NFC North: Jonathan Babineaux

A (forgotten) drive for the ages

November, 30, 2010
11/30/10
11:38
AM ET
Jordy NelsonAP Photo/Dave MartinThe Packers' 16-play, 90-yard drive toward the end of the game culminated in a 10-yard TD pass to Jordy Nelson. But it wasn't enough for Green Bay.
Sixteen plays.

Ninety yards.

The touchdown on fourth-and-goal with 56 seconds remaining.

Had the Green Bay Packers won Sunday's game at the Georgia Dome, we would still be discussing the absolutely epic drive that pulled them into a tie with the Atlanta Falcons in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers masterfully guided the Packers downfield, earning the highest praise imaginable from his coach. He bought himself seven seconds on the final play before firing toward receiver Jordy Nelson in the end zone.

"I have never seen a quarterback in my time here play to that level in the passing game," said coach Mike McCarthy, who employed Brett Favre for his first two seasons in Green Bay.

The drive was soon rendered moot by Atlanta place-kicker Matt Bryant's 47-yard field goal. But while we have a break in the action this week, let's take a moment to relive each play and record it for posterity.

Down and distance: First-and-10 from the GB 10-yard line
Packers personnel set: 3 WR, 1 TE (in backfield), 1 RB
Falcons rush: Four pass-rushers
The play: Packers tailback Brandon Jackson takes a shotgun handoff and follows tight end Andrew Quarless through the left side of the line for a 5-yard gain. A run play to start it off is smart not only because of field position, but also to remind the Falcons' defense that another could come at any time.

Down and distance: Second-and-5 from the GB 15
Packers personnel set: 3 WR, 1 TE (in slot), 1 RB
Falcons rush: Four
The play: Rodgers throws 11 yards to Quarless.

Down and distance: First-and-10 from GB 26
Packers personnel set: 3 WR, 1 TE (in slot), 1 RB
Falcons rush: Four
The play: Jackson catches a screen pass but is tackled for no gain by Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson, whom Packers receiver James Jones failed to block.

Down and distance: Second-and-15 from GB 21 (after a false start on left guard Daryn Colledge)
Packers personnel set: 3 WR, 1 TE (in slot), 1 RB
Falcons rush: Five, including blitzing safety William Moore
The play: Rodgers hits Quarless in the seam for 19 yards. Falcons left end Kroy Biermann broke free on the pass rush, but Jackson nudged him just as Rodgers released the ball.

Down and distance: First-and-10 from GB 40
Packers personnel set: 3 WR, 1 TE (as an H-back), 1 RB
Falcons rush: Four
The play: Jackson takes another shotgun handoff and finds an 8-yard crease after right guard Josh Sitton turns out Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux.

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
AP Photo/Paul AbellAaron Rodgers was 7-of-12 on the drive and he ran for a first down.
Down and distance: Second-and-2 from GB 48
Packers personnel set: 3 WR, 1 TE (in slot), 1 RB
Falcons rush: Four
The play: Rodgers scrambles around right end for 7 yards and a first down.

Down and distance: First-and-10 from ATL 45
Packers personnel set: 3 WR, 1 TE (Tom Crabtree on the line), 1 RB
Falcons rush: Three
The play: With eight men in coverage, Rodgers tries to thread a needle to receiver Greg Jennings. Falcons cornerback Thomas DeCoud nearly intercepts.

Down and distance: Second-and-10 from ATL 45
Packers personnel set: 3 WR (Jordy Nelson replaces Donald Driver), 1 TE (Crabtree in slot), 1 RB
Falcons rush: Four (after bluffing a blitz)
The play: Rodgers throws 15 yards to Jennings on the right sideline.

Down and distance: First-and-10 from ATL 30
Packers personnel set: 3 WR, 1 TE (Quarless back in slot), 1 RB
Falcons rush: Three
The play: Rodgers dumps off the ball to Jackson for a 9-yard reception.

Down and distance: Second-and-1 from ATL 21
Packers personnel set: 3 WR, 1 TE (in slot), 1 RB
Falcons rush: Three
The play: Rodgers escapes pressure and throws to Jones in the corner of the end zone, but DeCoud pushes him out of bounds. It's Rodgers' longest attempt of the drive.

Down and distance: Third-and-1 from ATL 21
Packers personnel set: 3 WR, 1 TE (in slot), 1 RB
Falcons rush: Five on a zone blitz
The play: Center Scott Wells appears to snap the ball before Rodgers is ready. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon comes free up the middle, and Rodgers basically throws the ball away. Jackson's back is turned when the ball hits the turf.

Down and distance: Fourth-and-1 from ATL 21
Packers personnel set: Empty (5 WR)
Falcons rush: Three
The play: Rodgers can't find an open receiver at first. He buys more time and eventually improvises a shovel pass to Jones, who turns it into a 18-yard play.

Down and distance: First-and-goal from ATL 3
Packers personnel set: Empty
Falcons rush: Three
The play: Rodgers holds the ball for six seconds, looking for a receiver. Falcons defensive lineman John Abraham strip-sacks him, but Rodgers recovers the fumble.

Down and distance: Second-and-goal from ATL 6 (after the two-minute warning)
Packers personnel set: 4 WR, 1 RB
Falcons rush: Seven on a heavy blitz.
The play: Rodgers throws quickly and incomplete toward Jones.

Down and distance: Third-and-goal from ATL 6
Packers personnel set: 4 WR, 1 RB
Falcons rush: Three
The play: Weatherspoon sniffs out a screen pass to Jackson, limiting it to a 1-yard gain.

Down and distance: Fourth-and-goal from ATL 10 (After a Bryan Bulaga false start)
Packers personnel set: Empty
Falcons rush: Three
The play: Rodgers buys himself seven seconds by drifting toward the left sideline. Nelson, who began the play in the left slot, streaks to the sideline. Rodgers later said he kept his eyes off Nelson for as long as possible to prevent a second Falcons defender from chasing him. As it was, Nelson had a step on DeCoud and got both feet in bounds before falling to the ground.

Rodgers operated out of the no-huddle throughout the drive, calling many of the plays and benefiting from McCarthy's personnel usage. For 10 of the 16 plays, McCarthy used three receivers, one tight end and one running back. That ambiguous set, which offers opportunities to run or pass, kept the Falcons off balance.

The Falcons also played back in coverage for most of the series, sending four or fewer pass-rushers on 14 of the 16 plays. But Rodgers refused to force anything downfield, and all eight of his completions went for fewer than 20 yards. He scrambled for one first down, bought himself as much time as possible in the red zone and made a safe but creative play to convert the first fourth down.

"We enjoyed the heck out of that drive," Rodgers said. "It was nice. Mike [McCarthy] gave me some freedom in that drive and we made some good plays. We were all tired. I think every person on the field was tired, both sides of the ball, but to get that in for a touchdown and have that high of tying it up was pretty special. But we lost the game."

Yes, they did. And that's the only reason we haven't spent more time discussing that drive. So let's put it in our back pocket and see whether the Packers can build from it as they attempt to catch the Chicago Bears in a five-week race for the NFC North title.

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