When I started thinking about which play from the Falcons loss to use in this space, I immediately jumped to the Aaron Ripkowski fumble. It would have worked well here, but I couldn’t bring myself to spend an entire article writing about a fumble in a Packers blowout playoff loss.
I thought about not writing this article at all this week, but that didn’t feel right.
So I decided to go this route. That fumble will be included in Eye in the Sky this week. For now, let’s go back to 2013 and look at the play that won the Packers the division.
As it so happens, this is one of the first plays I remember looking at in-depth when I started writing about the Packers. The site I was with at the time has since shut down, taking my article with it. Just as well. That was a time before I was using gifs, and I’m sure the analysis was less-than-stellar. Today I get a chance to revisit a play that helped kick off my football writing “career.”
Welcome to a special edition of One Big Play. The tears will come soon. Today, we celebrate. Today, we remember.
4th and 8 on the Bears 48 yard line with 0:46 remaining. Packers are down 28-27. Their record stands at 7-7-1; not their best season, but considering they played half the season with either Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien or Matt Flynn under center, I’d say 7-7-1 is about as good as you could hope for.
While the Packers went 2-5-1 without Rodgers, the Bears went 4-4. Better than the Packers during that stretch, but it still left the door open just enough for the Packers to creep back into the race for the NFC North title.
The Packers had also been without Randall Cobb since Week 6, when he suffered a fractured fibula against the Ravens. When we first saw it, we thought his knee had been blown out. It didn’t end up being as bad as it initially looked, but we certainly didn’t expect to see him back during the season.
Regardless of how they got here, Week 17 marked the return of the two conquering heroes and also happened to be a win-and-you’re-in scenario.
And now here they were, 4th and 8 with the season on the line.
The Bears align their 4 deepest players 10-12 yards off the line. They’re in man coverage across the board.
The Packers are running all of their receivers on curl routes just past the first down marker. Jordy Nelson  never gets a chance to curl because he is decked by Major Wright  coming from the safety position. That’s 1 receiver down, 3 to go.
Andrew Quarless  gets open out of his break on the right side, but Aaron Rodgers  has been flushed from the pocket to the opposite side, so he can’t make the throw.
James Jones  is open out of his break on the left side, but he comes out of his break as Rodgers is fleeing the pocket, so he can’t get the ball out in time.
That leaves Randall Cobb . Cobb is supposed to run a curl, but he does not.
Cobb is lined up in the slot to the left, across from Chris Conte . According to Conte, the call was changed to man-coverage just before the snap, but Conte thought they were playing Cover 3 Zone, with Conte playing a zone underneath Cobb’s curl. Cobb comes off the line and sees that Conte is flat-footed. Instead of curling, Cobb takes a small step to the outside to get around Conte and raises his hand to indicate to Rodgers that he will be running downfield for glory.
Rodgers spots Cobb streaking past Conte right before he has to flee the pocket, so he knows exactly where he will be going with the ball as soon as he gets an opportunity to get rid of it. Once he finds a bit of open space, Rodgers launches the ball at Cobb. Rodgers underthrows the ball, but that’s because Cobb is wide open. As I’ve said many times, in a situation like this, it’s better to underthrow a ball than to overthrow. Cobb is able to stop, catch the ball, turn and get into the end zone. Cobb gets himself in a position to catch the ball over his shoulder, so he doesn’t have to turn completely around to run towards the end zone after catching the ball.
The two-point conversion failed, but the Packers found themselves up 33-28.
We looked at the receivers, now let’s look at the line.
The Bears left 4 guys back in coverage and brought everyone else to rush Rodgers. With an all-out blitz, the line will be blocking in, leaving Julius Peppers  as a free rusher off the edge. John Kuhn  recognizes this pre-snap. You can see him looking over at Peppers before the ball is even snapped. Kuhn knows he will have to block Peppers, but he’s lined up on the opposite side of the line.
When the ball is snapped, Kuhn takes a small stutter-step to make sure that Peppers is coming off the edge, and also to make sure no help is needed inside. The inside is locked up, so Kuhn runs down the line to block Peppers. Kuhn was expecting Peppers to take a straight-line route to Rodgers, but Peppers takes a wide angle. Kuhn is able to adjust at the last second, dive back towards Rodgers and block Peppers at the hip.
This block allows Rodgers to get to the outside. Peppers is still able to take a flying swipe at the ball, and Rodgers is somehow able to hold onto it.
Once outside the pocket, Rodgers sees Cobb, but isn’t able to set up completely, as Jay Ratliff  is coming from the middle of the line. He’s able to turn his body and heave a throw downfield.
It’s beautiful. Just beautiful.
You want a gif off just that block? Of course you do. I also want that.
The Packers would lose to the 49ers the next week, but this play is my lasting memory of the 2013 season. Here’s to hoping that when I look back on the 2016 season, I’ll remember something other than the horrific way it ended. That’s a post for another time.
I have a couple more Packers posts in me before I’m ready to close the books on the year. I’ll have a likely-abbreviated Eye in the Sky later this week, then have a season wrap-up the following week. If you don’t have the stomach to read Eye in the Sky this week, I totally understand.
Album listened to: Japandroids – Near To The Wild Heart Of Life