The phrase “game changer” can have many meanings. It can be a play that sends a message, changes momentum, affects the score, cripples another team, etc. To me, I always include an incredible individual effort into the equation.
I look for individual players chasing perfection and catching excellence during the game. Players and plays that would make Vince Lombardi proud.
Of course, this is very subjective. I’m sure many of you will have different opinions, and I want to hear them. But for me, here are my three plays, in order of importance:
PLAY #3: Sam Shields Sends a Message:
The speed and talent that the Philadelphia Eagles have at wide receiver is no secret. They have won many a game with big plays down the field to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Eight minutes into the first half, the Eagles decided to take their first shot.
As could be expected, they went after undrafted rookie Sam Shields. Seeing Shields with single coverage on Maclin, the Eagles tried to setup Shields and catch him looking in the backfield. As Vick give a half roll to his left and pump fakes, Maclin takes a few jog steps like he’s not involved and then suddenly turns on the burners.
You really couldn’t have blamed Shields if he had started drifting toward the middle of the field, but he didn’t. You couldn’t have blamed Shields if he had let Maclin got behind him, but he didn’t. You couldn’t have blamed Shields if allowed Maclin to pull in a picture-perfect pass from Vick, but he didn’t.
Instead, on this play, Shields looked every much like the Pro Bowler that Tramon Williams should be. While we can expect Shields’ speed to be an asset, could we really expect a guy in only his second year playing the position to execute his coverage so perfectly while running at top speed? To stay shoulder to shoulder with him the whole way, not get called for interference, make a perfect play on the ball (preventing the catch by Maclin) and almost coming up with the ball himself?
This might be the most impressive coverage play I’ve seen all season, and it sent a message to the Eagles – you will not beat us with the bomb today. You will need to earn your points the hard way. A tone-setting play if I ever saw one.
Play #2 Brandon Jackson Salvages the TD Opportunity.
Midway through the third quarter, with the Packers holding on to a tenuous 14-10 lead (thank you James Jones), the Packers were on the tail end of a classic momentum re-claiming drive. There were two big third down completions during that drive and the Packers found themselves with a first and goal on the nine yard line.
Starks gains 3 yards on first down and then Daryn Colledge is called for a very questi0nable holding penalty, and the Packers suddenly find themselves with a second and goal on the sixteen. That means they have 2 plays to score a touchdown, or the drive will have to end in a field goal.
Brandon Jackson shows the perfect blend of patience and decisiveness on the screen play. AWaiting just long enough for his wall of blockers to get in front of him, but then picking his hole and just bursting through it. If you watch the play closely, the linemen hardly lay a hand on anyone (Scott Wells helps a little) and the key block is actually by WR James Jones.
But Jackson puts on a little burst at the right time which prevents him from getting taken down from behind by a diving Eagles player (the same one James Jones had just blocked). Then Jackson and the lineman all just rumble into the endzone together.
It was truly a fantastic individual effort by Jackson and a crucial difference in the scoreboard. Had the Packers been forced to settle for a field goal, the Packers’ lead is seven points, instead of eleven. When the Eagles later score, instead of having to try for the two point conversion, they kick the extra point and the game would be tied at 17.
That also means the Eagles would not have had to try to score a touchdown later on, and David Akers would have been given a chance to atone for his misses with a potential game winning kick, instead.
And yes, you can argue that a 17-17 game then changes the Packers’ offensive philosophy and they don’t play so close to the vest on their last 2 drives. But that’s purely hypothetical – while it could have resulted in a Packers score, it could also have resulted in a Packers turnover and a score for the Eagles, so we can’t use that argument.
Long story short, getting the touchdown here changed the whole endgame for both teams and the five point differential most likely insured the Packers the victory.
Play #1 Desmond Bishop Earns his New Fat Paycheck
What can you say about this play? 1:45 left in the game, the Packers protecting a five point lead. Desean Jackson catches the ball underneath, avoids Nick Collins and is on his way to the touchdown. Only Tramon Williams would have had a chance to make a stop, but the Eagles had two players about to block him.
My heart is dropping as I realize the Eagles are about to take the lead, when…
What to my wondering eyes should appear, but Desmond Bishop, who had been nowhere near.
Bishop comes from the other side of the field, takes the perfect angle, never hesitates, dives full out, and gets a few fingers on Jackson’s right foot. It’s just enough to trip up Jackson and disaster is averted.
This has to win the 2010 award for greatest individual effort when it was needed the most. Amazing, Desmond, just amazing.
Those are my three. What are yours?——————
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.