By: Kris Burke
Big Dog, big play, big game. Marcedes Lewis’ smooth adjustment for touchdown helped the Packers beat the Saints to move to 3-0 and get an early tiebreaker that would come in handy late in the year.
Acme Packing Company’s writers have watched the film on the Green Bay Packers’ 2020 season and compiled our lists of the best plays from last year. Each writer voted on their favorite plays, combining qualities that include a play’s impact on a game or the season, outstanding individual or team effort, and amusement or hilarity factor.
Ten APC contributors submitted votes for the 15 best plays of the season, which we have combined and whittled down to the top ten plays of 2020. Please enjoy our countdown over the next two weeks!
At play number 7 on the countdown, we find a critical catch in a critical moment that helped give the Packers a huge tiebreaker for playoff seeding purposes.
If there has been one player on the Green Bay Packers who has been underestimated by the fans but very much appreciated by the actual players, it might be tight end Mercedes Lewis. “Big Dog,” as Lewis has become known as in the Green Bay locker room, was initially brought in before the 2018 season as a run blocker and a complement to the other new tight end in Jimmy Graham.
The Packers not only got that but also another strong locker room leader and someone Aaron Rodgers has praised multiple times for his guidance through adverse situations. It was a steady hand like Lewis’ that helped the Packers not even miss a beat when Matt LaFleur took over as head coach in 2019.
As Lewis begins to enter his fourth season with the Packers, (while the much more expensive Graham only made it two), he continues to defy Father Time as a 37-year old tight end and made our list of top ten Packers plays of 2020 with a sensational catch and touchdown.
Heading into their Week 3 game in New Orleans against the Saints, the Packers got off to a 2-0 start behind solid divisional wins over the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions. Yet, much like the year prior, not many were giving Green Bay enough credit after winning over weaker divisional opponents. The Sunday night matchup against the Saints would not only serve as a barometer for how good the Packers really were but it also in the eyes of many could serve as potential playoff matchup.
It was a game that lived up to the hype, too.
The Packers and Saints had gone back and forth for most of the game as third quarter started to wind down. New Orleans had just tied the game at 20 with around five minutes left in the third quarter and all indications were this was going to be a game that would go down to the wire. (Spoiler: it kind of did).
Not to be outdone, LaFleur and Rodgers answered right back and marched right back down the field into the Saints’ red zone, aided by a catch and run by Robert Tonyan and a pass interference penalty drawn by Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
After an Aaron Jones run got the Packers inside the 20, the Packers were facing a crucial 3rd and 2 from Saints 18. What followed was pure veteran magic.
Rodgers brought the team to the line in 21 personnel featuring only Jones in the backfield while Tyler Ervin was in a tight trips formation on the left alongside Lewis and Allen Lazard while Valdez-Scantling was split out wide to the right.
After the snap, Rodgers executed a quick fake to Jones before making a bootleg to his left. Lazard actually stayed in to block while Ervin ran a post route down the field. MVS meanwhile ran a corner route. It was a typical LaFleur-style play but then Lewis used some veteran savvy to put the Packers ahead.
Initially running a simple out route where he might have been the check down on the play, Lewis then turned up the field as Rodgers scrambled towards the sidelines. Rodgers put the ball up quickly as Marshon Lattimore started to close in. The eventual MVP put the pass where only Lewis could get it while the Big Dog made a brilliant adjustment mid-route to snatch the ball out of the air at the three despite coverage by Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins. The veteran DB threw his hands up right before Lewis caught the ball as to either clear himself off interfering or suggesting that Lewis may have pushed off of him.
No penalty was called of course, and Lewis made a quick spin move and dove from the three into the end zone for a touchdown.
Acrobatic touchdown from Marcedes Lewis. He’s been in the league 15 years pic.twitter.com/bhMoUj27kM
— IKE Packers Podcast (@IKE_Packers) September 28, 2020
We could go into the Xs and Os of this all night, but it simply was two veteran players on the same wavelength making a play that the Saints defense really had no prayer of stopping.
The Packers were up 27-20 thanks to that score, though that lead didn’t last long.
The Saints nullified that score fairly quickly after Drew Brees threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to Alvin Kamara with less than a minute to go in the third to tie the game at 27. That might lead one to believe the score had minimal impact but in a shootout such as this, you need to get into the end zone every chance you can. Given how quickly the Saints responded, it was a good thing that the Packers got that Lewis score instead of a field goal because they would have entered the fourth quarter trailing instead of tied.
You can’t settle for field goals against the Saints and hitting paydirt on the third down throw to Lewis in hindsight helped keep the pace with New Orleans’ potent attack.
Green Bay went on to win the game 37-30 and move to 3-0. It also gave them the tiebreaker over the Saints in the race for the conference’s top seed, which starting last season would be the lone bye in the playoffs. The Packers ultimately finished a game ahead of New Orleans when the season ended so the tiebreaker was not needed, but the game was a good litmus test for the team and proved LaFleur’s offense in year two could keep pace with the best in the league.
Ultimately it may have been this game that gave LaFleur and Rodgers the shots in the arm to have a historically great season, one in which Rodgers won his third MVP award.
Stay tuned as the countdown continues on Friday with our #6 play, one of the more improbable catches you’ll see in some time.