NFC North: Verne Lewellen
July, 11, 2014
By Rob Demovsky | ESPN.com
John Biever/Icon SMIWe have a winner. The voters picked Bart Starr's quarterback sneak for a touchdown to win the Ice Bowl as the Packers' most memorable play, and I applaud their selection.
Score: Packers 21, Cowboys 17
Date: Dec. 31, 1967 Site: Lambeau Field
From the moment we began soliciting nominations for the Green Bay Packers' three most memorable plays, Bart Starr's quarterback sneak for a touchdown to win the Ice Bowl was mentioned more often than any other play.
So it should come as no surprise that it was the runaway winner in the voting.
Few NFL franchises have one defining play like that, but Starr's sneak ranks up there with the Immaculate Reception and The Catch.
Aaron Rodgers' third-and-10 completion to Greg Jennings to help clinch Super Bowl XLV.
What was most interesting in researching this project was that there was no consensus on the most memorable plays from Super Bowls XXXI and XLV. There was just as much support for Desmond Howard's 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that helped him win the Super Bowl XXXI MVP. Likewise in Super Bowl XLV, strong cases could be made for Nick Collins' interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter and Clay Matthews' forced fumble that thwarted a potential go-ahead drive by the Steelers in the fourth quarter.
Unlike Starr's sneak, no one play won Super Bowls XXXI or XVL.
And that is why Starr's play was so special.
As we wrap up this project, it's also worth noting some of the other plays that were considered, thanks in part to input from readers and other longtime observers of the team.
Among the others:
- Don Hutson's first touchdown, an 83-yarder in 1935.
- Dave Robinson drilling Don Meredith, leading to Tom Brown's interception to beat the Cowboys in the 1966 NFL Championship.
- Herb Adderley's interception against the Lions in a 1962 regular-season game to set up the game-winning field goal in a 9-7 victory.
- Chester Marcol's blocked field goal that he ran in for a touchdown to beat the Bears in 1980.
- Don Majkowski to Sterling Sharpe for a 14-yard touchdown pass in 1989 against the Bears in what is known as the Instant Replay Game.
- Favre to Sharpe in Detroit for a 40-yard touchdown with 55 seconds remaining in a 1994 playoff game.
- Antonio Freeman's "Monday Night Miracle" catch to beat the Vikings in 2000.
- B.J. Raji's interception return for a touchdown against the Bears in the NFC Championship Game in 2011.
- The "Fail Mary" play against the Seahawks in 2012.
The problem with some of those plays is they were either flukes or meaningless plays in meaningless games. Oh, and there was one other play that a longtime Packers observer was convinced would be the most important play in team history if there more details about it were available. It was a punt, said to be nearly 90 yards by Verne Lewellen in a 1929 game against the New York Giants. That punt pinned the Giants deep in their own territory and helped secure a victory that was the difference between the teams in the standings (there were no playoffs at that time). The Packers, with a 12-0-1 record, won the championship over the Giants, whose only loss was to the Packers. It gave the Packers their first championship and, because it happened in New York, helped the Packers capture the attention of the powerful New York media. However, reports from that game do not clearly describe Lewellen's punt.
In the end, Starr's sneak is the play that has been, and likely will continue to be, the most memorable.