The NFL season may still have a few weeks left to run before the big one, but for us Packers fans, the Super Bowl freight train came to a crashing halt in the divisional round. Now that the dust has settled and the pain has subsided, it’s time to look at the top moments of the season.
The great thing about this is it allows me to reminisce about the good times we experienced this season. It also allows a discussion and debate, as my top five may not be the same as anyone else’s, and isn’t the sharing of opinions and ideas another great element of this sport? There are some obvious picks for everyone’s top five and without reading any further, most people would be confident in picking two or three. So I’ve chosen a few that I personally believe were genuine bright spots in the season. So without further ado, here is my top five:
5. The Drafting of Eric Stokes
I think we all knew a corner was coming in round one and we also knew that both Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain were going to be gone early. Stokes was the 29th pick in the draft and the fifth corner to go, so expectations weren’t too high for his rookie season. I had cautious optimism that with limited snaps we would see some potential to be excited about. An early season injury to Jaire Alexander meant Stokes was thrown in at the deep end and boy did he swim. Speed, athleticism and hard work all combined to show that Stokes has a huge future in the game. His statistics could be viewed with pride by a seasoned pro, so for a guy in his rookie season to perform as he has done, Eric Stokes is most certainly a season highlight for me.
4. The Emergence of Rashan Gary
Drafted from Michigan at number 12 in the 2019 draft, Gary’s selection raised a few eyebrows to say the least. Limited playing time in his rookie season showed promise, two sacks in sixteen games played was followed up with five sacks in fifteen games in the 2020 regular season. A opening day injury to Za’Darius Smith meant that opportunity came knocking for Gary this season and he most certainly answered. Gary had an excellent season by anyone’s standards, including nine and a half sacks. The fact that people seem comfortable with releasing Smith, speaks volumes of Gary’s progress and performance this season and I can see him stepping up as a leader for this defense over the next couple of seasons.
3. The Aaron Rodgers Record Breaking Touchdown
It was always going to happen this season. Covid, mystery toe injuries and numerous NFL defenses couldn’t prevent Rodgers from breaking the franchise touchdown record. It came as a Christmas Day gift against the Browns. A quick out route from Lazard, followed by a dive to the pylon gave 12 his touchdown number 443. Whether number 450 comes in the green and gold remains to be seen, but this was worthy of making my list.
2. Mason Crosby Field-Goal in San Francisco
Over recent years I’ve developed a dislike for the 49ers, so this was particularly sweet at the time, long before the sour that followed. A near flawless first half put Green Bay in a great position to win the game. Some special teams contributions opened the door for the 49ers and late on Jimmy G led them down the field for a go ahead touchdown. I genuinely couldn’t believe what I was seeing and, like most, assumed we were done. Aaron Rodgers assumed different. Two great throws to Adams, including one laser over the outstretched Fred Warner, put Green Bay in field goal range. Crosby sealed the deal as the clock ran down and gave the Packers a most unlikely victory.
1. Rasul Douglas Interception
Which one you might ask. The one that jumps out as the bona-fide moment of the season is the one from Thursday Night Football on the road to the Cardinals. The undefeated Cardinals came into this game facing a Packers team devoid of almost all of its receiving talent. Not for the first time, Matt LaFleur engineered a game plan to deliver a W against the odds. Inside two minutes and starting deep in his own half, Kyler Murray drove his team into the redzone. Momentum was on their side, Green Bay had a less than terrific redzone defense. Somehow, a mix up between Murray and AJ Green led to a Douglas pick in the end zone. Queue wild celebrations among Packers players, coaching staff and fans. Arizona’s subsequent collapse can be pinpointed to this moment. In a game of inches…
So there it is. My top five highlights from this season. Number one wasn’t what I was hoping and I’m writing it two weeks early, but a look back can sometimes help lift the mood and force me to remember that the lows may be low but the highs are most definitely high and we had some pretty big highs this season.