The final installment of “Signature snaps” features the top vote-getter from each of the five previous editions. They are presented here as nominees for “Play of the year.”
Be sure to watch the video and cast your vote in the poll for your favorite play.
Top running play: Ryan Grant, 47-yard TD vs. Oakland
The left side of the line did the job here and gave Grant a hole to slip through. Grant eluded one diving tackle attempt, got a great block on the outside from receiver Jordy Nelson, and took off.
Criticized much of the season for looking a step slow following his 2010 ankle surgery, Grant ran away from the pursuit for his and Green Bay’s longest run of the season. The score came on the Packers’ second play from scrimmage in this game and set the tone for a 46-16 rout.
Top passing play: Jordy Nelson, 93-yard TD vs. St. Louis
As he continued to develop into a big-play receiver, Nelson made the biggest play, yardage-wise, of 2011. With the Packers leading 10-0, the Rams had just downed a punt at the Green Bay 7-yard line.
On the first snap, quarterback Aaron Rodgers got former Packers cornerback Al Harris to bite on a pump fake. Instead of throwing the quick slant Harris was expecting, Rodgers lofted a fade down the right sideline and Nelson caught it. Then, as he cut toward the middle of the field between Harris and safety Darian Stewart, the two defenders collided and took each other out of the play. Nelson cruised the remaining 60 yards for the score.
Top defensive play: Defense stuffs New Orleans RB Mark Ingram at goal line
The Saints trailed in the opener by 15 points as the two-minute warning approached, and then things got a little crazy. New Orleans scored, forced a three-and-out, got the ball back with 1:08 left and drove 79 yards to the Green Bay 1-yard line for an untimed down as a result of a pass interference penalty in the end zone.
Interestingly, the Saints’ last two running plays – on third-and-1 from the Green Bay 7 late in the third quarter and on first-and-goal from the 5 on the previous drive – both went nowhere. This one did, too, as linebacker Clay Matthews led a charge, with a big assist from safety Morgan Burnett, that stood up Ingram at the goal line and preserved the Packers’ 42-34 win.
Top special teams play: Randall Cobb, 108-yard kickoff return TD vs. New Orleans
The Packers’ search for a dangerous return man ended in the season opener, as did a long franchise drought. Cobb became the first Packers player to return a kickoff for a touchdown since Allen Rossum in 2000, and the 108 yards tied an NFL record for length.
Cobb, a rookie second-round draft pick, admitted afterward he had been told to take a knee if he was more than 5 yards deep in the end zone, but he came out anyway. He took a big hit just across the 20-yard line but managed to keep his balance, with an assist from fullback John Kuhn, and was off to the races.
Top clutch play: Nelson, 27-yard catch at New York Giants
Tied in the final minute against the Giants, the Packers pulled out one of their most dramatic wins of the year thanks to this big play by Nelson. Tight end Jermichael Finley had just gained 24 yards on a crossing route when Nelson put a quick double move on former Packers corner Will Blackmon, and Rodgers hit him right in stride up the sideline for 27 more yards.
The play got the Packers into field-goal range at the New York 29, and an additional completion to Greg Jennings made it a chip shot for Mason Crosby, whose 30-yard kick completed the 38-35 victory.
Don’t forget to watch the video and cast a vote for your favorite.