The pantheon of Packers wide receivers honors among others the feats of NFL Hall of Famers Don Hutson and James Lofton, Lombardi-era legends Boyd Dowler and Max McGee and modern-day standouts such as Sterling Sharpe and Antonio Freeman. However, Donald Driver takes a backseat to no one in club record books.
Or in creating memorable moments for Packers fans. Driver made a pair of remarkable sideline grabs against the Giants at MetLife Stadium, the second while scoring Green Bay’s final touchdown. With the degree of difficulty off the scale, calling it a 7-yard TD catch is unjust. With a defender pinned to his hip and his body nearly horizontal, Driver hauled in a bullet from Aaron Rodgers and still managed to keep the front edges of his cleats mere inches inside the blue end-zone turf.
It was his second scoring grab of the game, with the first coming late in the second quarter when he snuck off alone away from the coverage for a 13-yard touchdown.
“They weren’t worried about me,” he said with a grin. “When you’re old, they don’t worry about you anymore.”
Driver’s accomplishments read like an encyclopedia of receiving milestones. He is the team’s all-time leader in catches with 725. Driver is also first in team record books in receiving yards, zeroing in on 10,000 with 9,897 yards. No other Packers player has posted nine seasons with 50-plus receptions, or seven years with over 1,000 yards – including six straight (2004-09).
Driver’s streak of 133 consecutive games with a catch, which ended during last season, is also a club record. With 57, he joins Huston, Sharpe and Freeman as the only Packers with 55 or more TD receptions.
The 13-year veteran has had what would be a memorable career for most players just at Lambeau Field. He enters Sunday’s game vs. Oakland with 350 catches on his home turf for 4,795 yards – both all-time records at the stadium – and 24 TDs.
After a vintage performance vs. the Giants, what follows is a look chronologically at some of the greatest games of Driver’s storied career (reprinted from Gameday program, Green Bay vs. Tampa Bay, Nov. 20, 2011).
Oct. 7, 2002, at Chicago: four receptions for 120 yards, one TD – The first game of the wide receiver’s career in which he hit triple digits in receiving yards. On Monday Night Football, Driver hauled in an 85-yard touchdown on the opening drive, which tied for the longest play from scrimmage that season in the NFC. It was his first season as a full-time starter and Driver earned his first Pro-Bowl trip.
Nov. 21, 2004, at Houston: 10 receptions for 148 yards, one TD – In a homecoming in his native Houston, Driver had a handful of clutch grabs in the final quarter: a 24-yard, fingertip grab for a TD to bring the Packers within a field goal, a 15-yard catch that moved Green Bay in position to set up the game-tying kick and a 12-yard reception that set up the game-winning field goal. He had a season-long 50-yard catch earlier in the game.
Dec. 24, 2004, at Minnesota: 11 receptions for 162 yards, one TD – At the time, Driver equaled his career-high for receptions and set a career-best for yards in a performance that helped clinch the division title. He made a clutch, tumbling TD catch on fourth-and-goal at the 3 to tie the contest with 3:34 left to cap an 80-yard drive. Driver added two more grabs on the game-winning march for a field goal in the 34-31 victory.
Nov. 12, 2006, at Minnesota, six receptions for 191 yards, one TD – In posting the highest yardage total of his career, Driver started fast with three catches for 69 yards on the opening drive. He shook loose for an 82-yard TD on a crossing pattern in the second quarter to give the Packers a lead they would never surrender, and also took a lateral from Greg Jennings for 30 yards in the third quarter. During his career, Driver has three TD grabs vs. the Vikings of over 50 yards.
Dec. 10, 2006, at San Francisco: nine receptions for 160 yards, one TD – The launching pad for Driver’s big day was a collision he endured in the first quarter when, while attempting to catch his first pass, Driver was hit so hard across the middle it not only knocked the helmet off the wide receiver’s head, it damaged some of the padding inside. From then on, an angered Driver was nearly unstoppable, including a 68-yard TD during which he ran through a handful of 49ers defenders. In the contest, he recorded his 400th career catch. This is a game that his family considers one of his best.
Jan. 20, 2008, vs. N.Y. Giants, NFC Championship, five receptions for 141 yards, one TD – Driver recorded the longest postseason touchdown in team history and the fourth-longest in NFL record books with a 90-yard scoring reception. In the second quarter, he hauled in a strike at the Green Bay 27 and outran three Giants to the end zone, high-stepping a last diving tackler on frozen turf near the New York 25.
Sept. 27, 2009, at St. Louis: four receptions for 95 yards, one TD – The wide receiver made a stunning one-handed grab while streaking down the sideline for a 46-yard completion. His right arm was hooked by Bradley Fletcher, but Driver pinned the ball against his shoulder pads and helmet with his left hand and held on even as the cornerback landed on top of him. The interference penalty was declined. Driver also had a 21-yard TD, and on the opening drive moved into second all-time in franchise history in receiving yardage.
Oct. 18, 2009, vs. Detroit: seven receptions for 107 yards – He pulled in a lefty one-hander not unlike the catch two weeks before at St. Louis. The completion went for 37 yards, and it was while Driver was tumbling to the turf and fighting off an interference penalty by cornerback Demarcus Faggins that was declined. The wide receiver also became the club’s all-time receptions leader in the contest.
Nov. 26, 2009, at Detroit, seven receptions for 142 yards, one TD – In a 34-12 victory on Thanksgiving, Driver started the first and second halves hot, with a 68-yard reception in the opening quarter and a 45-yard grab early in the third quarter. Both long catches set up touchdowns – the latter leading to a 7-yard TD reception by Driver to give Green Bay a 20-7 lead. Driver’s yardage total remains his highest with Aaron Rodgers.
Dec. 5, 2010, vs. San Francisco, four receptions for 74 yards, one TD – Perhaps modest totals to the uninformed just scanning through statistics, but the game includes the rambling, career-defining catch-and-run for a TD that Driver calls “the greatest touchdown of my career.” In the debut of the blue-and-gold 1929 jerseys, the 35-year-old Driver hauled in a quick strike at the San Francisco 40, broke a tackle, ducked another defender, ran through a third tackler at the San Francisco 10 and churned through four 49ers at the goal line. It was one of the most memorable plays in one of the franchise’s most memorable seasons.