This week’s installment of “Signature snaps” features the top five special teams plays of 2011, listed here in chronological order.
The Packers had probably their best year under coordinator Shawn Slocum in 2011, and these are just a few of the highlights.
Be sure to watch the video and cast your vote in the poll for your favorite play. (Note: From last week’s top five defensive plays, the goal-line stuff of New Orleans RB Mark Ingram was the fans’ top choice, earning 47 percent of the vote. Clay Matthews’ INT-TD at New York was a close second at 36 percent.)
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.
Jordy Nelson, onside kick recovery vs. Denver
One of the year’s biggest surprise calls turned out to be more important than many remember. The Packers had just taken a 7-3 lead on the Broncos when Charles Woodson intercepted Kyle Orton and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-3.
Then, with no one expecting it, the Packers tried an onside kick, which worked perfectly. Nelson’s recovery gave the Packers the ball near midfield, and seven plays later quarterback Aaron Rodgers ran for a touchdown and a 21-3 lead. The two-score surge proved critical, as the Broncos came back to score touchdowns on their next two possessions to get within 21-17.
Mason Crosby, 58-yard field goal at Minnesota
Two weeks earlier in Atlanta, Crosby had tied his own franchise record with a 56-yard field goal, matching the distance of his first record-setting kick in the 2010 opener in Philadelphia. The kick against the Falcons came with the Packers trailing in the third quarter and proved pivotal in the comeback victory.
This time, the Packers led the Vikings, 30-17, in the third quarter, and the loss of field position should Crosby miss could have spurred a Minnesota comeback. Undeterred, Crosby calmly drilled the longest field goal in team history, with room to spare, for what turned out to be the Packers’ final points in a 33-27 win.
Cobb, 80-yard punt-return TD vs. Minnesota
The game was barely a minute old when the Packers forced the Vikings to punt after an opening three-and-out. Cobb fielded Chris Kluwe’s punt at his own 20, started to his right, cut back to his left, and as a Minnesota defender slipped and fell right in front of him, Cobb exploded through the opening and began pulling away from the pursuit.
Coupled with his 108-yard kickoff return against the Saints, Cobb became the first Packers rookie to return both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in the same season.
Brad Jones, blocked field goal vs. N.Y. Giants in playoffs
Had the second half gone differently, this play might have been remembered as a turning point in the NFC divisional playoff. The Packers had just scored to even the game at 10 in the second quarter, but a failed onside kick attempt gave the Giants the ball in Green Bay territory.
The defense got the stop, though, and then Jones knifed through the middle of New York’s protection unit to block Lawrence Tynes’ 40-yard attempt and keep the game tied. It marked the first time the Packers had blocked a field goal since 2009, and the first time they had done so in a playoff game since 2002.
Don’t forget to watch the video and cast a vote for your favorite.