The 25 greatest playoff plays for the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl era

JR Radcliffe
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Will the 2021-22 NFL postseason yield the next great Packers playoff moments? 

The Green Bay Packers have extensive experience in the NFL postseason over the past three decades, not to mention their legendary performances in the pre-merger era. When you picture the great single moments in Packers playoff history, what flashes through your head? Is it the Ice Bowl? Desmond Howard? Al Harris? Favre to Sharpe? Rodgers to Jennings?

These are the 25 most iconic plays in Packers postseason history (during the Super Bowl era).

1. The Ice Bowl sneak (1967 season)

Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr (15) digs his face across the goal line to score the winning touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys to bring the Packers their third consecutive NFL championship, in Green Bay, Wis. The 1967 NFL Championship game was played in such frigid conditions at Lambeau Field that it is known in league annals as the “Ice Bowl.”

The 1967 NFL championship game, which launched the Packers into Super Bowl II, remains one of the most iconic moments in sports and the deep-freeze archetype that represents Packers football. Played in negative-13 temperatures and wind chills approaching 50 below zero, the nail-biting 21-17 win over the Cowboys came down to a sneak by Bart Starr with 16 seconds left on third and goal. Jerry Kramer and Ken Bowman threw the blocks that helped make it happen.

2. Desmond Howard (1996 season)

Text: Green Bay Packers Desmond Howard #81 streaks downfield for 99 yards on a kick off return for a touchdown against the New England Patriots for a Superbowl record, the first kickoff return for a TD in Superbowl history. Howard's heroics on this return and his punt return yardage were enough to win hi m the MVP in Super bowl XXXI during the Super Bowl, January 26, 1997 at the Superdome in New Orleans, La.(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel photo by Dale Guldan)

The Patriots had just pulled to within 27-21 in Super Bowl XXXI with 3:58 left in the third quarter. But everything changed when Desmond Howard took the kickoff at the 1-yard line and raced 99 yards down the field in 10 seconds for a touchdown that re-asserted Green Bay's control on the contest. The Packers won, 35-21, Howard won game MVP and the Lombardi Trophy came home after 29 years.

3. Nick Collins (2010 season)

Green Bay Packers' Nick Collins celebrates with Clay Matthews during Super Bowl XLV in 2011 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pick-sixes were a central part of the Packers' run to the Super Bowl XLV title, with one in each of the final three playoff games. In the first quarter of the 2010 finale, Nick Collins intercepted an errant pass from Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead, lunging through two defenders for the final yards. Defensive lineman Howard Green was in Roethlisberger's face when the pass was uncorked near the goal line, and Green Bay was on its way to a 31-25 victory.

4. BJ Raji (2010 season)

2011: Green Bay Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji returns an interception for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears in the 4th quarter at Soldiers Field in Chicago Sunday.

A 337-pound lineman dropping into coverage and intercepting a pass, then returning it for a touchdown? It's already a glorious scenario. Now, imagine it's against the heated rival Chicago Bears, accounting for the winning points in the NFC championship game. The Packers prevailed at Soldier Field, 21-14, in the first playoff meeting between the two squads since 1941. B.J. Raji's interception of backup quarterback Caleb Hanie was returned 18 yards, followed by a memorable celebratory dance and the feeling that the Packers were indeed headed to the Super Bowl.

5. The one-handed Max McGee catch (1966 season)

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Max McGee (85) makes a juggling touchdown catch during Super Bowl I, a 35-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on January 15, 1967, at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.   Super Bowl I - Kansas City Chiefs vs Green Bay Packers - January 15, 1967 (AP Photo/NFL Photos) ORG XMIT: NFLNY01 [Via MerlinFTP Drop]

Max McGee reached behind his body with one hand to reel in Bart Starr's pass over the middle, then ran it to the end zone for a 37-yard score and the first touchdown in Super Bowl history. That McGee had only caught five passes that season — playoffs included —  and was only in the game because of a Boyd Dowler injury made it all the better. Not only that, but the 34-year-old McGee's legend grew considerably when it was learned he was hung over from a night of partying.

McGee didn't get named MVP of Super Bowl I, but his seven catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns became one of the great single-game showings in Packers history. The Packers beat the Chiefs, 35-10.

More:Thirty of the best single-game playoff performances in Packers history

6. Favre to Sharpe (1993 season)

Sterlin Sharpe prepares to catch the game-winning touchdown pass with 55 seconds left against the Detroit Lions in 1994.

In the playoffs for the first time in 11 years, precocious young quarterback Brett Favre heaved a 40-yard touchdown pass across his body to an open Sterling Sharpe with 55 seconds left to give the Packers a thrilling 28-24 win over the host Detroit Lions in the wild-card round. The Packers lost the following week, but it kicked off a three-decade run of sustained success for the Packers franchise. Sharpe caught three touchdowns in the win.

More:It's been 25 years since this Packers playoff thriller ignited a run of excellence; here are their 10 most dramatic playoff triumphs

7. Al Harris (2003 season)

Green Bay Packers Al Harris intercepts a pass intended for Alex Bannister and runs it back for the game-winning 52-yard touchdown during overtime against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Jan. 4, 2004, at Lambeau Field.

Who can forget Matt Hasselbeck's doomed proclamation into the referee's microphone after the Seattle Seahawks won the overtime coin flip? "We'll take the ball, and we're gonna score." Instead, Hasselbeck threw a ball to Packers cornerback Al Harris, who went untouched the other way for a 52-yard pick-six that gave the Packers a 33-27 win in the wild-card round of the playoffs.

8. Jeff Janis (2015 season)

Green Bay Packers' Jeff Janis catches a touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers at the end of regulation, tying the game against the Arizona Cardinals on Jan. 16, 2016, at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

Perhaps it's too high on the list for a play that came in a loss. But that Arizona even needed overtime to beat the Packers in the divisional round, 26-20, was a bona fide miracle. After Jeff Janis caught a 60-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to convert on 4th and 20 in the final minute, Janis caught a Hail Mary as time expired, a 41-yard touchdown pass that allowed the Packers to tie the game. Larry Fitzgerald's 75-yard catch and run down near the goal line wound up spoiling the party, but the moment certainly cemented Janis's popularity in Green Bay.

9. Rodgers to Cook (2016 season)

Green Bay Packers' Jared Cook pulls down a first-down reception against Dallas Cowboys' Byron Jones at the end of the fourth quarter to set up the game-winning field goal to win their NFC Divisional playoff game 34-31 Sunday, January 15, 2017, at AT&T Staduim in Arlington, Texas.

Is it Aaron Rodgers' greatest pass as a Green Bay Packer? It's awfully hard to top the combination of skill and stakes. On third and 20 from the Packers' own 32 yard line, Rodgers rolled out of the pocket and found tight end Jared Cook for a 36-yard seed along the sideline, with Cook's feet tapping the ground in bounds before falling to the sideline to stop the clock with 3 seconds left. Mason Crosby drilled a game-winning field goal from there, and the Packers knocked off the top-seeded Cowboys in the divisional round, 34-31.

10. Goal line stop to reach first Super Bowl (1966 season)

1966 SEASON: Coach Vince Lombardi is carried off the field after his Green Bay Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys 34-27 in the NFL championship game Jan. 1, 1967 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The Packers went on to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the first Super Bowl.

If someone said "Packers vs. Cowboys in the NFL championship game just before the merger," you'd picture the Ice Bowl, right? But what about the year before, when the Cowboys had a fourth-down, last-gasp snap from the 2-yard line looking to tie the game in the final seconds? Dave Robinson nearly sacked Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith and instead coaxed an errant pass that Tom Brown hauled in for an interception in the end zone. Green Bay won the thriller, 34-27, and advanced to the first Super Bowl. Imagine how history changes if it's Dallas in that first AFL-NFL title game. It was Green Bay's 10th NFL championship.

11. 'It is time' (2010 season)

Green Bay Packers defenders Clay Matthews and Ryan Pickett (79) force a fumble by Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall (34) in the second half of Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, Texas, on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011.

The play added a new layer of immortality when video emerged of assistant coach Kevin Greene being caught on mic telling Clay Matthews before the snap, "It is time." But it was pretty crucial in the moment, too, when Matthews forced a fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter in Super Bowl XLV. Matthews knocked it loose from the hands of Rashard Mendenhall on a snap at Green Bay's 33-yard line, with the Packers nursing a 21-17 lead. Desmond Bishop recovered, the Packers scored on the ensuing drive, and Green Bay won the game, 31-25.

12. Freeman for 81 yards, or Rison for 54 (1996 season)

Text: Green Bay Packers Antonio Freeman is embraced by tackle John Michels (77) and Mark Chmura after scoring a second quarter tochdown against the New England Patriots during the Super Bowl, January 26, 1997 at the Superdome in New Orleans, La.(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel photo by Jeffrey Phelps)

With New England ahead, 14-10, Brett Favre took a first-down snap from the Packers 19-yard line and found Antonio Freeman behind his man along the sideline, turning it into an 81-yard touchdown pass that gave the Packers a lead they'd never give back in Super Bowl XXXI. It was the longest touchdown pass in Super Bowl history and remains No. 2 on the list. We could have just as easily put Andre Rison's touchdown catch here; he scored from 54 yards out on the second offensive snap of the game, dance-stepping his way into the end zone over the final few yards. The Packers beat the Patriots, 35-21.

13. Herb Adderley (1967 season)

Green Bay Packers cornerback Herb Adderley (26), intercepts a pass intended for Raiders receiver Fred Biletnikoff (25) during the fourth quarter of Green Bay’s 33-14 victory over Oakland in Super Bowl II at the Orange Bowl in Miami on Jan. 14, 1968. Press-Gazette archives

The Packers won Super Bowl II convincingly, 33-14, but Herb Adderley jumping a route and taking Daryle Lamonica's pass the other way for a 60-yard touchdown certainly removed any doubt. The pass was intended for Hall of Fame receiver Fred Biletnikoff, but it was the Hall of Fame cornerback scoring instead for the first defensive touchdown in Super Bowl history.

14. Tramon's pick-six (2010 season)

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 15:  Tramon Williams ##8 of the Green Bay Packers returns an interception 70-yards for a touchdown in the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons during their 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Georgia Dome on January 15, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

When Green Bay thrashed host Atlanta during the divisional round of a Super Bowl run, 48-21, it was Aaron Rodgers who understandably emerged as the star. But it helped to have Tramon Williams, too, who returned a Matt Ryan interception 70 yards for a stunning pick-six on the final play on the first half, when Atlanta was trying to scrape together some last-second magic and saw it backfire. The Packers had just scored 48 seconds earlier, and a tie game was suddenly a 28-14 Packers lead. Williams had two picks in the game and also had an interception that sealed the wild-card game the week before against Philadelphia. 

15. Levens comes down with it (1996 season)

Green Bay Packers' Dorsey Levens runs for 66 yards during the NFC Championship game against the Carolina Panthers on Jan. 12, 1997, in Green Bay, Wis.

The Carolina Panthers took a 7-0 lead in the NFC championship game — a fact that became a footnote when the Packers pulled away, 30-13. But on the first play of the second quarter, Green Bay drew even. Favre lofted a pass for a 29-yard touchdown as running back Dorsey Levens elevated for a circus reception against Panthers cornerback Eric Davis.

16. Willie Wood's interception (1966 season)

Jan 15, 1967; Los Angeles, CA, USA; FILE PHOTO; Kansas City Chiefs running back (32) CURTIS MC CLINTON reaches for a pass defended by Green Bay Packers defensive back (24) WILLIE WOOD during Super Bowl I in the first meeting ever of the AFL and NFL Champions at Memorial Coliseum. The Packers defeated the Chiefs 35-10. Mandatory Credit: Tony Tomsic-USA TODAY NETWORK

Again, the Packers won the game convincingly, 35-10. But it wasn't always a clear-cut win. Willie Wood intercepted Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson and returned it to the 5-yard line in the third quarter, leading to an Elijah Pitts touchdown and a 21-10 lead. 

17. Reggie White's sacks (1996 season)

Green Bay Packers defensive end Reggie White (92) sacks New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe (11) in the third quarter of Super Bowl XXXI Sunday, Jan. 26, 1997 at the Superdome in New Orleans.

One of the elements that turned the Packers into a powerhouse was the 1993 signing of free agent Reggie White. In Super Bowl XXXI, after Desmond Howard's big kickoff return, the Minister of Defense stepped up big with sacks of Drew Bledsoe on consecutive plays to force a punt late in the third quarter. Any hope of New England re-taking momentum in the game had been dashed as Green Bay won, 35-21. White finished the game with three sacks, including one on the final Patriots series of the game.

18. The pass to Jennings that sealed SB45 (2010 season)

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings (85) celebrates after a huge reception in the fourth quarter to help the Packers keep the lead in Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6, 2011.

We asked earlier if the pass to Jared Cook was Rodgers' career best. This one also has to get consideration. On 3rd and 10 with the Packers nursing a 28-25 lead and 6 minutes to go in Super Bowl XLV, Rodgers took a snap from the Green Bay 25 and fired a flawless strike over the middle to Greg Jennings, who picked up 31 yards before being brought down by Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu. The Packers capped the drive with a field goal and chewed the clock down to 2:10 en route to a 31-25 victory.

19. Mason Crosby kicks out Dallas (2016 season)

Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby celebrates as he walks off the field after kicking the game-winning field goal to beat the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC divisional playoff game on Jan. 15, 2017, at AT&T Stadium.

The aforementioned pass to Cook wouldn't be remembered so fondly if not for Mason Crosby, who hit a 51-yard field goal to officially take down the No. 1-seeded Cowboys, 34-31. He had to hit it twice, too, with his first make erased by a Cowboys timeout just before the snap. Crosby also hit a crucial 56-yarder that gave the Packers a lead with 1:38 to go. Crosby made both his field goals and all four extra points in the upset win.

20. Hail Mary to Cobb (2016 season)

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb (18) comes up with the ball for a Hail Mary touchdown at the end of the first half during an NFC wild-card playoff game against the New York Giants on Jan. 8, 2016, at Lambeau Field.

The Packers had developed a reputation for Hail Mary magic in 2015, and they brought that into the following postseason, as well. After the Packers scored with 2:32 to go in the first half, Green Bay got one last crack, and Rodgers threw a 4th and 2 pass toward the end zone, where Randall Cobb leaked free behind defenders and caught the 42-yard pass as time expired. That gave the Packers a 14-6 lead en route to a 38-13 win. 

21. McKenzie tips it to Williams (2001 season)

Text: Green Bay Packers Mike McKenzie tips a pass to teammate Tyrone Williams for an interception while covering San Francisco 49ers Terrell Owens during the fourth quarter of their game Sunday, January 13, 2002 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

San Francisco crossed into Packers territory thanks to a 19-yard pass to Tai Streets, and with 5:46 left in the wild-card round, the 49ers were on the march and facing only an 18-15 deficit. But Jeff Garcia's next pass was batted by Mike McKenzie in coverage, right to teammate Tyrone Williams at the Packers' 7-yard line, stopping the drive and allowing the Packers to go on a 93-yard drive that ended with an Ahman Green touchdown and a 25-15 win.

22. James Lofton's 71-yard reverse (1982 season)

John Jefferson and James Lofton were a big part of the equation for the 1982 Packers.

Lynn Dickey pitched to Eddie Lee Ivery, who handed the ball on a reverse to receiver James Lofton. The electrifying Lofton weaved his way through would-be tacklers and scampered 71 yards for a touchdown against the Cowboys in the divisional round of the playoffs. That cut the deficit to 23-19, but the Cowboys answered with a touchdown, just as they did after Mark Lee's 22-yard interception return later in the fourth quarter. The 37-26 score belied how exciting the finish was for a Packers team that hadn't been in the playoffs in a decade.

23. John Jefferson's 60-yard TD (1982 season)

John Jefferson salutes the Packers crowd in 1983.

One game earlier, Jefferson made a huge splash with six catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns. His 60-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter from Dickey gave the Packers a 7-3 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals, and Green Bay went on to romp, 41-16. It was the Packers' lone playoff win between Super Bowl II and the start of the revival in 1993.

24. Rodgers tackles Urlacher (2010 season)

Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher is tackled by Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers after picking off a pass he threw during the third quarter of their NFC Championship game Sunday, January 23, 2011 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill.

When is a bad play a good play? The Packers were up 14-0 in the NFC title game with 9 minutes left in the third quarter on a snap from the Bears 6-yard line. But Aaron Rodgers threw a rare interception to Bears star linebacker Brian Urlacher, who broke outside quickly toward daylight. With no one left to make a tackle, it was Rodgers who was able to get an arm around Urlacher's leg just shy of midfield to bring him down, saving the touchdown. The rare Rodgers tackle proved to be huge. The Bears didn't score with backup Todd Collins checking into the game for an injured Jay Cutler, and Green Bay was able to maintain its lead in a game that it eventually won by a touchdown, 21-14.

25. Dez didn't catch it (2014 season)

Sam Shields (37) defends on a pass to Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant at the Green Bay 1-yard line in the fourth quarter of a divisional playoff game on Jan. 11, 2015. The play was ruled incomplete and the ball was turned over to the Packers.

Before a disastrous showing against Seattle the following week, the Packers caught a major break against Dallas at Lambeau Field in the divisional round. It looked as if Tony Romo had completed a remarkable fourth-down pass with 5 minutes to go in the game down near the Packers' goal line. Dez Bryant made a diving catch along the sideline, matched up with Sam Shields, and bounced into the end zone. It wouldn't have been a touchdown, but was it even a catch? After review, officials ruled that Bryant didn't control the ball all the way through, a play that's been heavily debated in the years since. The Cowboys would have had a first-and-goal opportunity; instead, Green Bay ran out the clock and forced the Cowboys to absorb a 26-21 loss. Three years later, the NFL rewrote the rule to clarify that it would be a called a catch going forward.

JR Radcliffe can be reached at (262) 361-9141 or Follow him on Twitter at @JRRadcliffe.

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