For an encore to Aaron Rodgers’ 2014 “R-E-L-A-X” season, when Green Bay bounced back from a 1-2 season start, the Packers quarterback has orchestrated a remarkable "run-the-table" season comeback from 4-6 that perhaps only he believed could finish in Houston.
At Atlanta on Sunday, the Pack will look to extend their winning streak that began November 28 on Monday Night Football. As we’ve done previously with the AFC Championship finalists, New England and Pittsburgh, let’s take a look some of the most crucial plays that have brought Green Bay one win away from the Super Bowl.
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Week 7: Ty Montgomery bursts through the Bears for 30 yards
This is when Montgomery’s conversion from wide receiver to running back became less of an experiment and more of a real thing. Eddie Lacy’s season-ending ankle injury in Week 6 and James Starks’ injuries and severe ineffectiveness (2.3 yards per carry on 63 rushes this season) left the Packers scrambling for backfield help.
Down 10-6 early in the third quarter, Montgomery took a delayed handoff up the gut, allowed his blocks to set up, burst into the hole, broke an arm tackle, found a lane and accelerated for a 30-yard gain to midfield in an eventual 26-10 win. The Packers are still a pass-first (and pass-second) team, but Montgomery has kept them from becoming completely one-dimensional.
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Week 14: The Packers secondary intercepts five Russell Wilson passes
After two straight wins that brought the Packers back to .500, the Seahawks came to town (as 2.5-point favorites) for what figured to be a serious threat to Green Bay’s playoffs chances. The Packers led 7-3 early in the second quarter, when safety Morgan Burnett had coverage on Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham and Wilson thought he had Graham for a big gain, but he found Burnett instead who returned it 20 yards to Seattle’s 26. The Packers scored a touchdown four plays later and took a 14-3 lead.
Green Bay’s secondary ending up feasting on Wilson passes when Seattle shifted into catch-up mode as Damarious Randall snagged two interceptions and Micah Hyde and Quinten Rollins had one each. The Packers ending up blowing out the Seahawks 38-10 -- snapping Seattle’s ridiculous streak of 85 straight regular-season games without suffering a loss of more than 10 points.
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Week 15: Rodgers goes deep to Jordy Nelson
After surrendering a late lead to division rival Chicago, Green Bay got the ball back with 1:13 remaining, tied 27 apiece. On a 3rd-and-11 with 31 seconds left in regulation, Jordy Nelson ran deep down the seam and found a bit of separation from safety Cre'von LeBlanc, and Rodgers threw a bomb that landed in Nelson’s bread basket 60 yards down the field. The Packers were able to run the clock down to two ticks, allowing Mason Crosby to kick a game-winning 32-yard field goal that lifted the team to 8-6.
Wild-Card Round: Rodgers to Davante Adams on the sideline
The end-of-half Hail Mary obviously was a game-changer, but Rodgers himself identified an earlier toss that helped him settle into a groove and gave Green Bay a huge boost. Down 6-0 with 3:45 remaining in the first half, the Packers started the drive with great field position (New York’s 38) when on first down, Rodgers spotted man coverage outside. Davante Adams ran past Eli Apple on the boundary and the QB threw a perfect strike that Adams caught in stride, taking it down to the Giants’ 7-yard line and setting up an Adams touchdown catch two plays later.
Divisional Round: “Size matters”
We’ll echo what Colin Cowherd said on Monday: Rodgers’ late scramble and sideline throw to tight end Jared Cook was vital and set up Mason Crosby’s game-winning field goal, but how in the heck did he hold on to the football earlier in the drive when Cowboys safety Jeff Heath drilled him from behind while the QB gripped the ball outstretched with just one hand?
“Size matters” Rodgers said, holding out his hands as a display. Indeed size does matter. Had Rodgers lost the ball, Dallas would have had possession in field-goal range with 23 seconds left and time to set up sure-footed Dan Bailey for its own game winner. Didn’t happen that way. Two plays later Rodgers found Cook for the 35-yard sideline gem and Crosby sealed the win with a 51-yard game winner as time expired. Now the Packers are on to Atlanta.