The Green Bay Packers won just eight games in the regular season and then lost in the Wild Card Round of the NFC playoffs, but the 2013 season provided more drama and entertainment then any year in recent memory. Here's a look back at the exhilarating last four months, highlighted by the five best and five worst plays of the season.
THE 5 BEST
1. The Lob to Cobb: A play that will live on as one of the most clutch in the storied history of the Packers-Bears rivalry. Facing fourth down with a trip to the playoffs on the line, quarterback Aaron Rodgers avoided initial pressure, scrambled to his left and heaved one to Randall Cobb, who was wide open inside the 10-yard line. The scoring play won the NFC North for the Packers. The entirety of the circumstances overcome make the play one of Rodgers' very best.
2. Lacy's Spark, Finish: Randall Cobb's touchdown wouldn't have meant much had it not been for Eddie Lacy's second half in Dallas two weeks earlier. The Packers rookie running back sparked Green Bay's 23-point rally with a 60-yard jaunt on the first play of the second half, and then capped off the improbable comeback with a one-yard plunge with just 91 seconds left in the contest. The Packers would win by one in a must-have game.
3. Rodgers' Rainbows Beats the Champs: You'll be hard pressed to find a better deep ball thrown this season than the one unleashed by Rodgers in Baltimore. With the Packers up 9-3 in the third quarter, Mike McCarthy dialed up a shot play to Jordy Nelson. The call worked to perfection. Aaron Rodgers faked to Eddie Lacy, rolled a few steps to his right and then launched a pass that traveled a full 62 yards in the air. It took almost three full seconds from release to catch. And the ball hit Nelson perfectly in stride behind the coverage, leaving him an easy path into the end zone for a 13-point lead over the defending Super Bowl champions.
4. Pair of Season-Saving Picks: Both Sam Shields and Tramon Williams added to their interception legacies during the historic comeback in Dallas. Shields first undercut an ill-advised pass from Tony Romo while the Cowboys were attempting to drain clock in the fourth quarter, and Williams later completed a diving interception when Romo misfired on the final drive. Both were critical for securing the win, and ensuring the Packers' still slim playoff hopes would live on.
5a. Buzzing the Earhole: Chad Greenway is still wondering how Aaron Rodgers fit the football past him. In the early stages of Green Bay's last trip (and win) to the Metrodome, Rodgers beat a Vikings blitz by buzzing the earhole of Greenway, who dropped into slot coverage of Jordy Nelson. Greenway was in perfect position, but Rodgers saw a window and threw a dime. Nelson then went 76 yards for a touchdown.
5b. Fourth and Great: Part I: Week 2 gave us our first viewing of Rodgers-to-Cobb on fourth down. This one wasn't nearly as important or meaningful, but the 35-yard touchdown did kick off a career day for Rodgers and the offense. On this play, Rodgers bought himself an extra second and then found Cobb, who broke free inside. The wheels on No. 18 did the rest. Rodgers would finish with a career-high 480 yards, leading the Packers to 580 total yards and 38 points.
5c. Fourth and Great: Part III: Aaron Rodgers kept the Packers alive in the NFC Wild Card round with a Houdini act and throw that even Eli Manning and David Tyree could appreciate. The 26-yard completion to Randall Cobb came on fourth down with the Packers down three points. Sure, there was an obvious hold. But Rodgers escaping that jumbled mess and then still having the composure to sling a completion to Cobb was nothing short of remarkable. The play set eventually up Green Bay's brief fourth quarter lead.
Honorable Mentions: James Jones 83-yard TD vs. Lions, Nelson tip toe catch on sidelines vs. 49ers, Micah Hyde 70-yard kick return vs. Steelers, Scott Tolzien spinning touchdown vs. Vikings, Hyde 93-yard punt return vs. Vikings, Lacy 56-yard run vs. Bears.
THE 5 WORST
1. The Collarbone Crunch: Shea McClellin's sack of Aaron Rodgers in Week 9 changed an entire season in the division and conference. The seemingly harmless takedown caused a a spiral fracture in Rodgers' collarbone that would eventually keep the Packers quarterback out for the next seven games. A 5-2 team many considered Super Bowl contenders fizzled to an 8-7-1 finish.
2. Kaep's Mad Dash: The Packers' rollercoaster season all but ended when Colin Kaepernick scrambled for 11 yards on a 3rd-and-8 play late in the NFC Wild Card round. Jarrett Bush lost contain on his blitz and a clearly injured Andy Mulumba was no match for Kaepernick's 4.5 speed around the corner. Four run plays later, Phil Dawson was kicking a 33-yard field goal to send the 49ers to Carolina. Kaep's kryptonite lives on.
3. Finley's Scary Injury: Randall Cobb's injury in Baltimore was a significant one, but the sequence of Jermichael Finley's neck injury presented everyone watching with a scary couple of minutes. A relatively common hit from a Browns safety momentarily left Finley without movement in his limbs. He later commented that his breathing was labored. The official diagnosis was a bruised spinal cord that required spinal fusion surgery. Finley plans on planning again, but only doctors will be able to determine if he can or not. This could end up being the hit that ends his career, much like Nick Collins in 2011.
4. Fumbling it Away: One of the more entertaining games of the early season came in Cincinnati, where the Bengals scored the game's first 14 points, the Packers tallied the next 30 and the Bengals ended with the final 21. The last touchdown of the afternoon came when rookie Johnathan Franklin coughed up a fourth-down attempt and Terrence Newman scooped and scored from 58 yards out. Newman's return gave Cincinnati a 34-30 lead it wouldn't give up.
5. Living on a Prayer in Baltimore: The brief Packers career of Jerron McMillian could have been forever tied to his mistake on 4th-and-21 against the Ravens. Playing the deep third of the ultimate prevent defense, McMillian lost his footing in his backpedal and allowed Tandon Doss to catch a 63-yard heave from Joe Flacco. A play later, McMillian would allow a touchdown pass that briefly gave the Ravens a chance at an improbable comeback. Ugly.
Honorable Mentions: Hyde's missed interception vs. 49ers, DeSean Jackson's deflection TD, Matt Flynn safety vs. Lions opens the floodgates, false start causes anti-climatic finish vs. Steelers, Anquan Boldin's fourth down catch in Week 1, Flynn's pick-six vs. Steelers/Falcons, Tolzien's pick-six vs. Giants, Cordarrelle Patterson's 109-yard touchdown on opening kick vs. Vikings.
Zach Kruse is a 25-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covered prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at [email protected].
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