I felt ill at the end of this game. Really, legitimately sick to my stomach. Without the efforts of Aaron Rodgers, Jared Cook and Mason Crosby, I fear I would have been forever banned from my favorite sports bar.

This is One Big Play, where today we look at three plays. I’m really going against the spirit of this article, but it’s all tied together. I swear.

Aaron Rodgers [12] had just hit Ty Montgomery [88] for a screen pass that went for 17 yards. That set up the Packers pretty nicely. Suddenly they were at their own 42 with 0:23 left in the game. A couple decent gains and they would be in field goal range.

On 1st and 10, the Cowboys bring pressure off the edge. Jeff Heath [38] is coming from the right side of the screen, while Orlando Scandrick [32] is slightly delayed in coming from the left side of the screen.

Montgomery is in the backfield with Rodgers, looking to help with the rush. The problem is that he doesn’t know which side to help on. You can see him looking back and forth at the snap, not committing to either. He breaks towards Heath, but it’s too late. At that point, his shoes are basically made out of cement. He turns and nudges Heath, but it doesn’t do anything: Heath blasts Rodgers at full speed. I have no idea how Rodgers held onto this ball. He was crushed on the blindside by a safety running full speed. While it was huge that Rodgers didn’t fumble this, the Packers were forced to burn a timeout and found themselves in a slightly less-than-ideal situation. Instead of being at their own 42, they were now set up with 2nd and 20 at their own 32.

This looks bad on Montgomery because it is bad, but the Cowboys were bringing more rushers than the Packers were going to be able to block. Even if Montgomery had jumped out on Heath, Scandrick likely would have picked up a sack here. Still, if given the choice between two blitzers, take the one that your quarterback can’t see.

After an incomplete pass on 2nd and 20 – on a ball that hit Jared Cook [89] in the hands near the 1st down marker – the Packers faced 3rd and 20 from their own 32. The (immediate) legend states that Aaron Rodgers [12] drew this play up in the huddle, “just like drawing a play in the sand.” I decided to try to diagram what this play looked like. Welcome back to a very special edition of Doodles With Dusty.

I did my best to draw the line protection, but I’m not very good at that. What’s important to note is that Lane Taylor [65] is pulling as Rodgers’ protection on the outside, while everyone else is pretty much just trying to trap their rushers to the inside. Rodgers needs to get outside the pocket and they need to allow him to have a clear path.

Davante Adams [17] is running a go route to clear out some room on the left, while Cook, Randall Cobb [18] and Trevor Davis [11] are all running deep crossing routes with the route breaks slightly delayed. Everything is moving to the left. The idea is that at least one of these guys will drag enough coverage with them to free a throwing lane to the one behind them. If Adams doesn’t take the underneath coverage with him, then perhaps Cook coming across the field will clear out coverage for Cobb, or Cobb will clear out coverage for Davis. It’s a flood concept.

There’s my rough sketch. Here’s the play.

Everyone up front does their job perfectly, with Montgomery even circling around to make sure that the backside pursuit doesn’t get to Rodgers before he can release the ball. Taylor is able to get out in front of Rodgers and block an oncoming rusher.

Adams takes the deep defender with him, but the shallower defender falls off to play under Cook. The Cowboys play this pretty well, with second level zone defenders taking care of their area. It looks like Cobb is open immediately after the break, but that ball would have had to travel a very long way into a tight window. I wouldn’t put it past Rodgers to complete that throw, but it would be pretty unlikely. With all the action moving to the left, an interception in the middle of the field would have a high chance of being taken back the other way on a pick-six.

Cook is able to get behind the underneath defender on his side just enough. There’s a tight window to fit it in and Rodgers does it perfectly.

Let’s look at it from another angle.

That’s a dart to the sideline in a place only Cook can get it. Perfect throw.

I went to the broadcast angles because I couldn’t get enough of this play.

Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

As they waited for official word, Packers players watched the replay on the giant videoboard. You can see Randall Cobb screaming, “That’s a catch, baby! That’s a catch!” The officials agreed and the Packers found themselves on the Cowboys 32 yard line with 0:03 remaining in a tie game.

The Packers lined up for a game-winning field goal. Mason Crosby [2] drilled the first kick, but Jason Garrett had called a timeout directly before the attempt, so they had to line up a second time.

The ball comes off Crosby’s foot going wide left. There is some serious knuckleball action to this kick. It veers back to the right and sneaks inside the upright.

And then? Pandemonium.

I love this gif. There’s so much to watch. My eye was immediately drawn to the action on the sideline. From Clay Matthews standing tall in the middle with arms raised to Kentrell Brice conducting an orchestra to the look of sheer happiness on every single face. I must have watched this two dozen times before I even looked at Crosby. After the kick went through, Crosby went down, overcome with emotion. Jake Schum picks him up and the celebration is on.

Here it is from another angle. The ball knuckles, Crosby leans, then goes down.

I went frame-by-frame through this. I can’t be certain, but I think this ball is slightly tipped by Anthony Brown [30] flying off the left side. The ball appears to come off Crosby’s foot straight, only to start knuckling after Brown comes flying by. It’s certainly an incredible effort from the rookie out of Purdue.
[EDIT: After watching multiple angles of this play, I have come to the conclusion that Brown did not tip this ball.]

An absolutely tremendous ending to this game. Had the Packers lost this game, it would have been just another in a long list of heartbreaking playoff losses. Instead, it ended up being one of the more thrilling playoff victories in recent memory. I’ll remember this game for a very long time.


Album listened to: Talk Talk – Spirit of Eden

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