The Green Bay Packers had several defining defensive plays this season that not only changed that game, but potentially, their entire season. From Week 1's 4th down stop in Philadelphia to the Clay Matthews fumble in Super Bowl XLV, this article lists 8 of these game-defining, and season-defining, plays.
Week 1: Stop at 4th and 1: The Packers were up big at the half against the Philadelphia Eagles on opening day. But when their starting quarterback Kevin Kolb was taken out of the game, Michael Vick stepped in, and proceeded to bring the Eagles back into the game.
It came down to the final minutes, at 4th and 1, where the Packers had to make a key stop to get the ball back and run out the clock. After having difficulty all day containing Michael Vick, they were finally able to stop Vick and turn the ball back over to the Packers' offense.
Had Vick converted on that 4th and 1, the comeback would have likely been complete, and the complexion of the Packers' season could have been very different had they lost on opening day.
Week 7: Desmond Bishop Interception Return for a Touchdown, Vikings: In a back-and-fourth Sunday night battle against the rival Vikings, the Packers were up 21-17 when Brett Favre threw an off-target pass, which landed in linebacker Desmond Bishop's hands. Bishop returned the interception all the way for a touchdown to give the Packers a 28-17 lead.
This game would send the two teams down different paths, as the Packers would go on to win 5 straight games, while the Vikings' season would quickly fall apart as they fell to 2-4.
Week 16: Clay Matthews' forced fumble, Giants: It was Week 16, and the Packers were facing a 'win-or-go-home' scenario. In the third quarter against the Giants, Clay Matthews helped erase a big run by Brandon Jacobs by popping the football out from under him and causing a fumble. The Packers ended up recovering, and continued their 45-17 rout of the Giants.
The fumble helped put the dagger in the Giants, as they were down 31-17, but still showed signs of a possible comeback. After this fumble, the Giants were lost, causing a flurry of turnovers in the 4th quarter.
It was the middle of the season, but it was the Packers' breakout game as they routed the Cowboys 45-7, and Clay Matthews put the cherry on top of the sundae as he intercepted Jon Kitna and returned the ball 62 yards for the touchdown.
Although this may not be the most important defensive play of the season, it was certainly one of the most impressive, and it helped put the dagger in the Cowboys' season, and Wade Phillips' head coaching career.
The Packers were in a defensive battle against the Chicago Bears in their second straight "win or go home" situation. Going into the final seconds of the game, Jay Cutler and the Bears offense were driving down the field for a touchdown, but a deep pass by Cutler would get intercepted by Collins, sealing the Packers win and sending them to the playoffs.
For the second straight week, it was a late-game interception that sealed the win and continued the playoff run for the Packers.
The Packers were yet again faced with a possible Vick comeback in the NFC Wild Card playoff round, but with 40 seconds to play, Vick attempted to force a pass deep into the end zone and was picked off by Tramon Williams, who made a total of three interceptions in the postseason.
With that interception, the Packers won 21-16 and moved on to the divisional round of the playoffs, where they faced the No. 1 seed, the Atlanta Falcons.
The next week, Tramon Williams would have two first half interceptions, the second of which would completely change the game from a back-and-forth shootout to an all-out rout.
Down 21-14 with just seconds left in the half, the Falcons would be attempting to get a touchdown to end the half, but they didn't expect it to be from the Packers. Quarterback Matt Ryan made the mistake of forcing a pass Tramon Williams' way, causing not only an interception, but a 70-yard return for a touchdown and a 28-14 Packers lead at the half.
After this moment, the Georgia Dome was silenced, the Falcons completely lost their rhythm, as the Packers went on to win the game 48-21.
Although the Packers took a quick 14-0 lead at the beginning of the game, the Bears were mounting a fourth quarter comeback. However, 338 pound defensive tackle B.J. Raji put a damper on their plans.
Down 7-14, third string quarterback Caleb Hanie would be starting to drive the ball down the field with about seven minutes left in the game. However, the drive would be interrupted when Raji would intercept Hanie and return the ball for a touchdown.
Raji set the record for the heaviest man to score a touchdown in the postseason, a record previously held by William "The Refrigerator" Perry. The Packers would be up 21-7, and seemed to be on their way to the Super Bowl, but they would still need one more great defensive play to seal the game.
Soon after Raji's big touchdown, Caleb Hanie would throw another touchdown pass to put the Bears back in striking distance, 21-14.
With just seconds left on the clock, the Bears would have one last chance to tie the game, but rookie cornerback Sam Shields finally stopped the play at 4th-and-5, intercepting the pass and sealing the game. It would be Shield's second interception of the game, but clearly one of the biggest of his career so far, as it sent the Packers to the Super Bowl.
The Packers pressured Big Ben, particularly defensive tackle Howard Green, who got a piece of Roethlisberger's arm as he threw it, helping the interception by Collins.
After securing the pick, Collins would dodge several Steelers players, following his blocks to return the ball for a touchdown.
The Packers would take a 14-0 lead, and this interception would help keep the Packers in control of the game for the remainder of the Super Bowl.
Although the Packers never trailed in Super Bowl XLV, they still were in danger of losing their lead in the fourth quarter, as the Steelers had the momentum and were driving the ball in for a touchdown. In a play that was somewhat similar to his fumble against the Giants, Matthews would help pop the ball out of Rashard Mendenhall's arms, where it would be recovered by Desmond Bishop.
After this play, the Packers would take back the momentum, scoring a touchdown on that drive and eventually winning the game 31-25. This defensive play is clearly the best of the Packers' season, as it was on the biggest stage and in the biggest moment, when the Steelers were threatening to take back the momentum. Had Matthews not made that play, the Packers very well may not have been celebrating being champions of Super Bowl XLV.