This week’s installment of “Signature snaps” features the top five passing plays of 2011, listed here in chronological order.
This is by far the hardest top five to compile from this past season, as the Packers had at least a dozen, if not more, passing plays that were both spectacular and memorable. Some fans’ favorites probably aren’t on this list, but only five could be chosen.
Be sure to watch the video and cast your vote in the poll for your favorite play. (Note: From last week’s top five running plays, Ryan Grant’s 47-yard TD v. OAK was the fans’ top choice, earning 51 percent of the vote.)
Jordy Nelson, 84-yard TD at Carolina
In a back-and-forth game, the Packers had recovered from a 13-point deficit to take a 10-point lead, but the Panthers were still in the game, down only 23-16 late in the fourth. Then, with the Packers backed up and the Panthers in possession of all of their timeouts, Aaron Rodgers checked out of a running play at the line to a slant to Nelson.
What a call that turned out to be. Nelson made the grab, split two Carolina defenders and was off to the races. Fellow receiver Greg Jennings de-cleated the last pursuer with a tremendous downfield block to get Nelson into the end zone, and the Packers had sealed a big road win with just over two minutes left to play.
James Jones, 70-yard TD at Atlanta
Again trailing on the road, the Packers had fought back from a 14-0 deficit with three field goals but had yet to get into the end zone. Taking over at his own 30 late in the third quarter after a key three-and-out by the defense, Rodgers went for broke on the first snap.
It couldn’t have worked out better. Off play-action, running back Ryan Grant picked up the blitzing cornerback, which left Jones matched up on a safety. Jones caught the laser-like throw in stride and pulled away for the score that gave the Packers their first lead of the game at 15-14. The Falcons never recovered.
Jennings, 29-yard TD at Atlanta
One possession after Jones’ big TD, the Packers had a chance to add to their lead and took advantage. What made this play special was that at first it looked like a harmless crossing route, but Jennings’ tremendous speed and maneuverability after the catch turned it into a touchdown.
It came on the first snap of the fourth quarter. Rodgers, off a play fake, hit Jennings over the middle, where he appeared to be surrounded by five Falcons. But Jennings found another gear, sprinted toward the sideline, turned upfield, barely kept his right foot in bounds and dove for the pylon. What a play.
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, 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 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.
Donald Driver, 7-yard TD at New York
Late in the fourth quarter, the Packers were clinging to a one-point lead over the Giants and, after a superb, body-twisting sideline catch by Nelson got the offense into scoring range, Driver converted.
Rodgers had all day to throw against a three-man rush. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga handled New York’s Rocky Bernard one-on-one for more than five seconds, and the Giants’ other two rushers were double-teamed. Driver eventually got free from cornerback Corey Webster in the end zone and worked back toward the front pylon as Rodgers fired.
Driver made a picture-perfect, tip-toe catch for a big score with 3:34 left, and the 13-year veteran had his first two-touchdown game in six years.
Don’t forget to watch the video and cast a vote for your favorite.