2014 TOP PLAYS
Cast a vote for the final three best plays of the regular season.
There are about 60-70 plays in the average National Football League game, so the Green Bay Packers totaled approximately 1,040 plays during the 2014 regular season. For the past three weeks, Martin Hendricks of Packer Plus has ranked the top offensive, defensive, and special teams plays. Now it’s down to three — the best in each category as determined by fan voting. Visit
www.jsonline.com/packvote to cast a final ballot for the best play of the 2014 regular season.
JORDY NELSON, 45-YARD TD CATCH vs. PATRIOTS
Packers 26, Patriots 21; Nov. 30 at Lambeau Field
The Packers held a 16-14 lead in the waning minute of the first half and their offense was driving and looking for more against one of the AFC’s top teams.
Aron Rodgers turned to his favorite target on a simple route designed to keep the chains moving and sustain the drive. Nelson turned it into a game-changer.
Lined up one-on-one with cornerback Darrelle Revis, Nelson beat him with a single sharp cut inside and snared Rodgers’ perfect pass in stride at the 35-yard line.
He then turned on the jets, running diagonally toward the left corner of the end zone as free safety Devin McCourty closed in at the 2-yard line. With McCourty’s arms wrapped around his upper body, Nelson muscled the ball forward and hit the pylon just before his left knee touched down out of bounds.
As ESPN analyst Mike Ditka put it, Nelson is one of the NFL’s elite receivers, who just goes about his business.
“When you first look at him, you don’t want to put him in the class of Calvin Johnson, until you see him play,” Ditka said. “He’s an under-the-radar kind of guy. But he has good size, great hands, and excellent speed.
“And he’s got Aaron Rodgers throwing to him and they are on the same page. Nelson is one of the best receivers in the league — just look at his production.”
JULIUS PEPPERS, 49-YARD TD INT RETURN vs. VIKINGS
Packers 42, Vikings 10; Oct. 2 at Lambeau Field
Peppers was at the right place at the right time midway through the second quarter against Green Bay’s border rival on a rainy Thursday evening.
From his right outside linebacker position, Peppers dropped into coverage and had Christian Ponder’s pass come right to him. The ball was severely underthrown due to pressure by rookie defensive end Luther Robinson, who appeared to get a hand on the arm of Ponder as he released the ball.
Peppers, 6-foot-7, 287 pounds, then showcased his athleticism, running across the field, reading his blocks, and racing into the south end zone to complete a 49-yard touchdown return for a 21-0 cushion.
Peppers became the first NFL player in history to record 100 or more sacks and 10 interceptions in a career. Ditka was impressed. “Peppers turned out to be a very good player for the Packers. It was a wise (free-agent) pickup by Green Bay,” Ditka said. “He’s an impact player and an athlete who they could stand up or put down (on the line).
“Peppers and the Green Bay defense really got better as the season went on. He was a pretty darn good player in Chicago and showed he could definitely contribute and help the Packers.”
MICAH HYDE, 55-YARD TD PUNT RETURN vs. LIONS
Packers 30, Lions 20; Dec. 28 at Lambeau Field
As a rookie, Hyde returned the first two punts of his fledgling NFL career against Detroit at Lambeau Field for an unimpressive total of seven yards.
“I didn’t make a big play today against the Lions, but that’s what I’m trying to do every time I’m out there if the opportunity arises,” Hyde said. What a difference a year makes. Hyde and the punt return unit came up with a big play to give Green Bay a 7-0 lead with 4:49 remaining in the first quarter of its NFC North showdown with the Lions.
It was just the boost the team’s struggling offense needed.
Hyde fielded Sam Martin's punt at his own 45-yard line and started up field. He then cut right, making Lions defender Jed Collins miss.
Hyde then shot up the middle, veered toward the left sideline, and was never challenged to the end zone.
“I made one cut and made a guy miss and then it opened up,” Hyde said.
“I couldn’t have done it without they guys blocking, and we gave a boost to our offense.”
It was Hyde’s third punt return for a touchdown in his two-year career, tying him for the franchise record with Desmond Howard and Will Blackmon.
Here’s a look back at the top Packers plays in the regular season as voted by fans:
No. 1: Jordy Nelson, 45-yard TD catch vs. Patriots; Nov. 30 (50%)
2: Aaron Rodgers, 4-yard TD pass vs. Dolphins; Oct. 12 (25%)
3: Eddie Lacy, 32-yard TD catch vs. Eagles; Nov. 16 (12%)
4: Aaron Rodgers, 4-yard TD pass vs. Lions; Dec. 28 (9%)
5: Randall Cobb, 18-yard TD catch vs. Bears; Nov. 9 (4%)
Total responses: 533
No. 1: Julius Peppers, 49-yard TD INT return vs. Vikings; Oct. 2 (57%)
2: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, pass defensed vs. Patriots; Nov. 30 (20%)
3: Casey Hayward, 82-yard TD INT return vs. Bears; Nov. 9 (12%)
4: Ha Ha Clinton Dix, tackle of Martellus Bennett; Sept. 28 (7%)
5: Tramon Williams, INT vs. Jets; Sept. 14 (3%)
Total responses: 374
No. 1: Micah Hyde, 55-yard punt return TD vs. Lions; Dec. 28 (55%);
Martin Hendricks’ rank: 1st 2: Micah Hyde, 75-yard punt return TD vs. Eagles; Nov. 16 (28%); MH: 2 3: Mason Crosby, 55-yard field goal vs. Jets; Sept. 14 (8%); MH: 3
4: Jarrett Boykin forced fumble on punt vs. Bears; Nov. 9 (5%); MH: 4
5: Tim Masthay, 58-yard punt vs. Vikings; Oct. 2 (3%); MH: 5
Total responses: 310
Patriots free safety Devin McCourty is unable to prevent Packers receiver Jordy Nelson from scoring on Nov. 30.
On Dec. 28 vs. the Lions, Packers safety Micah Hyde returns a punt 55 yards for a touchdown.
Packers outside linebacker Julius Peppers intercepts a pass for a touchdown on Oct.2 against the Vikings.