This was Donald Driver’s greatest play and it makes our Top 10 list.
Raymond T. Rivard photograph
Top 10 lists abound, but I discovered when I embarked on compiling this list of the top 10 Green Bay Packers moments of the past decade that I would most likely leave off one of those moments that everyone else thought was the turning point of a game, a season, or a player’s career. Needless to say, it was a difficult task and an imprecise science.
However, I’ve done my best in pinpointing 10 of the moments over the past 10 years that made us sit up and say, “now that was classic Packers.” I think of the moments I have selected you will probably agree.
10. November 29, 2007 – Aaron Rodgers shows off
Most of you probably won’t even remember this game. It went down as a loss to the Cowboys – you know, one of those games when the Packers fell behind by a bunch early and could never make up the difference. What’s notable about this game was that when Brett Favre was knocked out of the game with an injury, it turned out to be soon-to-be starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ first extended period of play. Rodgers came into the game and nearly brought the Packers back. With the Packers down 27-10 midway through the second quarter, Rodgers led the Packers on two scoring drives to cut the Cowboys’ lead to 27-24. Dallas would go on to score another touchdown and field goal to win 37-27.
However, it was a moral victory for the Packers and it was on the national stage that Rodgers showed what he could do. He completed 18-26 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown and this was after Favre connected on just 5-of-14 for 56 yards. Favre would come back to play the next week, but this was the game that may have turned Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson’s heads toward Rodgers.
9. Jan. 12, 2008 — Snow fun
While this playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field in January 2008 would become known as the snowglobe game, it was actually Brett Favre’s final win as a Packer in Wisconsin.
But it was also a single play in this game that epitomized Favre’s entire career. It was third and eight with the clock ticking down toward halftime. Favre was pressured out of the pocket to his right, slipped out of a sack, stumbled and nearly planted his face in the accumulating snow on the frozen Tundra when he somehow gained his presence and his balance long enough to flip an underhanded pass 11 yards for a completion to Donald Lee which would be good enough for a first down. The play would lead to a touchdown and would help put the game out of reach for the Seahawks. The Packers went on to win 42-20.
8. Donald Driver’s 90-yard touchdown catch in the 2007 NFC Championship game against the New York Giants.
In a game we all remember because of how cold it was, the Packers lack of ability to capitalize on the many chances they had, missed field goals, and an infamous interception, we look to a play that actually gave the Packers the lead in a game that seemed like an uphill battle throughout.
Driver, who was being bumped at the line of scrimmage by Cory Webster, threw the defender to the side, found a hole upfield in the defense, caught a perfect pass from Brett Favre and then outraced three New York Giants defenders to the end zone.
It was one of those plays that doesn’t get old to watch. You’ve got the effort of Driver at the line, the smarts to find the hole in the defensive coverage, the anticipation from Favre and the athletic ability of Driver to simply outrun the defenders.
Simply a great play by a great player.
7. Jan. 15, 2011 Tramon Williams’ interception vs. Atlanta Falcons
With the Packers leading 21-14 in the divisional round of the NFC Playoffs, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan was trying to move the Falcons into field goal range when he rolled to his left and threw a pass toward the sideline.
Packers cornerback Tramon Williams jumped the pass, stepped in front, intercepted the ball and then raced 70 yards for the touchdown to give Green Bay a 28-14 lead en route to a convincing win over the top-seeded Falcons. As one of several plays that were instrumental throughout the playoffs that season, this one gave the Packers the confidence that they could beat any team in the league. It was also the play that propelled the Packers to Super Bowl XLV.
6. Donald Driver’s catch and run on Dec. 9, 2010, vs. the San Francisco 49ers.
Donald Driver himself called it the best play of his distinguished 14-year career. I was an eyewitness through the viewfinder of my Nikon D-80, so close to the play I felt like I could have reached out and touched him as he dodged, weaved and raced his way down the right sideline shaking tacklers and receiving a crucial block from Andrew Quarless that sprung him on one of the most incredible catches and runs Packers fans have ever seen.
Not only was this a great play, but it was THE play that jump-started the Packers on a run through December and January and to a Super Bowl championship in Super Bowl XLV. It may have been the play that lit the fire under the Packers that season.
"Here’s a short glimpse of what I wrote about the play a few months ago: Driver bulled his way past me, stopped on a dime as a Frisco player flew by him and out of the play. As quickly as “Quickie” stopped to let the defender fly by, he was off again toward the end zone. He got hit by three or four players inside the 10 and dragged all of them toward the goal line and into the end zone for the touchdown catch and run of his career."
It’s a play many of us will never forget and one that surely deserves a spot on this list.
Here’s one more look at it:
5. Nov. 22, 2008: Brett Favre’s bomb to Greg Jennings on the first play of overtime at Denver.
This was the pre-Bears Cutler who was locked in a matchup with Favre and a Packers team that was off to a 5-1 start that season. Packers won 19-13. A game that was extended to overtime would be one of the quickest OT games decided – certainly one of the quickest in Packers history. After the Packers won the toss and elected to receive many of us thought they would come out and play it conservative. But we were wrong. Favre dropped back on play action and had all day to throw. He laid the bomb down the left sideline and hit Greg Jennings in stride. Heck, I think Jennings, to this day, is still running.
Here’s the call from that game that will most likely make the hair stand on the back of your neck.
4. Rodgers to Jennings, Super Bowl XLV Feb. 6, 2011
Aaron Rodgers was one big play away from securing a win in the biggest game of his life. We all know how it ended and realize that this was simply one of the biggest plays of his young career to that point.
In Super Bowl XLV, the Packers had the ball late in the fourth quarter at their own 23-yard line. The Packers needed a first down to continue running the clock. Rodgers proceeded to fire a laser over the middle to WR Greg Jennings, throwing just beyond the fingertips of Pittsburgh Steeler Ike Taylor. The throw was perfect, the clock continued to run, the Packers increased their lead to 31-25 and the defense stopped the Steelers on fourth down to secure the win.
This was one of those plays that make all the difference.
Enjoy one more look at it:
3. It is time. Super Bowl XLV Feb. 6, 2011
Sometimes three words is all one needs. That’s all that Packers linebackers coach Kevin Greene needed when he said, “It. Is. Time.” Those three words will ring across Packers Nation for years to come because of what transpired just after they were uttered. Matthews re-entered the game after talking with Greene and combined with DL Ryan Pickett to force a fumble by Rashard Mendenhall that was recovered by Desmond Bishop.
It was a turning point in the Super Bowl that the Packers went on to win 31-25.
2. Al Harris’s interception in the “We want the ball and we’re going to score” game Jan. 4, 2003
It was the first time Mike Holgren had returned to Green Bay for a playoff game. Brett Favre was facing his former understudy Matt Hasselbeck. The Packers had sneaked into the playoffs the week before when the lowly Arizona Cardinals had somehow defeated the Minnesota Vikings.
The stage was set for a great game between the Packers and Seahawks and neither team would disappoint. In a back-and-forth battle, this one went into overtime when Ryan Longwell could have won the game in regulation, but came up short on a 48-yard field goal attempt.
That’s when the incredible occurred. The Hawks won the coin toss and Hasselbeck boldly uttered these now-famous words: “We want the ball and we’re going to score.” They got the ball, but it wasn’t his team that scored. After both teams punted on their first possession, the Seahawks had the ball and were facing third and 10. Hasselbeck dropped straight back looking left and then threw a duck toward the left sideline. Packers cornerback Al Harris jumped the pass, intercepted and then took off toward the end zone for the touchdown and a 33-27 Packers victory.
1. Jan. 23, 2011. Packers vs. Bears in NFC Championship Game at Chicago. The tackle
Everyone remembers B.J. Raji’s interception of QB Caleb Hanie. Raji dropped off the line of scrimmage and flooded the zone. When Hanie didn’t see Raji he fired a short pass that was cradled softly by the Packers defensive lineman. He then rumbled into the end zone and put on a dance show that is remembered to this day.
The touchdown put the Packers up by two scores late in the game … clearly a game-changer.
However, the biggest play of the game, in my mind, was when the Packers were driving and were poised to score. Rodgers didn’t see Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher who stepped in front of a pass over the middle and took off untouched down the right sideline. It looked like he was headed toward a pick-six when Rodgers came out of nowhere to make a shoestring tackle right around midfield.
Without the hustle and effort by Rodgers, followed by the brilliant defensive effort on the Bears ensuing possession, the Packers may have gone home on the short end of the score.
None of it would have come to be without Rodgers’ effort.
In my mind, this was the greatest play of the past 10 years and a play – that had it not occurred – it would have historians looking a bit differently at the 2010 Green Bay Packers.