Sometimes it’s a single play. Other times it’s a comment that rallies the troops, a shot at redemption or postgame euphoria.
They’re all moments that are remembered, fondly, during a championship season. Here are the top 10, ranked in ascending order, from an unforgettable year in Green Bay.
10. Mason Crosby sets franchise record, Sept. 12
At the close of the 2008 season, Crosby nearly obliterated the NFL record for longest field goal, with a 69-yard free kick that came up just short. There’s never been a question about his leg strength.
Given a chance to close the first half of the season opener with a 56-yarder at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Crosby didn’t disappoint. His 49-yard field goal earlier in the second quarter was good by plenty, so kicking the same direction with three seconds left and a 10-3 lead, Crosby was brimming with confidence.
With room to spare from 56, Crosby broke the franchise record for longest field goal by 2 yards. Chris Jacke, Ryan Longwell and Crosby’s predecessor Dave Rayner had all been good from 54 yards out in their Green Bay careers, but the mark is now Crosby’s alone.
9. Jordy Nelson redeems himself, immediately, Feb. 6
The Packers led the Steelers, 21-17, early in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLV when Nelson had Green Bay fans cursing his name and then cheering it on back-to-back plays.
The Packers faced second-and-10 from the Pittsburgh 40-yard line. Nelson, who had a potential touchdown pass on Green Bay’s first possession of the game slip through his outstretched hands, was open over the middle and Aaron Rodgers’ pass hit him right in the chest. Nelson bobbled it, then dropped it.
A crucial third-and-10 followed. Some yardage was needed to give Crosby a reasonable field goal try. A first down was preferable, obviously. Nelson hit the jackpot.
Giving him a shot at instant redemption, Rodgers went right back to Nelson over the middle and the fourth-year receiver snagged the pass, weaved his way to the far sideline and got all the way to the 2 before getting shoved out of bounds. He had gained 38 of his game-high 140 yards to set up the Packers’ final touchdown.
8. Tramon Williams triggers Vikings’ demise, Nov. 21
The final score in week 11 was 31-3, but the game was a lot closer as halftime approached. The Vikings trailed, 10-3, with a first down at the Green Bay 25 when Brett Favre tried to hit Percy Harvin on a slant.
Williams saw it coming and Favre’s fastball hit him in the gut so hard every fan in the Metrodome heard it, and the turnover set off a chain of events.
Favre was seen arguing on the sidelines with his offensive coaches, Green Bay drove for a touchdown right before half for a 17-3 lead, and by the second half the in-fighting on the Minnesota bench escalated. The Packers had a season sweep, and the next day the Vikings had a new head coach.
7. Packers no treat for Jets on Halloween, Oct. 31
It was an ugly game, but it came masked as a big victory for Green Bay.
The Packers’ 9-0 blanking of the New York Jets was the franchise’s first road shutout since 1991, which Head Coach Mike McCarthy announced to the team right after the game. In the postgame locker-room celebration, the praise for the defensive effort was heard from all corners.
Defensive end Cullen Jenkins sported his “Mr. T” jewelry, the most flamboyant of the players’ costumes. After trick-or-treating in the “Big Apple,” the Packers left disguised as playoff contenders. It turned out to be no disguise.
6. McCarthy boldly proclaims his team’s status, and backup quarterback Matt Flynn dons a “belt,” Dec. 19
With his team 8-5, his starting quarterback out with a concussion and the offense preparing for Flynn’s first NFL start, McCarthy was asked on the Wednesday before the New England game if his team had its back against the wall.
“We’re nobody’s underdog,” was McCarthy’s reply, and his team backed that up by nearly upsetting the AFC East-leading Patriots on the road in prime time.
Flynn even took a page out of Rodgers’ book following a 66-yard touchdown pass to receiver James Jones. As Jones crossed the goal line, cameras caught Flynn turning to the Green Bay sideline and mimicking Rodgers’ “championship belt” celebration.
5. Williams silences the Georgia Dome, Jan. 15
In an NFC Divisional playoff, the Packers led the Falcons, 21-14, late in the second quarter, but Atlanta was on the edge of field goal range with a chance to get within four points at intermission.
With just 10 seconds on the clock, Atlanta tried to run one more play from the Green Bay 35 to make the kick a little closer. Williams would have none of it.
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan rolled to his left and tried to hit receiver Roddy White along the sideline. Williams, having recognized the formation and upcoming route pre-snap jumped in front of White, snared his second interception in as many possessions and was off to the races, 70 yards for a touchdown as time expired.
The 10-point swing gave the Packers a 14-point halftime lead in a building in which Ryan had lost only once in three years.
4. B.J. Raji rumbles to paydirt, dances at Soldier Field, Jan. 23
Fresh off the stardom gained by playing fullback in the goal-line offense the previous week in Atlanta, Raji made his biggest play of the season on defense in the NFC Championship.
With the Packers protecting a 14-7 lead midway through the fourth quarter, Chicago faced third-and-5 on its own 15. A stop here could lead to good field position and a clinching score, and Raji took care of it all in one play.
As cornerback Sam Shields blitzed from third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie’s left side, Raji feigned rushing and dropped into coverage. His assignment was to cover the running back if he ran a short route over the middle, and as Matt Forte came right into his area, so did the ball.
Raji returned the interception 18 yards for a touchdown, and even though Packers Radio Network’s Wayne Larrivee prematurely called it the “dagger” for the NFC title, it will go down as the most memorable play in the biggest of the 182 Packers-Bears renditions, even if the end-zone dance needed some work.
3. Favre overthrows Randy Moss, Oct. 24
Favre was 20 yards from another one of his miracle comebacks at Lambeau. On fourth down with 28 seconds left and the Vikings trailing, 28-24, Favre stumbled, righted himself, scrambled around and did everything to set the stage for a highlight that would live forever.
Except his desperation heave to Moss in the back of the end zone sailed too far, though some still wonder if Moss gave up on the ball too early. The incomplete pass set off a celebration among the 71,000-plus fans who emotionally were filled with equal parts relief, revenge and euphoria.
As the raucous crowd filed out, the cheering in the concourses was deafening and seemingly wouldn’t end.
2. Charles Woodson delivers a postgame speech for the ages, Jan. 23
Following the NFC Championship victory in Chicago, Woodson addressed the team in the locker room, as had become his post-game duty throughout the playoffs. Combining an appeal to the seriousness of the team’s quest with a jab at political humor, Woodson gave a speech no one in that locker room will ever forget.
First, he implored his teammates to remain as “one” while they still had “one more game” to win. Then, in reference to President Barack Obama’s declaration that he would attend the Super Bowl only if his hometown Bears advanced, Woodson quipped: “If the President doesn’t want to come watch us in the Super Bowl, guess what, we’ll go see him.”
The Packers still owe Obama that White House visit, but should they go, the team should make sure Woodson is first in line to shake the President’s hand.
1. Quest becomes reality, Feb. 6
There are various moments that made the Super Bowl title a reality, and if selecting a favorite seems like splitting hairs, we’ll list them all.
There was Williams’ breakup of Ben Roethlisberger’s pass to Mike Wallace on fourth-and-5 with 49 seconds left in Super Bowl XLV, followed by Rodgers taking a knee. There was the confetti falling from the Cowboys Stadium ceiling during the on-field trophy celebration, with Clay Matthews giving game MVP Rodgers an actual title “belt.”
Two days later, there was also McCarthy emerging from the Lambeau Field tunnel and hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy above his head as 56,000 die-hard souls, who braved a frigid winter afternoon to celebrate the championship, got to see that trophy come “home.”
Take your pick. They all mean the same thing.
TO SEE A VIDEO OF ALL 10 MOMENTS, CLICK HERE
To check out last week’s Top 10 Individual Performances, CLICK HERE
Mike Spofford is a 1995 Masters graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University who worked as a sports reporter for two daily newspapers in Wisconsin, covering the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII. Spofford has been a packers.com staff writer since 2006.