one of the greatest celebrations ever in the NFL.
Oh well, at least Mitchell never had the chance to do the Lambeau Leap.