GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers referenced Cal-Stanford, of course.
All the Packers, including Rodgers, were certainly glad the play didn’t make the historical archives like the famous 1982 lateral-filled college kickoff return did.
But boy, was it close.
“It looked like they had something,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “I ain’t gonna lie to you, it looked like they had something.”
Chicago definitely did. On the final play of the Packers’ 21-13 triumph on Sunday, the Bears eschewed a Hail Mary from the Green Bay 34-yard line and decided to complete a short pass and try to lateral their way to the end zone instead.
It very well could have worked, partly because the Packers were expecting the Hail Mary, so the change-up caught them off-guard.
Running back Tarik Cohen grabbed Mitch Trubisky’s pass around the 30-yard line, ran another 10 yards, and pitched the ball back to Trubisky. He dropped it, scooped it up off the frozen Lambeau Field turf, avoided Kyler Fackrell to stay alive for a few yards, and lateraled to tight end Jesper Horsted around the 15.
As Horsted started angling to his right toward the pylon, suddenly the Bears did indeed have “something,” like Williams said. Receivers Anthony Miller and Allen Robinson were both to Horsted’s right, and they might have had the Packers outflanked.
“I think we’ve all seen clips of the play in the ‘Big Game’,” Rodgers said, drawing on his alma mater Cal’s immortal finish to beat rival Stanford 37 years ago, one year before the Packers QB was born. “Just finish the play.”
It was almost too late for the defense to do so. Had Horsted lateraled the ball to Robinson around the 10, with Miller in front of him to block, Robinson might have scored. But Horsted took a step or two too many, and by the time he tried to pitch it, he was being dragged down by Chandon Sullivan, and the lateral was low and forward, caroming off someone’s leg toward the end zone.
At that point, only Horsted, by rule, could have recovered the ball for the play to be legal. Williams recovered it for the Packers inside the 5, and the sighs of relief were exhaled.
“That last play, that was scary,” defensive lineman Kenny Clark said.
Robinson could be seen begging for the ball and was clearly upset when it didn’t come to him sooner. Horsted, an undrafted rookie from Princeton, is going to kick himself when he sees the film. Chicago was eliminated from playoff contention Sunday.