The wildest play of the Green Bay Packers’ season was also the NFL’s best.
Packers tight end Richard Rodgers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers won the Bridgestone Performance Play of the Year at Saturday night’s NFL honors ceremony for their game-winning touchdown off a 61-yard Hail Mary with no time remaining in a 27-23 win over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Dec. 3.
The play came at a critical time in the Packers’ season with Green Bay having dropped four of its last five games before Rodgers’ catch. It secured a much-needed victory that came despite the Packers never actually leading in the game.
Rodgers said afterward he wasn't even supposed to catch the ball. His responsibility actually was supposed to box out for receiver Davante Adams on the play, but he ended up in front of the fray and pulling down the biggest catch of his football career.
“I still love seeing that replay. That was a special night,” said Aaron Rodgers during their acceptance speech. “Exciting game. Definitely one we’ll never forget. Have to thank the fans for voting for us; our offensive line, especially Donny (Barclay) for that block there to keep me out in the clear. The receivers getting down there. I know they were exhausted. Richard for moseying around there and catching it at its highest point there. Davante for kind of misjudging the ball and taking everybody back about 6 yards deep in the end zone. Never forget that. That was a special one.”
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It was a breakthrough performance for Richard Rodgers, who finished with a career-high eight receptions for 145 yards against the Lions. It was the most receiving yards by a Green Bay tight end since Jermichael Finley caught six passes for 159 yards in the wild-card playoffs against Arizona on Jan. 10, 2011.
It was actually one of two Hail Marys that Aaron Rodgers completed over the course of the 2015 season. He also hit second-year receiver Jeff Janis on a 41-yard touchdown at the end of regulation in the Packers’ eventual 26-20 overtime loss to Arizona last month.
Janis’ play wasn’t eligible because the award is strictly based on the regular season. Defensive back Micah Hyde’s one-handed interception of Minnesota quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the Packers’ regular-season finale was also among the 32 nominees.
It’s the second time the Packers have won the award in five years. Receiver Randall Cobb was the inaugural recipient for his 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against New Orleans in the 2011 regular-season opener.
When Aaron Rodgers turned over the podium, the mild-mannered Rodgers playfully quipped: “I don’t really have much to say. I’m the other Rodgers on the team.”
Former Packers defensive back Charles Woodson also was honored as the Art Rooney award recipient, which is given to players who displayed outstanding sportsmanship on the playing field, Woodson, who played for the Packers from 2006-12, announced his retirement this year after 18 NFL seasons.
The Packers’ nominee for NFL man of the year, linebacker Sam Barrington, also attended the ceremony in San Francisco.
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