Four Plays Out of 2,663: Blown Hail Mary

The Packers' season went down in flames against the Giants, due in large part to four colossal blunders. We look at those four big plays in this four-part series, with perspective provided by a review of the game and conversations with the coaching staff.

With Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy's season-ending press conference on Wednesday, the Lambeau Field Media Auditorium will sit empty until sometime in mid-April, when general manager Ted Thompson delivers his always-informative pre-draft talk.

Between offense, defense and special teams, the Packers battled for 2,663 snaps during their 17 games. Four of those plays are why the only loud noise at Lambeau Field is coming from construction vehicles.

A couple plays, of course, are what big games between good teams boil down to more often than not. Just look at last year's Super Bowl. Where would the Packers have been without Howard Green's unexpected pass rush setting up Nick Collins' pick-six? Or without Clay Matthews' fumble-forcing tackle of Rashard Mendenhall? Or without Aaron Rodgers' clutch third-down completion to Greg Jennings in the fourth quarter?

Here is the second of the four plays, based on review of the game and with viewpoints from the coaches.

Hail Mary disaster

Where are the defenders in front of Nicks?
Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire
This is the defining play of the game. The Packers are about to head into halftime facing a 13-10 deficit, but with the ball coming out of halftime, they were primed to seize control. After all, the Packers finished second in the NFL in third-quarter scoring (150 points) and third-quarter scoring differential (plus-84). In the seven games in which they deferred after winning the opening coin toss, the offense scored touchdowns four times.

All of that went down the drain, though. An inexcusable 23-yard run by Ahmad Bradshaw set up Eli Manning's 37-yard rainbow to Hakeem Nicks.

On the play, three receivers line up to the left against cornerbacks Jarrett Bush, Sam Shields and linebacker Desmond Bishop. Inexplicably, Bush and Shields wound up trailing on the play. By the time Nicks reached the goal line and had turned to the ball, Bush was at the 6-yard line and Shields at the 8. At that point, it was three Giants receivers against just two Packers defenders: Charlie Peprah and Charles Woodson.

"Three guys went vertical," cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. "We have three guys underneath it that have to be close to the body and then we have two jumpers (Peprah and Woodson) over the top. It should have been five on three."

How does that happen? Hail Marys are practiced every week at the start of Friday's practice that's open to reporters.

"That's what drives coaches crazy sometimes," safeties coach Darren Perry said. "That's why my hair is getting grayer. We practice it every Friday. We practice it several times. It gets a little boring, a little monotonous. You talk about the Wisconsin situation, how (the Badgers) lost two games, how it ruined their national championship. That's what drives coaches crazy. It's kind of typical of our whole season — plays that shouldn't have happened, happened, and you're just left to scratch your head as to why. It's been that type of season for us."

The play took the starch out of the Lambeau Field crowd and obviously provided a jolt for the Giants.

"Certainly, you don't ever want to give them that positive momentum going into the locker room," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "Over the years you say that'll never happen, but it does happen and we see it happen. When that balls up there, anything can happen.

"I think that play is probably similar to Tramon's interception in setting the tone going into the locker room in Atlanta in the playoffs last year. It just gives you such positive momentum going in because you've got one that you weren't counting on."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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