Sports

Counting down the 10 best wins of the Mike McCarthy era

Though the Packers’ offseason has been in full swing for nearly a month now, there is still a little less than a week until the league’s offseason officially begins. That means the 2018 season is still technically in progress, and though it has been almost two months since Green Bay made the decision to move on from Mike McCarthy as head coach, the new era of Packers football won’t fully commence until the new league year begins in March.

As it stands, McCarthy sits second among Packers’ head coaches with 125 regular season wins, and his 10 postseason victories are tops in Green Bay history. Before the page officially turns on the McCarthy era, I thought it would be fun to revisit some of the Packers’ greatest triumphs during his time at the helm. Obvious preface: These rankings are based solely on my personal opinion and are open to discussion. Let’s get started.

10. October 24, 2010 — Packers 28, Vikings 24

Part of McCarthy’s legacy in Green Bay will always be the part he played in the handling of Brett Favre’s retirement flip-flopping and subsequent departure from the team. Favre didn’t exactly take kindly to McCarthy’s willingness to move forward with Aaron Rodgers as the team’s starting quarterback, and after spending one forgettable year with the Jets, the old gunslinger took his talents to the one place sure to leave the Packers and their fans seeing red: Minnesota.

After two defeats at the hands of their former legend in 2009, Green Bay–the city and the team–was hungry for a win and a sense of closure to the saga. They got their chance in a primetime game at Lambeau, and they took care of business. Rodgers threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns, while the defense forced three Favre interceptions. The changing of the guard was complete, and Green Bay would go on to win its first Super Bowl title in 19 years.

9. September 9, 2018 — Packers 24, Bears 23

After a disappointing 2017 campaign that saw Aaron Rodgers lost for the majority of the season, expectations were sky high for the Packers in 2018. With the franchise promoting their 100 Seasons celebration, it was almost a no-brainer for Green Bay to open the regular season at home against their longest-standing rival.

Things did not go as planned. Rodgers left the game with a knee injury in the second quarter, and a sense of doom engulfed Lambeau Field. Trailing 17-0 at halftime, Rodgers emerged from the tunnel and took the field for the second half. After three quarters, the Packers had gained no ground, trailing 20-3 with 15 minutes to play. What ensued was absolute magic from Rodgers, who threw three touchdown passes in the final quarter, including a 75-yarder to Randall Cobb, giving the Packers their first lead and completing the largest fourth quarter comeback in franchise history.

8. November 30, 2014 — Packers 26, Patriots 21

The first matchup featuring Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady as starting quarterbacks was a dandy. Green Bay entered the game at 8-3, New England at 9-2, with many viewing it as a potential Super Bowl preview. Green Bay rode Rodgers (368 yards, two touchdowns) and Eddie Lacy (21 carries, 98 yards), as well as a breakout performance from rookie wideout Davante Adams (six catches, 121 yards), to victory, cementing themselves as legitimate contenders in the NFC.

7. January 15, 2011 — Packers 48, Falcons 21

In what will go down as one of the greatest games of Aaron Rodgers’ career, the Packers flew to Atlanta to take on the number one-seeded Atlanta Falcons in the 2010 Divisional round. After falling behind 14-7 on a 102-yard kickoff return by Atlanta’s Eric Weems early in the second quarter, Green Bay exploded for 35 unanswered points, putting the game essentially out of reach by the end of the third quarter. Rodgers finished 31 of 36 on the night, throwing for 366 yards and three touchdowns, while adding a rushing score for good measure. The victory catapulted the Packers into the NFC Championship Game the following week in Chicago.

6. December 15, 2013 — Packers 37, Cowboys 36

I bet you didn’t think you’d see a Rodgers or Favre-less game on this list. The Packers lost Rodgers to a broken collarbone in week nine of the 2013 season, and had gone 1-4-1 in his absence with Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn all taking a turn at quarterback. Coming into the game at 6-6-1, Green Bay was looking to stay afloat in the playoff race, and things were not looking good early on.

Green Bay trailed 26-3 at halftime, though the defense did force Dallas to settle for field goals four times in the first half, which would prove immensely important as the game played out. After cutting the deficit to 29-17 at the end of the third quarter, Green Bay would outscore the Cowboys 20-7 in the final frame to emerge victorious. Matt Flynn threw for 299 yards and four touchdowns, Eddie Lacy ran 21 times for 141 yards and a score, and Sam Shields and Tramon Willams both recorded key interceptions in the stunning comeback.

5. January 12, 2008 — Packers 42, Seahawks 20

The 2007 NFC Divisional game, better known as the “Snow Globe” game, was the epitome of what cold weather football at Lambeau Field should be. With snow enveloping the stadium, the Packers fell behind 14-0 within the first five minutes. They proceeded to outscore Seattle 42 to six the rest of the way, led by an incredible performance by running back Ryan Grant, who rushed for 201 yards and three scores on 27 carries despite two early fumbles. Favre threw three touchdowns of his own in what would ultimately be his final win as a Packer.

4. December 29, 2013 — Packers 33, Bears 28

After treading water and going 2-5-1 during Aaron Rodgers’ stint on IR, the Packers somehow found themselves in a win-and-in scenario for the NFC North title heading into Chicago for week 17 of the 2013 season. The drama was high for the two oldest rivals in the league to go toe-to-toe for a playoff spot, and the spotlight got even hotter when Rodgers was cleared to return for the first time since breaking his collarbone against the Bears eight weeks earlier.

After leading 13-7 at halftime, Green Bay found themselves trailing by one after three quarters. Green Bay pulled to within 28-27 early in the fourth quarter and, after forcing a Bears punt, took possession at their own 13-yard line with six and half minutes to play. Over the course of 14 plays, including two fourth down conversions, the Packers made their way to the Chicago 48-yard line.

The 15th play of the drive proved to be one of the most dramatic in recent memory. As Rodgers took a shotgun snap, fullback John Kuhn managed to chip Bears’ defensive end Julius Peppers just enough to allow Rodgers to break the pocket. Meanwhile, wideout Randall Cobb took advantage of a blown coverage in the Chicago secondary, streaking all alone down the left seam. Rodgers lofted a pass into the waiting arms of Cobb, who took it the rest of the way for the game-winning score, giving the Packers their third consecutive NFC North title.

3. January 15, 2017 — Packers 34, Cowboys 31

In the most memorable game of the “run the table” season, Green Bay and Dallas treated the nation to one of the most entertaining playoff games in history. The Packers took a 28-13 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Cowboys responded with 15 straight points to tie the game with just over four minutes to go. Within a span of three and half minutes, Mason Crosby and Dan Bailey traded 50-plus yard field goals and the game was knotted at 31 with 35 seconds left.

Green Bay picked up a quick first down on a 17-yard pass to Ty Montgomery, and Rodgers somehow held on to the ball during a vicious sack by Dallas safety Jeff Heath. An incomplete pass on second down set up arguably the greatest pass of Rodgers’ career to date. On third down, Rodgers rolled left and fired a pass down the left sideline, where tight end Jared Cook made the grab while falling out of bounds at the Dallas 32-yard line. Replay confirmed Cook was somehow able to tip-toe the sideline, and the 36-yard completion set up Crosby for the game-winning 51-yard field goal as time expired.

2. January 23, 2011 — Packers 21, Bears 14

One week after blowing the Falcons out of the water in Atlanta, Green Bay hit the road to Soldier Field for the most important game in the history of the Packers-Bears rivalry, with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. The scoring was sparse, though the Packers used touchdown runs from Aaron Rodgers and James Starks to build a 14-0 lead at halftime. After a scoreless third quarter, the Bears broke through early in the fourth on a six-yard Chester Taylor run, cutting the Green Bay lead to 14-7.

With just over six minutes left in the game, Packers’ defensive tackle B.J. Raji dropped into pass coverage, fooling Chicago quarterback Caleb Hanie, a third-string player who entered the game after injuries to starter Jay Cutler and backup Todd Collins. Hanie fired a pass right into Raji’s chest, and the big man rumbled 18 yards for a touchdown. The Bears would climb within 21-14, but their last gasp was extinguished on a Sam Shields interception that sealed the NFC title for Green Bay.

1. February 6, 2011 — Packers 31, Steelers 25

After winning road games in Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Chicago, the Packers’ march through the 2010 playoffs reached its apex in North Texas. On the game’s biggest stage, Green Bay’s biggest players showed up. Rodgers threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns, Jordy Nelson caught nine passes for 140 yards and a score, and Greg Jennings caught four balls for 64 yards and two more touchdowns. Defensively, Nick Collins’ pick-six in the first quarter put the Packers up 14-0, and Clay Matthews forced a crucial fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter, setting up a Rodgers to Jennings touchdown that extended the Green Bay lead to 28-17. After forcing a turnover on downs with under a minute left, Rodgers kneeled down twice, and the Packers had captured their first championship since Super Bowl XXXI.

Top photo: Reuters

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