Top plays of the Packers regular season: Defense

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Green Bays' Damarious Randall celebrates a defensive play with Blake Martinez, left, and Micah Hyde, right, during a game in 2016.

TOP PLAYS: Final three

It was a regular season of stellar highs and frustrating lows for the Green Bay defense in 2016.

The highlights included a dominating performance and five interceptions of Russell Wilson at Lambeau Field in a stunning 38-10 rout of the Seattle Seahawks and big plays to help secure road victories in Jacksonville and Chicago.

The lowlights were a midseason four-game losing streak in which the defense surrendered 153 points, an average of 38 points per contest. Coordinator Dom Capers’ unit struggled in coverage all season after losing top cornerback Sam Shields in the season-opener and dealing with injured starters and backups for the next 15 games.

The defense ranked 21st in points allowed per game (24.2) and 22nd in total defense (363.9), but rose up to turn a turnover ratio deficit into a plus-8 advantage during Green Bay’s do-or-die six-game winning streak to claim the NFC North Division title.

This week, Packer Plus presents our list of the five top plays by Green Bay’s defense in the regular season. Vote for your favorite top play here or in our poll at the end of this story (note: some users may need to refresh this page to see the poll).

Here are the plays in chronological order:


Packers 27, Jaguars 23; Sept. 11 at EverBank Field

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Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns is taken down by Packers defenders to seal a Week 1 victory.

In steamy Jacksonville, Green Bay did just enough in to win their season opener, including a defensive stand to seal the victory.

After the Green Bay offense failed to garner a first down on its final drive and potentially run out the clock with a 27-23 lead, Jacksonville marched down the field and faced fourth-and-1 at the Packers’ 14-yard line with 23 seconds remaining.

Randall made the big play, spearheading a gang tackle of receiver Allen Hurns, who caught a quick bubble pass on the right from QB Blake Bortles. Micah Hyde, Morgan Burnett, and Joe Thomas were also in the tackle that went for a one-yard loss.

“It came down to a gutty play from our defense,” said head coach Mike McCarthy. “That was the stop of the day.”


Packers 38, Seahawks 10, Dec. 11 at Lambeau Field

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Damarious Randall looks for room to run after intercepting Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson near the goal line before halftime.

It was Green Bay’s most impressive victory of the regular season, a game in which the defense dominated with a mind-boggling five interceptions of Wilson — a career worst for the star QB — and limited the potent Seahawks offense to a single touchdown and field goal.

Coordinator Dom Capers’ maligned unit had been gashed in the previous month, yielding 33 points in Atlanta, 31 to Indianapolis, 47 in Tennessee, and 42 in Washington.

Randall made the highlight reels with his interception near the goal line in the final 30 seconds of the first half with Green Bay leading, 21-3. Wilson was attempting to make a big play to close that gap before intermission. He scrambled out of the pocket and launched a 40-yard pass to a seemingly open Baldwin at the 3-yard line.

Randall came streaking in and leapt to grab the football at the 4. His momentum carried him into the end zone, and he returned the ball to the Packers’ 22-yard line to squash the drive. It was the first of two interceptions for Randall in the game.


Packers 30, Bears 27; Dec. 18 at Soldier Field

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Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix intercepts a pass intended for Bears tight end Daniel Brown.

Clinton-Dix’s team-leading fourth interception of the season was a key turnover with Green Bay holding a 13-10 lead with 9:43 remaining in the third quarter.

Matt Barkley had all day to throw, but badly overthrew tight end Daniel Brown at the Packers’ 33-yard line. Clinton-Dix jumped high and snared the ball with two hands at the 28, and then began his return up the left sideline.

The Green Bay safety then reversed field and was tackled at the 42-yard line. The Packers capitalized and led, 27-10, at the end of the quarter, but the Bears stormed back to tie the game, 27-27, late in the fourth quarter.


Packers 30, Bears 27; Dec. 18 at Soldier Field

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Packers defensive back Micah Hyde is congratulated by safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix after Hyde broke up a pass near the goal line.

What will be remembered most is Mason Crosby’s game-winning field goal as time expired and the Aaron Rodgers-to-Jordy Nelson 60-yard bomb to set it up. But Green Bay’s epic final drive began with a stop by the Packers defense, which held the streaking Chicago offense to a field goal.

Facing third-and-goal at the Green Bay 4-yard line with 1:27 remaining, the Packers had no timeouts and were clinging to a 27-24 lead. The Packers began the play with just 10 men on the field as nose tackle Letroy Guion rumbled down the sideline and joined his defensive teammates in time for a blitz of Barkley.

Barkley made a quick throw to the left sideline intended for Meredith, but Hyde was there to knock it down and Chicago settled for the game-tying field goal.


Packers 38, Vikings 25; Dec. 24 at Lambeau Field

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Packers linebacker Clay Matthews jars the ball loose from Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford on a sack. The ball was recovered by the Packers’ Mike Daniels.

Nursing an injured shoulder, the six-time Pro Bowl linebacker was limited in the last seven games of the season, playing through pain. In a must-win game against division rival Minnesota, Matthews made a game-changing play with one minute left in the second quarter and Green Bay clinging to a 21-13 lead.

Lined up far right, he simply blew around Vikings left tackle T.J. Clemmings and had a free shot on Bradford from his blind side. Matthews blasted the Minnesota QB in the back as he was set to throw. The ball popped out and was recovered on the turf by defensive lineman Mike Daniels.

“That’s No. 52 doing what he does best,” Fox announcer Joe Buck said.

TOP PLAYS: Offense | Special teams

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