NFL Nation: Tom Brown

Bart StarrJohn Biever/Icon SMI
We 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.

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Which is the most memorable play in Packers history?

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Discuss (Total votes: 43,163)

When the voting closed on Thursday, Starr's play finished as a landslide winner over Brett Favre's 54-yard touchdown pass to Andre Rison in Super Bowl XXXI and 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.
Dave Robinson laughs when NFL teams abandon linebacker coverage for tight ends and instead scour the country for big safeties and cornerbacks. Because of all his accomplishments, Robinson might be most proud of the work he did as a speedy linebacker against the best tight ends of the 1960s and '70s.

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Robinson
And it was his performances against Pro Football Hall of Fame tight ends Mike Ditka, John Mackey and Jackie Smith that convinced him that he, too, belonged in Canton, Ohio. Finally, 50 years after his career began with the Green Bay Packers, and 38 years after his retirement, Robinson will be enshrined Saturday.

"I knew who I played against," Robinson said recently, "and almost every tight end in the Hall of Fame, I played against and had good games against. I played with or against a lot of people in the Hall of Fame, and I thought I could compare my career with them. I know how others played, and I knew in my heart. These guys were Hall of Famers -- the Mike Ditkas, the John Mackeys, the Jackie Smiths -- and I knew I was in the same league."

Robinson said he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds when he left Penn State in 1963. His speed helped him intercept 27 passes in his career, a total bettered by only eight AFL/NFL linebackers since 1960.

But as fast as he was, Robinson's strategy for defending tight ends had nothing to do with running. Be it in the 1960s or the 2010s, Robinson believes, the only way to stop a good pass-catching tight end is to hit him at the line of scrimmage.

"I loved to contact the tight ends," he said. "You don't have to knock him down, but if you can jam him, it throws the route off something terrible. I'm frustrated when I see third-and-6, third-and-8, and these tight ends get of the line because no one contacts them. One problem is that these linebackers are 6 yards off. I would ease up to the line of scrimmage and jam them at 4 or 5 yards. Make their life [tough]. If they do that, maybe the tight ends wouldn't be leading receivers."

Jamming the tight end was no more of a glory job in the 1960s than it is now. But here's how fellow Packers Hall of Famer Herb Adderley, who played cornerback between 1961-69, described it:

"He was one of the few linebackers in the league that could hold up the tight ends at the line of scrimmage, great tight ends like Mike Ditka and John Mackey. What people don’t realize is that Dave holding up the tight end gave [safety] Tom Brown more time to diagnose the play and to cover the tight end. It helped the defensive linemen to get in and rush the quarterback, because it would throw the timing off and the quarterback would have to hold the ball longer. It also helped me when I was covering the split end."

On Sunday, Robinson finally will receive the recognition for the otherwise unnoticed contributions he made to the Packers' glory years.

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